NFL Free Agency - Can Ravens hold onto Ellerbe and Kruger?

Reigning Superbowl champs Baltimore Ravens may have more than just the loss of Ray Lewis from their defence to deal with.

How do the Ravens fill the sizeable gap left by inspiring linebacker Ray Lewis after his retirement?

The answer is a lot more easily if they have Danell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger at their disposal.

The problem is, holding onto the pair may not be quite so simple. Both members of the Superbowl winning defence are free agents and are free to negotiate with any team from tomorrow.

Logic says the teams who offer the most money will win the race, but both Kruger and Ellerbe have a now emotional connection to Baltimore that the Ravens will be hoping to rely on.

Difficulty exists for the Ravens in that Kruger and Ellerbe are the two top free agent linebackers in the NFL, and there will be a number of teams looking to sign them.

After making quarterback Joe Flacco the NFL's highest ever earner, the Ravens will not want to overcommit and leave little space on their salary cap for other areas.

But the defence is a key area of the team, and a base which Baltimore have built their success around with Ray Lewis, and losing either linebacker would be a big blow in addition to Lewis, let alone both of them which would be disastrous.

Kruger is said to be most at risk of leaving, as he could command a salary far higher than the Ravens salary cap could stretch. So if he wants to leave, it sounds like he is gone - and word has it he could be Colts bound.

Ellerbe is a Ravens linebacker who has risen from being undrafted to a key man, and loves Baltimore. He is said to be their biggest priority right now with Kruger likely off, but he has also said what happens is going to be a business decision and if a better offer comes in elsewhere, he will be gone too.

Add to the mix that veteran safety Ed Reed is also a free agent, and this is going to be a nervous week for the Ravens and their fans, with a number of teams likely to try to convince Reed to join them, even if he is reluctant.

There could be one unlikely linebacker coming into Baltimore to replace Lewis, and that is Steelers man James Harrison. There's no love lost between the AFC North Rivals, but Harrison says he is not ruling anything out ahead of free agency.

Now that really would be a story.

Can the Ravens keep their Ellerbe and Kruger? What if they can't?

image: © Keith Allison