Friday, February 26, 2010

LT to Baltimore makes sense


Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of Ravens24x7.com

Ladainian Tomlinson is a street free agent and is free to sign with any team.

Why not the Ravens?

If you listened closely to his recent press conference, Tomlinson seems more interested in winning a championship than being a No. 1 running back. And if that is true, wouldn’t he be an excellent fit in Baltimore? Might Baltimore fit him comfortably?

Tomlinson has a tarnished image to repair. Many perceive him as a bit of a crybaby. Heading into the twilight of his playing career and readying himself for his post playing career, cleaning up that image is desirable. A team first pinch hitter off the bench would do the trick.

Besides the Ravens have someone that no other team has – Cam Cameron.

In Cameron’s offense, LT had his best years in San Diego. Ahead of him is a player with similar skills in Ray Rice who could become an excellent protégé.

You’ve heard the expression, “It’s tough to teach an old dog new tricks”, right?

Well in B’more and in the Ravens’ offensive system, Tomlinson wouldn’t have to really learn any new tricks. He may even be able to dust off some old ones.

Of course there is the issue of Willis McGahee to deal with.

Most observers would agree that McGahee at best will be in Baltimore for one more season – a season in which he is scheduled to be paid handsomely, $3.6 million to be exact.

Why not cut Willis free, give him a chance to be a starter elsewhere and use a portion of that $3.6 million to pay LT?

Upgrade the RB position for one season.

Save money!

Make everyone involved happy…

This is a conversation that the Ravens’ brass must have while the opportunity still exists.

An economical way for the Ravens to upgrade passing attack


Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of Ravens24x7.com

Some wishful thinking as we approach the dawn of free agency in the NFL…

In order to go deeper into the post season it doesn’t take the reincarnation of Bill Walsh to figure out that the Ravens need to upgrade their passing game. However with an uncapped season approaching, the availability of unrestricted free agents is very thin. Over 200 would be UFA's are now restricted.

The Ravens have already scooped up one “street” free agent, Donte Stallworth. He provides speed that the WR corps has been lacking but clearly there needs to be more.

So, nobody asked me but here are a few more steps to take to give Joe Flacco the aerial weaponry he needs without breaking the bank…

1. Re-sign Derrick Mason to a one year deal with an option.

2. Go out and get Antonio Bryant. Bryant, isn't expected to be re-signed by Tampa and is described as a natural athlete with amazing body control. He has soft hands, great leaping ability and at 6’1” he’s a very solid red zone target. All things considered, Bryant should be reasonably priced and could provide value.

3. Draft TE Jermaine Gresham.

4. Draft a WR in the second or third round to develop.

Add it all up and the Ravens will realize a significant boost in the passing game without breaking the bank.

With the money the team saves by not trading for Brandon Marshall or Anquan Boldin they can go and find a player to get after the quarterback. Something tells me Osi Umenyiora is an obtainable player who Tom Coughlin can’t wait to unload in New York.

I like a player with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.

Bryant, Umenyiora and even Stallworth fit that description.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Derrick Martin, one that got away...



Baltimore Ravens News & Blogs by Tony Lombardi of Ravens24x7.com

I was always a Derrick Martin fan when he played here in B’more. Apparently the folks who play at Lambeau Field agree.

Martin, who was traded to the Packers by the Ravens before the regular season started in 2009 in exchange for soon-to-be ex-Raven T Tony Moll, just received a two year contract extension from Green Bay. Although he performed poorly against Brett Favre and the Vikings in his only start at safety, insiders believe that Martin will be more productive going forward now that he has a year of Dom Capers’ system under his belt. Plus he has been a special teams standout.

Whenever he was given an opportunity as a Raven, Martin performed and his nose for the football just might play out well for the Packers. His trade is one move that Ozzie Newsome more than likely will one day regret if he doesn't already.


Discuss this on Baltimore Ravens Message Boards & Forums

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

McGahee for Cromartie: Fair deal?


