Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The buzz around Owings Mills and the NFL...might ticket prices soar?

Something to think about as the Ravens prepare for a series of upcoming mini-camps…

Fans of Musa Smith and Gerome Sapp are in mourning. The Ravens’ activity on draft day (acquiring two RB’s and two safeties) has all but ended their careers in purple and black…Terrell Suggs has the same agent as Dwight Freeney. His name is Gary Wichard. Wichard will push for Freeney-type money for his client but a more interesting and perhaps a more appropriate measuring stick for the costs to sign Terrell Suggs is the new deal that Jared Allen recently struck with the Minnesota Vikings. Allen’s new contract is for 6 years and $73.26 million according to The deal is said to include $31 million in guaranteed money and is structured like a four year deal for all intents and purposes. Allen’s scheduled salaries for 2012 and 2013 ($11.6 million, $14.3 million) scream for restructuring. Expect Wichard to spin this in Suggs’ favor by pointing to Allen’s off the field issues. Allen is one .08 on the breathalyzer away from a one year suspension. Comparatively speaking on the field, the 26 year old Allen has 43 career sacks over 4 seasons while Suggs has 45 over 5…

The 2008 NFL Draft was relatively short on blue chip prospects yet most NFL execs would suggest that it was a rather deep draft and that in part explains the Ravens trading activity this past weekend. The philosophy is rather simple – more picks in a deep draft equates to more hits at the NFL level…One hit Ravens’ fans hope Ozzie & Co. made exists in the form of QB Joe Flacco. While most in the Ravens war room favored Matt Ryan over Flacco, the same cannot be said about the team’s new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. SI’s Peter King would have you believe that the Ravens offered the Rams 2008’s first, second and fourth picks along with next year’s No. 3 to move up 6 spots. That deal seems so unlike anything the Ravens would consider particularly when Flacco was very available and favored by an established developer of quarterbacks in Cameron. By the end of the day Sunday, Matt Ryan v. Joe Flacco-Ray Rice-Tavares Gooden-Fabian Washington looks like a win for the Ravens. Time will tell. But back to Peter King, you have to wonder where he gets his info and something tells me this tale may have been that of Matt Ryan’s agent trying to create leverage for his client. Moving him up one spot in the draft means more money for Ryan and of course more Benjamins for his agent Tom Condon.

“Measurables” is a term often used to describe the stats of NFL draft eligible prospects. Ravens’ new RB Ray Rice has been timed at roughly 4.4 seconds in the 40 yard dash. And while that may seem impressive even more impressive is his ability to accelerate rapidly from the moment he accepts a handoff. Rice’s ability to quickly get into gear coupled with his listed 5’8” frame while standing behind behemoths averaging 6’5” will be a challenge for opposing linebackers looking to take down the diminutive ball carrier. Rice also brings an outstanding work ethic and a passion for football all suggesting that he could become a hometown favorite.

Sooner or later the NFL will have to address the out of control upward spiraling of rookie salaries and the solution won’t be simple. Jamarcus Russell has already earned over $30 million yet he’s done absolutely nothing in the NFL. Those dollars make it more difficult for clubs to extend healthier contracts to valuable veteran reserves – players who have paid their dues. Look for the owners to try and emulate what the NBA does with their drafted players and expect Gene Upshaw and his collection of incompetent yes men to push back. It’s going to get ugly…Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement will get even uglier after the 2010 season. Upshaw has warned that if the owners can’t get it together and the league enters any season without a cap, that the cap will be gone forever. Some small market owners may not care if the cap goes away. If increases in the cap approach or exceed the increases in team revenues, small market teams will resist and the cap will fall apart. The collateral damage of a fallen cap will leave an NFL that resembles Major League Baseball – a system that rewards the rich. You can then look for the Cowboys and Redskins to become the Yankees and Red Sox of the NFL.

Locally the Ravens really have nowhere else to go to expand their market. With an ocean to the east, the Steelers to the west, the Eagles to the north and the Redskins to the south, there’s little room for growth for the Ravens. Given that they don’t have a deep and rich history Steve Bisciotti is boxed in a bit. Reaching outside of the region is difficult and would probably require a QB on par with the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world. That might help with the sale of merchandise and when you think about it, it might explain the business side of why the Ravens owner fancies a stud QB. But other than that and milking local radio stations for all they’ve got, perhaps the only way for the Ravens to increase revenues is by increasing ticket prices.

Enjoy the hold on 2008 ticket prices while it lasts…