The reigning Super Bowl Champs, Baltimore Ravens, have a continual connection to the city of Miami and for good reason. There is the latest twitter debate between the Ravens and the Miami Heat regarding the number of fans that came out to celebrate the two championship teams in their fellow cities. Clearly Miami may have won in numbers, but Baltimore always wins in heart and passion for its community.
But more importantly, it appears that Baltimore and Miami have an affinity toward some great NFL players.
First there is the University of Miami (“The U”) which has had at least one NFL draft pick in every draft since 1975. That is 39 drafts. In 1996 out of the University of Miami, the Ravens drafted arguably the best linebacker to play the game, retired 13-time Pro Bowler and two-time Superbowl Champion Ray Lewis.
In 2002, they drafted nine-time Pro Bowl selection, Ed Reed, the best safety in the league or “ball hawk” who helped lead the Ravens to their last Super Bowl journey and will be missed heavily in the lineup while now a Houston Texan.
They have had a few disappointing misses in the 2012 draft of wide receiver Tommy Streeter, the 2011 choice of running back Damien Berry, the 2008 pick of special teams linebacker Tavares Gooden — who played for the losing San Francisco 49er Superbowl opponent this year — and others who did not remain in the NFL over two years.
However, they showed another vote of confidence in understanding what it takes to have a winning team by resigning free agent, starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who continuously stepped his lineman game up in the latter part of the past season and the AFC playoffs and is off to an apparently strong season with great conditioning to poise him for another Pro Bowl selection and stellar season.
But there is the flipside of losing talent to Miami. The Ravens look to fill the void of the loss of the young talented linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to the Miami Dolphins after trading Anquan Boldin to the 49ers. Ellerbe, an impressive undrafted free agent, played solid defense upon signing in 2009 and is mostly remembered for the interception of a tipped pass from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game this past season.
They also have to realize the strong interest of the Dolphins in recently released, veteran fullback Vonta Leach. Unable to come to an agreement on a restructured contract of $2 million with incentives, Leach is exploring his options in free agency and is a viable option for the South Florida team unless his exploration on his true market value bids him a return trip to Baltimore.
Stepping into the Ravens’ organization, players must recognize that defense is the priority on the field and business is the focus of the front office. But players and fans will agree that the stop after Miami to Baltimore is the greatest as the Ravens will do what it takes to ensure Miami will not be the home of the Vince Lombardi trophy next season.