OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens lost several of their most trusted and efficient players during the offseason.
Now it’s time to find their replacements.
The Ravens are the only NFL team to reach the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, an accomplishment that can be attributed greatly to the continuity of the roster.
Playmakers Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Haloti Ngata have been key contributors. So were Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson and Ben Grubbs — none of whom will be in attendance when the Ravens have their first training camp practice Thursday.
There are other issues that must be resolved before the season opens, not the least of which is Reed’s insistence that the Ravens fork over more than the $7.2 million he’s due in the final year of his contract. Reed, 33, skipped the team’s mandatory minicamp session, and although he is expected to be in camp for the first practice, he may not be in perfect frame of mind.
Coach John Harbaugh also is looking for a backup to Rice, who made this a positive offseason for Baltimore by signing a five-year contract that enabled him to shed his franchise tag. Ricky Williams, who played behind Rice last season, retired in February.
That is precisely what makes this summer different for the Ravens. There are plenty of holes to fill, and Harbaugh doesn’t have a whole lot of time to complete the task because a difficult September schedule lies ahead for the defending AFC North champions.
Harbaugh got a head start during minicamp.
“You are trying to find yourself as a team, what your guys do well, what they don’t do well, what they do together,” he said. “You start to get a feel for what direction you are going to go in all three phases, what you are going to be able to do really well. That process definitely carries on through training camp.”
Over the next six weeks, the Ravens need to solidify an offensive line that lost Grubbs as a free agent to New Orleans and was without 360-pound left tackle in Bryant McKinnie during minicamp. McKinnie was held out because of conditioning concerns, and there’s no telling yet whether he will be ready to suit up at the outset of training camp.
Baltimore also needs to replace Suggs, who tore his right Achilles tendon during the offseason and could be lost for the year. Suggs had 70 tackles and a career-high 14 sacks in 2011, which earned him a fifth invite to the Pro Bowl and NFL Defensive Player of Year honors.
“We will miss Terrell, but it’s next man up,” cornerback Lardarius Webb said.
Harbaugh hopes to fill the void with Paul Kruger and/or Sergio Kindle, who must immediately show their ability to mount a pass rush or general manager Ozzie Newsome might be forced to sign someone else.
CARDINALS: Arizona signed five-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson to a contract extension that runs through the 2015 season.
The deal was reached Tuesday as the team reported to its training camp in Flagstaff. Wilson, 32, finished the 2011 season with a career-high 16 passes defensed. He had 75 tackles, one interception and one forced fumble. He was in on 1,134 defensive snaps, most of any player in the NFL.
STEELERS: Pittsburgh and coach Mike Tomlin agreed to an extension that will keep him on the sideline through at least 2016. Financial terms were not disclosed. Tomlin, 40, a surprise choice to replace Bill Cowher following the 2006 season, is 55-25 with the Steelers, winning three AFC North titles, two AFC championships and the 2009 Super Bowl.
BROWNS: A person familiar with the negotiations said Cleveland signed rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden to a four-year contract, worth $8.1 million. Weeden was the No. 22 overall pick this year out of Oklahoma State and will join the rest of the Browns’ rookies Wednesday, when camp opens.
COWBOYS: Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant’s attorney says Bryant and his mother can work out differences through counseling. Authorities said Angela Bryant called 911 after a July 14 incident in which her son hit her with a hat and grabbed her shirt, causing it to tear. Dez Bryant was arrested two days later. His mother has told authorities she doesn’t want to pursue the case.
By Elaine Donnelly
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