Willis McGahee is a player who delivered in a backup role in ’09 yet many believe that No. 23 will NOT be wearing a Ravens’ jersey next season. Some think that McGahee could be a match for the San Diego Chargers who just happen to have a player that could be a fit a need for the Ravens.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is a gifted athlete who has a reputation for playing soft and for not being a very good team player. Consequently his name is often bantered about when discussing current Chargers who could be on the move.

Now that Ladainian Tomlinson has been jettisoned by the Bolts, these talks could heat up and a swap is possible.

Possible, but not likely…I checked in with Kevin Acee who covers the Chargers for the Union-Tribune. Acee told me that the Chargers might make that deal if it was the best deal out there.

However he added that the Chargers would likely prefer a back younger than McGahee and/or a draft pick for Cromartie, a player Acee described as “a starting corner who had a pretty good season. He hasn't had the picks, and there have been high-profile blunders. But he shut guys down too.”


Good Cromartie



Cromartie (No. 31) not exactly playing like a Raven...



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Malcolm Floyd or Donte Stallworth?


Malcolm Floyd is a name you hear kicked around often when it comes to solutions to the Ravens’ subpar passing game. It’s interesting to observe how much higher the stock is for Floyd in the court of popular opinion than the recently signed Donte Stallworth. However a closer look reveals some interesting statistics.

Both will be 29 years old on opening day in 2010 (Stallworth is 10 months older). Floyd has 97 career receptions totaling 1,597 yards and he’s hit paydirt 9 times in his career. Despite sitting out a season due to suspension, Stallworth has 296 catches for 4,383 yards and 32 scores.

During his workout with the team Stallworth had a blistering 4.4 time in the 40 yard dash. Now one must keep in mind as pointed out by SI’s Peter King this week, that the Ravens clock players on a surface that is historically about two-tenths of a second slower than the surfaces normally used to time players, such as that at the scouting combines.

King reported that Stallworth’s time was “the fastest time recorded on the turf by the club.” However, I was told that the Ravens have witnessed, “maybe one or two [other players who beat that number] but the time is accurate and [Stallworth] was smoking.”

For those who can’t wrap their heads around Stallworth due to his involvement in a DUI manslaughter, let me ask you this: What is worse, a DUI manslaughter or obstruction of justice in a double homicide?

I seem to recall that Ray Lewis was allowed to return to work in 2000 after paying a $250,000 fine for pleading out after that infamous double murder in Atlanta following Super Bowl XXXIV – a still unsolved crime.

What might have happened to Lewis in today’s NFL?

Can you easily envision a Ravens franchise without that Super Bowl XXXV win?

How might that have affected the club going forward?

You see sometimes when players get a second chance they deliver.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ravens should let Mason test the market


Some Ravens fans are concerned that unrestricted free agent Derrick Mason will get away and given the current composition of the team’s receiving corps the prevailing feeling is, “we can’t afford to lose him.”

Recently Mason said he wants a multi-year deal. A month ago he was retiring, then he was 75% sure he would quit and then it was 50-50.

Posturing?

Who knows? Who cares?

The Ravens should let Mason test the market. Let him see how many teams want to give a 36 year old receiver a multi-year deal. And to make that challenge even more difficult let’s see how many teams with Super Bowl potential are willing to give him a two year contract.

After all we are supposed to take D-Mase at his word right?

Didn’t he say he wanted a ring before he retired?

Are the Dolphins going to deliver one?

Now that’s funny.

Of the Final 8 teams (Ravens, Saints, Colts, Jets, Vikings, Cowboys, Chargers, Cardinals) do you think any will give Mase a multi-year deal?

There is a time to LET things happen and a time to MAKE things happen.

Let him go and pick up a couple of free steak dinners from prospective suitors.

He’ll be back and humbled by the lack of demand for his services.

Just ask Ray Lewis…

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Woods now needs to walk the walk


I’m not sure what some people expected from Tiger Woods yesterday during his public apology (video here). I’ve heard analysts break down all of his words and his body language. Some believe he was sincere; some think the speech was too scripted and not from the heart.

