Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tampering in the NFL? C'mon, get outta here!

The NFL free agency season opens on February 27 and if this year is indicative of previous “hunting” seasons, the league’s general managers will have their shotguns loaded and ready to fire at 12:01 am two weeks from Friday.

It’s interesting that the league discourages tampering – that is communicating with would be free agents prior to the free agency period. Yet we all know that it goes on.

You may recall a few years back when the Carolina Panthers overpaid for an average defensive tackle who once wore purple, Maake Kemoeatu. Just after the clock struck midnight, the opening gun for NFL free agency 2006, Kemo signed a 5 year deal worth $27.5 million including $8 million in bonuses. Since then, Kemo has 116 tackles, 0 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 6 passes defended.

You think a deal like this gets done in a matter of minutes? The pay day that a player yearns for, that once in a lifetime opportunity to cash in your chips, do you really jump at the very first offer in less time than it takes to listen to Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run”?

I don’t think so!

Kemo and his agents were more than likely talking through what we’ll assume were “legal” channels with not just the Panthers, but other teams as well prior to the start of hunting season. Similar clandestine discussions are going on at this very moment. That’s just how it goes…

The Ravens answered the loss of Kemo with the signing of Justin Bannan for 4 years and $8 million, $3 million in the form of a bonus. Bannan since his signing has produced 74 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 3 passes defended plus an interception. When forced into a starting role after Kelly Gregg’s season ending injury in ‘08, Bannan had 30 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 0 forced fumbles and 3 passes defended versus 31-0-0-1-2 from Kemo this season.

Who has proven to be the better value between Kemoeatu and Bannan?

No brainer, right?

The point here is that Ozzie Newsome and his merry band of talent evaluators sort of know what they are doing and as time goes on, the group has grown better with more experience. If Ray Lewis leaves, they have a plan. If he stays they have a plan. Same goes for Terrell Suggs, Jason Brown, Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard.

Now some might say that the loss of Ray Lewis would be devastating particularly on the heels of losing Rex Ryan. Just ask NFL Network’s answer to Cedric the Entertainer – Jamie Dukes. But that assumes the Ravens would do nothing with the money earmarked for Lewis. It assumes that players like Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs if re-signed can’t step up and lead. It assumes that the returning defensive coaches learned nothing from Rex Ryan.

Wrong, wrong and wrong!

If Lewis leaves, then the Ravens simply usher in the “After Ray” Era a little sooner. It’s going to happen someday and while most would prefer that it not happen in 2009 (myself included), it won’t be the end of the world or the Ravens if it does.

Back to Suggs for a moment, I wrote a piece several months ago that the Ravens should tag and trade No. 55 for No. 81 of the Cardinals, Anquan Boldin. I argued that while Suggs is a very good player, he wasn’t a difference maker in ’07 because his success seemed to be heavily predicated upon the presence of Trevor Pryce. If Suggs wants top end money I opined, he needs to be impactful with or without a player like Pryce.

I can tell you this; the Ravens don’t believe that a Suggs for Boldin trade is an even one. They would want more than just Boldin in return for Suggs. They will point to two things about Boldin: 1) He has the luxury of playing opposite Larry Fitzgerald and; 2) His speed is a relatively pedestrian 4.7 in the 40.

Supporters of Boldin will happily remind us of the former Florida State Seminole’s productivity BF – before Fitzgerald. During his rookie season without Fitzgerald in 2003, Boldin had 101 catches for 1,377 yards and 8 scores. But keep this in mind – the Cardinals had the worst point differential in the league that season and finished 4-12. In other words, the Cardinals were playing catch up quite often so Boldin’s stats that season might be a bit misleading.

That’s not to say Boldin wouldn’t help the Ravens – he would. But the price to acquire him might not bring value. Because he is under contract, Boldin will cost a player, a pick or some combination thereof plus he will want to be paid commensurately with his stats.

Other thoughts and observations…I know that I’ve picked on Bruce Cunningham quite a bit lately on the pages of 24x7. I just can’t help it and like I’ve said before, the guy just keeps feeding me more unintended amusement whenever I turn on 105.7 The Fan. Yesterday, he talked about the fumblerooski type play that Cam Cameron called during the Pro Bowl this past Sunday resulting in a TD run from Le’Ron McClain. Cunningham “fumbled” (again) and called the Ravens’ running back LeRon Profit (which I’m sure was Mark Zinno’s fault). I guess it could have been worse. He could have called him Ronnie Perdue…Matt Cavanaugh is the new quarterbacks coach for the Jets. Many believe that Cavanaugh was Brian Billick’s whipping boy and scapegoat while Cavanaugh was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator. Now Rex Ryan (a member of that same Billick coaching staff) hires Cavanaugh. Something tells me the hire suggests that Rex also thinks Cavanaugh was hung out to dry by Billick. Who said NFL means No Fun League?...Hey if you are a Facebook member, check us out in a Facebook Group creatively entitled Ravens247.


Harryos29 said...

Harry O 29 Feb 10th
To begin with, I agree 100% that letting KEMO go and Bringing in Justin Bannon has paid dividends fro the Ravens! I'm hearing talk that KELLY GREGG's injury may be Career ending?? so Keeping Justin Bannon is the right thing to do.
.. I was once HOT on getting Boldin here in CRAB TOWN, but since the Blow up on the sidelines with his Offensive Coordinator, I've cooled on him, plus Tony pointed out his foot speed of 4.7 in the 40.
...Back to Ray Lewis, and I'm not sure which subject is making me more tired ..Ray or Michael Phelps?
... I am a big Fan of the way the PATRIOTS operate and the way the Steelers do it. If Ray can get the big money elsewhere, and that is more important to him than his legacy here...then by all means hop on the JET plane to new fame and fortune elsewhere. NO HARD FEELINGS!
.. On Free Agency, trust me there is CHEATING going on everywhere in this world. You only have to look no farther than 40 miles down the road to see every cabinet member proposed is a TAX Cheat! Now, A-ROD is found to have Cheated. Minutes ago, Tejada's name flashed accross the screen for lying to congress.
... I will close by saying, I firmly believe that deals are being struck as I type; with potential free agents all over football. What was that old TV show WHO CAN YOU TRUST? I guess only my mother!!!!