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Late For Work 2/8: Who Can Fill The Void Left By Williams?

Many believe Williams could still return. Are Super Bowl odds a sign of disrespect?

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 at 9:26 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

Who Can Fill The Void Left By Williams?

The unexpected retirement announcement from running back Ricky Williams adds to the Ravens’ already long offseason to-do list.

Now Ravens brass has to find a backup to Ray Rice, not to mention re-signing the top back himself.

Anthony Allen, Damien Berry and Matt Lawrence are all currently under contract in Baltimore. The Ravens know best whether one of them is ready to support Rice in Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron’s two-back system.

Many pundits believe the Ravens will look to free agency for a back with more experience, not just to be a change of pace for Rice, but to carry the load if he were to go down with injury.

“If Williams does follow through with his retirement, it will be a big loss for the Ravens even though Williams isn’t the same powerful running back from a few years ago,” wrote ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

“What the Ravens lose isn’t the stats that Williams produced last year. …What the Ravens lose is a reliable insurance policy for running back Ray Rice. If Rice went down for any significant amount of time, Baltimore didn’t have to worry about handing the ball to Williams, one of 26 players in NFL history to rush for 10,000 yards.”

Baltimore enjoyed the luxury of having a proven back as a No. 2 option the last couple of years with Williams and Willis McGahee.

“It appears that their preference is to have an experienced backup,” wrote Hensley.

There will be plenty of free-agent running backs on the market that could fit that same profile, says CSNBaltimore.com’s John Eisenberg.

He specifically named five backs as potential suitors: Cedric Benson, Ronnie Brown, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Thomas Jones and Cadillac Williams.

“Benson is a familiar face, having enjoyed solid games against the Ravens while playing in Cincinnati for the past four years, but the Bengals are considering letting him go, and at age 29, he might fit in perfectly as a backup to Rice,” wrote Eisenberg. “He certainly knows the AFC North.

“Brown, 31, might also be a good fit, although he had a disappointing 2011 with the Philadelphia Eagles, rushing for just 136 yards on 42 carries. But with 4,951 career rushing yards, Brown is a tough runner who might be able to produce at a relatively cheap price.”

Williams Could Still Decide To Return

There’s one other player that could fill the void left by Williams.

That player is Ricky Williams.

There are many who believe this still might not be the end for Williams. The 34-year-old running back acknowledged that reality yesterday by saying, “The easy answer is I’ve moved on, but the one thing I’ve learned about myself is, ‘Who the hell knows?’”

Williams still has one year left on his reported two-year, $2.6 million contract with the Ravens, and he has come back from retirement before.

I don’t know if it is over yet,” said NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger. “He’s retired in response to a text from Bill Parcels, who texted him saying, ‘Look, there’s more to do in your life,’ … and he kind of responded to that.

“July, August and the Ravens are still interested, I could see Ricky still coming back and trying to play again.”

ProFootballTalk.com’s Gregg Rosenthal further cast doubts on Williams’ plan to retire, citing how closely the decision followed the heartbreaking AFC championship loss.

“Williams is often full of surprises, and veterans that decide to retire shortly after a devastating playoff loss often change their mind by training camp,” Rosenthal wrote. “The NFL is a less interesting place without Williams in it.

“But we have a feeling Ricky may not be done running just yet.”

Super Bowl Odds A Sign Of Disrespect?

The Ravens came within a stripped pass of advancing to Super Bowl XLVI, but the odds of coming that close again next season are not good, according to MGM Grand’s sports book in Las Vegas.

The oddsmaker lists the Ravens as 20-1 favorites to win the Super Bowl in 2013, which is tied for 13th in the NFL.

The Patriots are first on the list with 5-1 odds, followed by the Packers (11-2), the Steelers (6-1) and the Eagles (6-1).

The Jets and the Cowboys, who didn’t make the playoffs, were given the same 20-1 odds as Baltimore. Many other teams that didn’t reach the postseason (Chargers, Bears and Eagles), have a better chance than the Ravens, says MGM Grand.

“Even Baltimore fans who don’t see a conspiracy around every corner can smell the diss in those rankings,” wrote Eisenberg.

Other betting sites give the Ravens a better shot at lifting the Lombardi Trophy, including 12-1 and 14-1 odds.

The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck points out that 12-1 aren’t bad odds because it means the Ravens would reach the playoffs again. And while the 20-1 odds “have to leave you scratching your head a bit,” Schmuck explains that it’s not a total sign of disrespect.

“The Ravens figure to have almost all of the key players coming back from a team that was a dropped pass away from playing the Giants on Sunday,” wrote Schmuck. “The idea that they could have higher odds than some of the teams ahead of them on the list should be galling to Ravens fans, but there are reasons for that which have less to do with how good the Ravens are in relation to, say, the San Diego Chargers, than what division they play in and the difficulty of their schedule.”

Schmuck says the Chargers will have an easier road to the Super Bowl because their division will likely require less wins than the Ravens will need to compete in the AFC North.

“So, it’s really not a sign of disrespect as much as one oddsmaker’s take on the NFL landscape next season,” wrote Schmuck. “If I were a betting man (and, of course, I would never place a wager on a sporting event) I would love to get 20-1 on the Ravens to win it all next year.

“Those are some sweet odds.”

Quick Hits

  • A “way, way, way, way too early” Super Bowl XLVII prediction from FOX’s Peter Schrager has the Ravens beating the Packers, 27-24. [FoxSports.com]
  • When the free agent market opens March 13, there could be more than 600 players available. “This is shaping up as a bloated market now that the new CBA again allows for players with four years of service to shop their talents (players with fewer years in the league can potentially move as restricted free agents),” wrote Nate David. “But last year’s lockout produced a lot of one-year deals that could lead to multi-year, multimillion-dollar pacts this time around.” [USA Today]
  • KVanValkenburg: Ricky Williams told me a month ago he planned to go to med school when he retired. Can’t wait to see what he does next. Fascinating person. [Twitter]
  • Ant_Allen: Hold up my boy Haloti on the food network baking cakes? Lol … @DJBerry20 I promise it was just on the food network… Lol I had to check again I thought I was trippin [Twitter]
  • The Drake University Athletic Department will honor kicker Billy Cundiff on Sunday with the presentation of the “Drake Double D Award.” The Double D award is presented annually to Drake letterwinners for achievements in their chosen fields of endeavor and/or community service since leaving Drake. [GoDrakeBulldogs.com]
  • A look back on an interview with Williams about his famous ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, “Run Ricky Run.”  [ESPN]

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