Yada, yada, yada…

He can’t change the past, he can only affect the future and hopefully in a better way for his wife, his family, friends, colleagues on tour, fans and business partners.

For now, all we have are those words to decode and body language to review and rewind like an ipod stuck on replay.

What a waste of time!

I don’t really care what Tiger said. I don’t really care about his teary eyes. I don’t really care if he read most of the speech.

Tiger pointed out that even his wife Elin will not accept words as an apology.

His behavior over time will become his apology to her.

His behavior will determine his sincerity and decode his body language.

And that’s what I care about!

Hopefully that’s what the Ravens’ new wide receiver Donte Stallworth cares about too.

You know athletes in general have an extreme sense of entitlement – not all of them but many do and the majority of the upper echelon athletes clearly do. In some ways they can’t help it because in this day and age when athletes are recruited at grade school levels, they are constantly coddled and catered to. It becomes a way of life for many of them.

Yesterday Woods admitted that he is one such athlete.

“I convinced myself that normal rules don’t apply [to me].

“I felt I was entitled.”

The first part of correcting a problem is admitting the problem exists. Woods is on his way.

If you take his words at face value his achievements thus far on the golf course and in the business community aren’t important, at least for now.

“It’s not what you achieve in life that matters but what you overcome.”

Unfortunately for Woods the challenges ahead aren’t slippery greens or thick first cuts just inches from the fairway. Those challenges he can tackle in the NOW. His challenges ahead will take time and he needs to understand that there’s a difference between letting things happen and making things happen.

Hopefully he’ll manage the difference.

And hopefully the apologies will come in the form his wife prefers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Donte Stallworth can make a difference off the field too


Ravens fans whose lives have been affected by drunk drivers will more than likely object to the Ravens’ signing of Donte Stallworth. After all it was Stallworth’s carelessness and irresponsibility that led to the death of Mario Reyes in Miami.

Stallworth served a little over three weeks in jail after a plea to DUI manslaughter. He also paid an undisclosed sum to the Reyes family.

Clearly this looks like an easy way out for a man with financial means.

By most counts Stallworth is a good guy who made a very bad mistake.

Is it better to make him suffer longer?

What might an extended incarceration correct? What might it change?

Would it change your opinion of Stallworth if you knew that the victim was also under the influence and that his surprise emergence as a pedestrian on to the expressway may have caught even a totally lucid driver off guard?

This by no means excuses Stallworth’s behavior and exonerates him from fault.

But couldn’t this have happened to just about anyone behind the wheel?

Half of Canton or Fells Point or Federal Hill could make the same deadly mistake on a Saturday night.

You know I once knew a guy who had his license suspended for 2 years due to a couple of DUI’s. Eventually he had his license reinstated. One evening after a couple of beers “John” left a bar, got in his car and headed home. He was hardly intoxicated.

On his way home, his car was struck by a drunk driver and as a result both he and the drunk driver were was asked to take a breathalyzer test. Confident that he was lucid John took the test – and flunked.

You can guess the rest of the story.

But back to Stallworth…

Here’s a guy who John Harbaugh and Ravens receivers coach Jim Hostler are both familiar with and they support his reinstatement. Former teammates and coaches have all spoken his praises. Steve Bisciotti, a man who built his fortune on a keen eye for talent and character believes in second chances and apparently he believes in Stallworth.

Sometimes second chances bring out the best in people.

Stallworth’s best doesn’t have to be on the field either.

What if he really reaches someone in your community and convinces them of the dangers of drinking and driving. In a flash all of your life’s work can be altered, destroyed or taken away. And if you don’t have the financial wherewithal of a Donte Stallworth, maybe YOU get taken away.

Some will argue and with good reason that Stallworth hasn’t really paid his debt to society.

But what if he is sincere in his quest to make a difference off the field?

What if he influences a potentially dangerous driver on a Saturday night to call a cab keeping the streets safer for all of our loved ones?

