One day after they lost their starting running back, the Baltimore Ravens traded for one they hope will upgrade their rushing attack from last season’s playoff team. On Wednesday the Ravens former running back, Jamal Lewis, signed with Cleveland with it being widely publicized that the Ravens were looking at other potential running backs to be their starter in 2007. The Ravens didn’t flinch, and completed a trade with the Buffalo Bills for Willis McGahee for several draft picks.
The draft picks included in the trade were the Ravens 2007 round three and round seven picks along with their third round draft pick in the 2008 NFL draft. The Ravens and Jamal Lewis have had a public falling out since three seasons ago when he rushed for over 2,000 yards. After that season the Ravens had to deal with the repercusions of Lewis being charged with arranging a drug deal using his cellular phone. In the end the Ravens lost Lewis to a suspension for several games and he served time in jail during the off-season. The past two years Lewis has been vocal in his criticism of the offensive play calling and his belief he was not getting the ball enough. The past two seasons he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry in 2005 and 3.6 yards per carry in 2006.
One of Jamal’s weaknesses was that he was not a very effective threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield. That is one aspect that McGahee will bring to the Ravens offense. Another difference the Ravens will see between McGahee and Lewis is that McGahee has a better ability to bounce a run outside the tackles and has more speed than Lewis at this point in his career with McGahee being two years younger than Lewis. McGahee has averaged between 3.8 and 4.0 yards per carry each of the past three seasons. In the two years prior to last season he had rushed for over 1,000 yards. Last year he fell ten yards short of that mark.
Last season the Ravens won the AFC north with a 13-3 record and had the second best record in the AFC. They ended up losing their playoff game against the eventual Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts, and Lewis was largely ineffective in that game. The Ravens have made it known they are turning towards their younger and more athletic offensive linemen this year which could be a good fit with McGahee’s running style. One question mark still remains that will play a large role in determining McGahee’s success. That is whether Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden will return for another season or retire. After the loss to the Colts he indicated he was contemplating retiring, but a final decision has not been announced.