Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ozzie's vision isn't exactly 20-20

Ozzie Newsome gets credit for being masterful on draft day. His success in round 1 is impeccable. He’s also been very successful on day 2 of the draft thanks in large part to Eric DeCosta’s ability to reassemble the draft board prior to the draft’s second day. What happens in rounds 2 and 3 remains a mystery but we’ll save that discussion for another day.

His draft day prowess aside, where Ozzie fails as a GM is in his inability to effectively manage the cap. Time and time again the Ravens overpay for players that Newsome has an attachment to and it’s no surprise that those players are first round draft picks. That places a burden on the remainder of the roster and it weakens the team’s depth. We all witnessed in 2007 what can happen when a team is as top heavy as the Ravens. The replacement parts aren’t all that effective.

In 2008, early projections indicate that 50% of the team’s cap will be allocated to 9 players. To put that in another way, as it stands today half of Ozzie’s piggy bank will be used to pay 17% of the 53 man roster and the Ravens’ GM must accept most of the blame for the lack of balance in the payroll.

We hear Ozzie talk about how successful the team has been in retaining their high end draft picks. That’s the good news. The bad news is that every time he does re-sign one of his former No. 1’s he gives them record setting money: Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Todd Heap, Ed Reed – each of them received unprecedented contracts on their way to becoming the highest paid players at their respective positions.

You could make the argument that J.O. and Lewis deserved what they got and you wouldn’t be challenged by many. (Although one might still argue that the Ravens were a little too generous). But why make Heap and Reed so wealthy?

There was little doubt that the Ravens would keep Todd Heap and they signed him a year before the final year of his contract. But if Ozzie is so determined to keep his core players and his No. 1’s, why not approach Heap a year earlier when the market isn’t as inflated, cap resources aren't as ample and when you have a greater chance of securing a more economical deal with a player still two years removed from free agency?

In the case of Reed, the Ravens knew that Reed still had plenty left in the tank (plus he plays a position with significant longevity) well before making him the richest safety in NFL history. If they wanted to keep him long term, why not go to him sooner. Or if he was demanding cornerback money, then play hard ball and franchise him. Why cave in? What would Reed have done? It’s just business, right?

At the time the Ravens struck a new deal with Reed, the safety franchise charge was roughly $2.5 million. Today thanks to Reed’s contract along with Troy Polamalu’s and Bob Sanders’, the franchise tag for safeties is $4.49 million.

If Ozzie had tagged Reed for a year or two maybe he would have had room to re-sign Adalius Thomas, particularly if he had gone to AD a year or two prior to the end of his contract. Reed’s contract might go down as one of Ozzie’s worst moves ever given the options available to him prior to opening the vault for the Pro Bowl safety.

Reed hasn’t been as effective since he signed that contract. Some players require the extra motivation. Perhaps Reed is one of them.

Today the Ravens are faced with the daunting task of re-signing Terrell Suggs who by their own admission is a cornerstone of the Ravens defense going forward along with Reed and Haloti Ngata. So if Ozzie believed that Suggs was a piece of said cornerstone last year or the year before (prior to Dwight Freeney signing his massive deal), why not negotiate then when the team had more leverage?

Ozzie fumbles regularly with these contract extensions and it ends up costing the team for years. Now he’ll need to extend Suggs in order to save face for the loss of AD. That is why they let AD go, right?

When will he learn? When will he go to Ngata and extend him? When will they extend Jason Brown? Why isn’t Ozzie more proactive?

You can’t have a team of all-stars in the NFL. The salary cap won’t allow it. But NFL teams can keep their all-stars longer if they want to, provided their GM is a bit of a visionary. Since the Super Bowl, Ozzie Newsome has hardly been a visionary. He leaves his glasses in the Ravens' War Room.

Ozzie may be one of the finest executives in the league but like Brian Billick perhaps his time has come. Perhaps it’s time for Ozzie to move on. The Ravens just might need a new set of eyes and ears in that GM’s chair if Steve Bisciotti is going to realize his goal of consistently fielding a winning team.

Maybe Ozzie needs new prescription glasses.

And if he dismisses such a suggestion, maybe he should be dismissed himself.


Anonymous said...

It's very easy to criticize Ozzie Newsome for not being proactive and signing players like Ed Reed and Todd Heap a year earlier than he did. Perhaps the author should consider that there are 2 sides to a negotiation. If the agents for the aforementioned players are doing their jobs correctly, they are advising these guys to wait and sign at the times that will maximize their earnings. Isn't it logical to assume that Reed and Heap received that type of solid advice from their agents?

I would argue that the lack of depth on this football team results in large part due to lack of preparation and practice. Players like David Pittman and Derrick Martin played well (Billickism intended) in the last few weeks of the season, but were totally ineffective early in the season. This occurred because they weren't challenged in training camp and as they received more reps, their play improved. Hopefully the new coaching staff will correct this problem of "unpreparedness".

