The topics this offseason are endless for Ravens fans

Ravens Nation, you feel better about things, don't you?

The great panic is officially over. Oh, it was rough there for a while, watching the Ravens clean house and get rid of the old guys and the locker-room lawyers and the over-valued players who somehow had other teams lobbing sacks of money at them.

You looked around one day and everything had changed. Ray Lewis and Matt Birk retired. Then Anquan Boldin was gone and so was Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, Bernard Pollard and even Ed Reed. (Ed Reed! The sky was falling!)

But you're so over that now.

In fact, at times it's hard to even remember some of those guys, isn't it?

Now you're all about the new veterans the Ravens signed, Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, Elvis Dumervil and Michael Huff and even Rolando McClain, who might be with this team another five minutes after this newest skirmish in the park.

And you can't wait to check out the new draft class that'll be in town this weekend for the mandatory minicamp for rookies.

Yes, you feel better about this team, all right. Much better.

"I think we'll be competitive next year," long-time fan David McIntyre of Halethorpe said the other day.

I waited a beat to see if there was more. Something in his voice said he wasn't through. Something said he wasn't going to leave it at just "competitive."

He wasn't.

"And despite what some people think," he continued, "that it's next to impossible to go back to the Super Bowl, I think we have a very good chance of returning."

Is McIntyre nuts? I'm not going to go there. He sure didn't sound crazy. But so much for all the doom and gloom around here when the Super Bowl champs were waving goodbye to all those big-name players in March.

Now if you talk to fans and listen to sports-talk radio and read the message boards, much of Ravens Nation seems just as thrilled with the make-up of this team as McIntyre is.

This weekend's rookie minicamp signals the first official workout of the new season, and it'll be interesting to see how the team shapes up from here.

The pundits can't stop gushing about this Ravens draft class. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Ravens a grade of A-minus, saying they needed to come away with a safety and inside linebacker. And in acquiring Matt Elam with their first pick and Arthur Brown with their second, "they got two really good players at those positions."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote about the Ravens' acquiring Brown as if it were a brilliant military maneuver that out-flanked the enemy and maybe even won the war.

"Baltimore had the 62nd pick overall, late in the second round," King wrote. ". . . Now as the picks ticked by, they knew they risked losing the linebacker they liked most at this point, Kansas State's Arthur Brown. So the Ravens dealt the 62nd pick along with the fifth- and sixth-round picks to Seattle for the 56th pick. They picked Brown.

"Sources tell me Brown was going to be Houston's pick at 57, and he was a strong consideration for Denver at 58. Brown's a potential captain, the kind of leader the Ravens hope two or three years down the road will start to fill the void left by Ray Lewis. Great trade."

Wow. And you know what? King's right to marvel at the move and heap praise on Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff. That was a great strategic mugging right there.

 
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