All great things come to an end. Baltimore Ravens fans knew they couldn't lean on shoe-in Hall of Famer Ray Lewis forever. Now with his last postseason in play, could the team make a move to find a replacement in Manti Te'o?
Alabama game could push Te'o out of first round of NFL draft
No draft stock has experienced more highs and lows than that of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. He went from a solid pick early in the college season to a virtual guarantee for the top ten after a near miss for the Heisman trophy. Unfortunately it took a single game for all that work to possibly effect his entire future. Experts began to have doubts about whether Te'o could compete at the pro level after the Alabama Crimson Tide ran over him and the Fighting Irish in the national championship. Many believe he's still good enough to go in the first round, while others who didn't like him much to begin with say the setback could even push him out of the top 32. It's true that middle linebackers aren't as high in demand of late because of shifts in league offensive strategy, but given his accomplishments, it's hard to believe at least one team won't give him the benefit of the doubt.
Lewis hopes last ride doesn't end hands of Peyton Manning again
One such club continues their pursuit of a perfect ending for their spirited leader. Baltimore watched linebacker Ray Lewis go from a questionable draft pick to a Super Bowl MVP and 13-time Pro Bowler. Upon his return from injury, he finally admitted to his team and the fans that the 2012 postseason was his last ride. It got off to a good start with a win over the Colts, but Lewis is the man who would admit his next game is by far the biggest in his career. One of the few notches he doesn't have on his belt is a victory over fellow superstar Peyton Manning. In fact the two have met twice in the playoffs before. Both times Manning had the better of Lewis. The Ravens have not defeated the four-time MVP in their last nine tries. So the upcoming game in Denver is more than a contest of two teams. It is a test of wills between two of the best football players of a generation. Baltimore knows it's the last time they can lean on Lewis to give them a shot at a title, which is why their 2013 draft could define how they move on without him. Much like Lewis, Te'o has heard many questions about his physical abilities to play in the NFL. The Ravens are certainly the team to give him a shot to prove it.
Ray Lewis secured his legacy long ago for the Baltimore Ravens. Their thoughts rest on winning the Super Bowl and then figuring out how to replace him. Questions or not, Manti Te'o is as good a place as any to start.
Photo Credit - Pro Football Zone