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Ravens' historic 2018 defense preparing to look historically different in 2019

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Ravens' historic 2018 defense preparing to look historically different in 2019

The Baltimore Ravens defense is historic.

Their consistent success over 22 seasons has been a staple of the organization since their legendary 2000 Super Bowl team and their 2018-19 roster proved no different.

Ranked as the NFL's No. 1 defense for just the second time in team history (2006), the squad allowed 292.2 yards per game and permitted the league's second-fewest points per game (17.9) behind the Bears' 17.7. 

But 2019 could bringing a different looking Ravens defense. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive end Brent Urban and linebacker Za'Darius Smith will all become unrestricted free agents. The Ravens could also free up a $21 million in cap space by parting ways with safety Eric Weddle and cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr.

Not only is that a boatload of talent that acts as the nucleus to the defense's success, but a plethora of leadership.

"I’m still at a loss for words, honestly, especially [when thinking about] ‘Urb’ and ‘Sizz,’"defensive tackle Michael Pierce said on what 2019 could bring. "They’ve been here since I’ve been here. They’re like brothers to me. ‘Sizz’ is an amazing leader. I couldn’t imagine being here without him. I’m a little at a loss for words for that. Hopefully, we can get those guys back.

Drafted by the Ravens in 2003, Suggs is the team's all-time leader in sacks and has played more games than any player in Ravens history. He finished his 15th season with 34 combined tackles and seven sacks and is undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer.

"I would love to be a Raven for life," Suggs said after the team's 23-17 loss Sunday. "I’m healthy, and I still feel like I have some juice in the tank. I would love to be a Raven for life. We’ll have to see what happens. It’s a long time between here and March. So, we’re just going to enjoy it and hope we can work it out. If not, I’ll be lining up for somebody next year.”

Mosley, who was the team's first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, finished out his rookie contract and enters the offseason with his future with the Ravens in question. In those five season, the linebacker posted 579 combined tackles, 8.5 sacks, 35 passes defended and earned four Pro Bowl nominations. His Week 17 fourth quarter interception off of Browns' Baker Mayfield launched the Ravens into the postseason for the first time in three years. 

Weddle has already decided that if his future doesn't involve the Ravens he will be calling it a career after 12 seasons. 

“If they want to go in a different direction, I’m not going to play for another team," Weddle said. "That’s not where I’m at in my career. It’s either play my last year here, and that’ll be it and enjoy it, or this has been it. It’s pretty simple. I’m a simple kind of guy.”

Eric DeCosta has his hands full in his first season as general manager with a defensive legacy lead by Ozzie Newsome up in the air. Parting ways with a veteran like Terrell Suggs would certainly spell the end of an era with Hall of Famer Ray Lewis and Ed Reed long gone

While those returning can't imagine their No. 1 defense without its core leaders, there's a new leader emerging on the opposite side of the ball. 

“I think a leader is kind of what other people think of you," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said on if he's prepared to help lead the defense.

"I don’t really know if it’s something [that] you can just say, ‘I’m going to be a leader this year.’ But, you have a rookie quarterback that led us to a lot of wins. I think [Lamar Jackson] is a natural leader in itself, so whatever way it falls, I always know we’re going to have Lamar. He definitely was emerging as a big leader on this team.”

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Get to know Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram

Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Get to know Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram

We are here to help you get your workweek started with the latest Baltimore Ravens news.

Player Notes: 

Running back Mark Ingram is bringing two Pro Bowls, 1,321 rushing yards and 50 rushing touchdowns to the Ravens, but there's a lot about him you may not know. Did you know that his father, Mark Ingram Sr., was drafted at No. 28 overall just like his son? Probably not. Here's five things to know about Ingram via the Ravens' website. 

Safety Earl Thomas isn't just talented on the field, but off the field as well. Thomas can play piano, drums, saxophone and the organ. During his freshman year of high school, Thomas would change out of his football uniform at halftime into his band uniform to perform and then back again. Here's five things to know about Thomas via the Ravens' website

Former Ravens wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is retiring from the game. The 30-year-old made the announcement at his wife's baby shower over the weekend. Selected 19th overall by the Eagles in the 2009 NFL Draft, Maclin played for the Eagles, Chiefs and the Ravens.

Outside linebacker Tim Williams is ready to be a defensive leader for the Ravens in 2019. With the departures of Eric Weddle, Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith in free agency, Williams is ready to be "that man" for the NFL's No.1 defense. 

Williams has yet to play a full season for the Ravens after being drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2018, the linebacker saw action in only sevens games due to hamstring and ankle injuries. 

In AFC news, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the league Sunday via Instagram. The 29-year-old finishes his career with 521 receptions for 7,861 yards, 79 touchdowns and three Super Bowl championship. 

Looking Ahead: 

March 24-27: Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Az.

April 15: Voluntary OTA's may begin

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Congratulations pour in for Robert Griffin III after re-signing with Ravens

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: Congratulations pour in for Robert Griffin III after re-signing with Ravens

You've made it to Friday and the Baltimore Ravens secured their backup quarterback. What more could we ask for?

Here's the latest news surrounding the Ravens.

Player Notes: 

The Ravens and QB Robert Griffin III agreed in principle to a two-year deal Thursday. A solid option behind Lamar Jackson, players around the league are happy to see the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year remain in the NFL.

The Ravens' newest member of their special teams unit, Justin Bethel, doesn't just have skills on the field but off the field as well. Bethel and his brothers have their own jazz band called House of Bethel, where the Raven plays the drums. In the music video for their single called, "The New Boss," Bethel has nearly a minute long drum solo

ESPN's Mel Kiper re-graded the Ravens' 2018 draft class, bringing them from a B-plus to an A-minus. One of the more stronger classes in recent history, the additions of Jackson, Mark Andrews, Hayden Hurst and Orlando Brown Jr. served the Ravens well in 2018. 

Is Action Jackson a hockey guy? The Ravens QB was spotted Thursday night at an Arizona Coyotes game. 

Looking Ahead: 

March 24-27: Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Az.

April 15: Voluntary OTA's may begin

April 19: Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets

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