Mass Exodus From Baltimore as Super Bowl Champs’ Starting Lineup Decimated

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Don’t expect a repeat for the reigning Super Bowl champions. Heck, don’t expect to recognize half the players on the field when the Baltimore Ravens open the 2013 NFL season at home on Thursday, September 5.

Linebacker and team leader Ray Lewis is gone, of course. He famously announced his retirement during the 2012 season — and the future Hall of Famer went out as a champion, just as he wanted (though it became very clear that he cheated along the way). He just signed a deal to work as an in-studio analyst for ESPN.

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, maker of numerous clutch catches in heavy traffic during the playoffs, is gone, too. He was traded to the San Francisco 49ers after the Ravens decided they were unwilling to pay him the $6 million he was owed in 2013 and Boldin refused to take a paycut.

Linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe are also gone. They signed big free agent contracts with the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, respectively, in the hours after the free agent signing period opened yesterday. Kruger got a reported $40 million over five years and Ellerbe got $35 million over the same timespan. The Ravens, tight for money after giving Joe Flacco the biggest contract in NFL history, never had a chance to keep either player.

As of a few minutes ago, strong safety Bernard Pollard (better known to many NFL fans as the Patriot killer, for the major injuries he inflicted on Tom Brady, Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowsi over the years) is gone, too. He just tweeted this:

Free safety Ed Reed still hangs in the balance. Though some expected the future Hall of Famer (and maybe the best to ever play his position) to retire alongside Lewis, Reed has insisted that he still has a few years of football left in him. Whether the Ravens will be willing to pay their aging star enough money to convince him to play out those years in Baltimore is another question, though. Reed has made it clear that he respects Bill Belichick and would love to play for him someday, so the possibility of him bolting for the New England Patriots is very real.

So, who does that leave? Flacco’s still there, of course. Terrell Suggs remains on defense, as do Torrey Smith and Ray Rice on offense. Beyond those names, however, there’s a decided lack of star power on the Ravens roster. It’s a good thing the team finally broke through and hoisted the Lombardi Trophy this past season, because it doesn’t look like they’ll be doing it again any time soon.

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