Free agency robbed the Baltimore Ravens of some key leaders on defense during the offseason. Safety Eric Weddle signed with the Los Angeles Rams and inside linebacker CJ Mosley bolted to the New York Jets. However, the biggest surprise was outside linebacker Terrell Suggs' departure.
When Suggs signed with the Arizona Cardinals, a link to the Ravens golden days was gone. However, Baltimore restored another link to the good old days when they brought free agent outside linebacker Pernell McPhee back.
McPhee posted six sacks as a rookie on the Ravens 2011 Super Bowl team. He was an integral part of Baltimore's defense over the next four years. The Chicago Bears signed McPhee to a five-year $38.75 million deal in 2015.
After three seasons with the Bears, McPhee spent last season with the Washington Redskins. Now he's back in Baltimore having signed a one-year deal.
"It's home. This is where I was birthed at in the NFL," McPhee said last month. "This is where the culture that I lived by and stand by is at. I get the chance to be myself; have fun and play like a Raven."
The Ravens defense has seen its share of turnovers since McPhee was a young player trying to make an impact on a team looking to contend for a title. It's kind of a role reversal because now he's the veteran that is charged with enforcing the Ravens way for the next wave of players.
"You have a lot of young guys especially on the defensive line trying to figure things out," McPhee explained. "My main thing is as long as you come in with the mindset of being physical and playing fast and being relentless, everything is going to work out. That's the culture around here. It's the Ravens way. I try to preach that every day and do it every day."
Baltimore's defense and Lamar Jackson's dynamic playmaking ability fueled the team to an AFC North division title last season. The Ravens led the NFL in total defense (292.9 yards/game) and points per game (17.9) last year.
Defensive coordinator Don 'Wink' Martindale's aggressive style should once again land the Ravens in the mix for top defense once again. McPhee is certain they have the necessary players to keep the Ravens tradition of stout defenses going.
"It's cool. We still got some animals. We still got some dogs— just a lot of violent guys. We have guys that can play football. Since I've been back it's been all love and trying to help these boys become the best football players they can be," McPhee added.