Many saw the announcement coming, but a few of us were holding out hope that it was still just a nasty rumor. Ray Lewis, arguably one of the most feared linebackers in the NFL, is retiring at the end of the Ravens 2012-2013 season.
When the time comes, Lewis will certainly be in Canton receiving his golden jacket at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. During his 17-year career, he’s had 2050 combined tackles, 41.5 sacks, and 31 interceptions for 503 yards and 12 Pro Bowl appearances. This is very impressive for the 37 year-old who was drafted from The University of Miami (Fla.).
This year, Lewis was limited since he tore his triceps mid-season, but he made his presence known at the beginning of the season. After his injury, the Ravens defense was notably less powerful, but they went on to end the regular season with a record of 10-6 and make it to the playoffs. To read more about the Baltimore Ravens, check out The Purple Nest.
What does the impending retirement of Lewis mean for the AFC North and the NFL in general? Well here’s what I do know. According to an article posted on SB Nation on July 6, 2012, the #1 team in the NFL for the linebacker position was the 49ers, followed by the Ravens, led by Ray Lewis. Rounding out the top 5 were the Steelers, Redskins, and Cowboys. Ranked 19th on this list was the Cincinnati Bengals and all the way at 26th out of 32 we finally find the Cleveland Browns. This article was written long before any preseason games were played, so the end of the season rankings would be a bit different, but what does this tell us?
At the beginning of the year, two out of four AFC North teams had top ranked LB’s in the entire NFL according to the article’s author Ryan Van Bibber. Since then, the Bengals and Ravens made the playoffs, the Steelers missed by the skin of their teeth and the Browns once again missed out on post-season action. The AFC North, especially the Ravens, is known for their tough defenses throughout the league, but after Lewis’ injury, the Ravens seemed to stumble for a while.
This might be the beginning of a new defensive era in the Baltimore, the AFC North, and the NFL in general. With all the player safety issues, passing is becoming a problem to defend (for instance, trying to avoid defenseless receiver penalties, and defensive pass protection related concussions). Also, with players like Alfred Morris, Trent Richardson, and Ray Rice blowing up the running game, teams are going to need to bulk up their run defense. Perhaps the Safety position will become more important then the position of LB.
I know only two things for certain: the 2013 NFL Draft will be an interesting one, and that August can’t come soon enough.