One more thing. I watched AD play last year, and he's hardly worth the money that the Patriots are paying him. He was invisible in the Ravens and Colts games. He did have a good Super Bowl. The Ravens are taking the correct approach with Suggs. He had a subpar season in 2007 and if that occurs again in 2008, maybe it's time to let him walk, just like they did with AD.

Anonymous said...

I guess you can offer a new long-term contract to a player earlier, but that doesn't mean they will take it. Who says they are not trying to do that and it is not made public when the player decides to wait and hope for more money. Also, the sooner you sign them, the sooner you have to re-sign them again and for bigger money. If you wait an extra year or two under their current contract, you may be able to get them up to the point of the end of their usefulness and not have to re-sign them. We can't have it both ways and complain when we let guys go and also complain we keep them. Does your theory pertain to coaches? We re-signed BB before his contract ended and now look at the mess we are in (I know it doesn't affect the cap, but same idea).

Anonymous said...

Come to think of it, aren't Bob Sanders, and Troy Polumalu two other safeties who only received extensions in their last year under contract. Didn't the C**ts just franchise Dallas Clark and sign him to a huge extension, one year after they did the same with Dwight Freeney. You can extend good players early, but the great ones know that they can get special money. Hell, Suggs probably wants to wait to see what Lance Briggs gets before he agrees to a contract. Teams that draft well get screwed most by the salary cap, because better players demand more money. This is exacerbated by teams who offer stupid money to any hot free agent they can find (see Clements, Nate. Or Snyder, Dan). Not to mention, we've picked up our share of hot acquisitions from other teams in the past (most recently Mason, Rolle, McNair, Pryce, McGahee). Come to think of it, four of those five players are members of the nine players who make up 50% of our salary cap. (JO, Ray, McNair, McAlister, Rolle, Flynn, Anderson, Mason, and Pryce). Mike Anderson was a terrible pickup, but a FA pickup nonetheless. Only JO, Ray, McCalister, and Flynn are members of these nine. JO and Ray might have signed for less eventually, but they have been worth every penny.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article Tony. I know it ruffles feathers when Ozzie gets criticized, but the reality is -- there's more to being a great GM than just reading down a list of players that have been drafted and made it to the Pro Bowl. Ozzie has KILLED us with bad cap decisions, and questionable personnel moves. For example, McNair and all the cap space he took up, while Brees was available? I understand that hindsight is 20-20, but as you pointed out, while Ozzie has hit home runs with some of his draft picks, he's set the team back noticeably when it comes to his contract negotiating. I honestly think it's time to move on past Ozzie, just like with Billick. Loyalty is one thing, but when it comes back to haunt you, it's no longer worth it. I believe we're at that place now with Ozzie.

Donald Trump said...

Ozzie has had a free pass for a long time. It's about time someone shook his tree a bit. You can't get emotionally attached to players. I think the Ravens do too much of that. Like the blog states, "it's business."

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with this blog. Ozzie Newsome made some terrific draft picks over the years, with the incredible help of a Mr. Phil Savage and Eric DeCosta. However, that is where it ends. We have been in cap trouble in 2002 and now in 2008 because we overpay these has been type players. Yes, we get one or two years out of them, but we end up paying for our sins down the road. Personally, I would have kept Phil Savage and let Ozzie go to Cleveland where he started as a player. Most teams draft well in the first round. However, the David Pittmans and Dwayne Edwards of the world have been miserable picks. Why did we ever pick Travis Taylor, Devard Darling, Dwayne Starks, etc., etc. I hope that Steve Bisciotti wakes up to what is going on and finishes what he started. Clean House!!

Dawan Song said...

My first reaction to Tony's blog was "what is he thinking?" But then I thought about it and read it again, the second time without emotion. And I think that's the key when you read this. He's simply suggesting ways for Ozzie to improve and if he's above that, then he should move on.

Look, as the blog states football is a business and in any business you make objective decisions, not emotional ones. Ozzie does seem to get attached and overpay the good players he's drafted. He has to tighten up his mantra of "right player right price" when it comes to "family."

Thought provoking piece...let's have a little more.

Harryos29 said...

Harry o 29 Feb 26th
...Tony you sure hit one out-of-the-park with this one! Great Blog! Great Responses. I read the site daily; and looking back on recent-history, never has one of your blogs garnered so much interest so fast!
....IMHO... All of the bloggers made good points; and you set this up with thought-provoking comments of your own. I think as long as Art Model is breathing; Ozzie Stays. Also, is there a ROONEY RULE with NFL Front office personnel?
I agree with the blogger who stated that they let the wrong GM go to Cleveland. I'm sure Cleveland would have scarfed up OZZIE the way they scarfed up Savage. You always take Personnel from organizations who are successful. Nobody ever Raids the Falcons Front office , now do they?
Just think: if Rolls were reversed,we may still have a QB controversy, but we may have have Drew Brees and Derek Anderson here instead of what we have. Food for thought.... Its a business and basically the players are paid to play. I think the NEW ENGLAND MODEL that BOB KRAFT runs should be the template for the Ravens. The only one NE blew recently was the signing of AD.
Rave on
Harry O Sykesville