The Ravens' three-word mantra remains unchanged: Next man up.
That adage is about to be tested. The Super Bowl champions' defense has been impacted heavily by free agency as well as Ray Lewis' retirement and cutting strong safety Bernard Pollard, the Ravens' leading tackler last season.
The following players have signed with other teams: outside linebacker Paul Kruger (Cleveland Browns, $40.5 million), inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (Miami Dolphins, $35 million) and cornerback Cary Williams (Philadelphia Eagles, $17 million).
Now, former NFL Defensive Player of the Year free safety Ed Reed is about to become the latest Ravens defensive mainstay to sign with another team. He has reached an agreement in principle with the Houston Texans and is expected to sign a contract as soon as today.
The Ravens are bringing in former Oakland Raiders free agent safety Michael Huff for a visit this week and have interest in former Denver Broncos Pro Bowl defensive end-outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and other pass rushers.
The bulk of their efforts to restock the defense, which has added veteran defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, will come through the NFL draft, where the Ravens have a dozen picks, including four compensatory selections. The Ravens will rely heavily on returning players like outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, cornerback Lardarius Webb, who's coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and defensive end Arthur Jones.
"Absolutely, the motto of the Ravens is, 'Next man up,'" Jones told The Baltimore Sun after Reed agreed to terms with the Texans. "It's going to take every last man on that defense to play at another high level to contend and get us back to Super Bowl contention. I'm really excited for the moves we've made so far. It's going to be an exciting year. Hopefully, we can get a repeat, come back to work and stay hungry and don't have that Super Bowl hangover."
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