Isn’t that more worthwhile than extending his punishment in an unproductive way in some prison cell?

Yes his wealth keeps him from that cell, but can’t the celebrity that helped usher in such wealth also help our community in other ways?

It can, but that’s up to Stallworth.

“I know my apology will never be strong enough for some, but I’ve made changes, and I’m trying to be a positive influence. It’s an honor and privilege to play in the NFL, and I’m so thankful for this opportunity. I will make the best of it, and some people may listen to me because I will be playing. I hope I can do some good in delivering a message that could help someone or prevent someone from doing what I did.”

Time will tell if Stallworth is sincere.

Let’s hope that he is and that is words and actions are meaningful both inside AND outside the lines.

Ravens news, rumors and speculation


The signing of Donte Stallworth has very little downside for the Ravens. On the field at worst the team just dialed up the heat in the competition for those five roster spots that comprise the receiving corps. Competition is a good thing.

Stallworth’s contract is a relative bargain at $900,000 with no signing bonus. If Stallworth fails, the Ravens bail. No harm, no foul.

Is Stallworth the answer to the Ravens passing game woes? Of course not, but he is a step in the right direction. If Stallworth takes the field as the No. 3 or 4 receiver and competes against nickel and/or dime backs with his 4.3 speed, Stallworth could make a few big plays during the course of a season and force opposing defensive coordinators to adjust.

To make room for Stallworth the Ravens released Quinn Sypniewski, a move that the team made with a heavy heart. Sypniewski was well-liked and when healthy is clearly a player that provides value as a solid blocking tight end who was a developing pass catcher. His freakish injury during 2008 OTA’s had some in Owings Mills concerned that it was a career threatening one. Their fears may have been realized as Sypniewski failed his recent physical.

Speaking of physical, one of the most rugged players ever to wear a Ravens uniform was cut yesterday by the Browns. Jamal Lewis was let go and by most counts, No. 31’s career is heading into the sunset. Retirement appears to be the plan for the 2003 Offensive Player of the Year. Is he a lock for the Ravens Ring of Honor? Does he have Hall of Fame creds?

The back who assumed workhorse duties for Lewis, Willis McGahee is a frequently mentioned name in the rumor mill as a potential trade candidate. The Detroit Lions is one of the teams often brought up as a possible suitor yet another has entered the mix – the San Diego Chargers. Ladainian Tomlinson has probably seen his last days in powder blue and Darren Sproles, a free agent, isn’t exactly an every down back. There may be a match with the Chargers who reportedly are listening to offers for CB Antonio Cromartie.

Cromartie, a workout warrior, has had two subpar seasons after a stellar 2007 during which he intercepted 10 passes in the regular season, two in the post season and another pair of picks in the Pro Bowl en route to his All Pro status. Cromartie is in the fifth and final season of a 5 year rookie contract.

The former FSU Seminole has a reputation for being a soft corner and an unwilling participant in support of run defense. That said if the Ravens can convince the Chargers to take on McGahee’s contract and unload a player viewed by some in San Diego as a malcontent, Ozzie Newsome should jump at the chance even if it is a one season rental. Cromartie is playing for the next contract and his contributions could be the bridge to properly develop any 2010 draft picks and buy some time for the recovering Lardarius Webb.

Word is that Webb is at the Ravens facility every day to accelerate the healing process. He's a good kid who's motivated and the Ravens believe that he's on target to ahead of the curve.That said, it is at least 50-50 that he will start the season on the physically unable to perform (“PUP”) list. Keep in mind that Webb’s position requires quick reaction in the lower extremities and that places added burden on the joints. Consequently doctors may be a bit more cautious.

Something also to keep in mind…

Webb played a lot of safety at the collegiate level and seems to possess excellent recognition and reaction skills, something that his mentor Ed Reed has parlayed into a Hall of Fame career. And let’s not forget Reed’s uncertain future.

Terrell Owens is often mentioned as a possible addition to the Ravens receiving corps. Don’t hold your breath on that one! Keep in mind that John Harbaugh had a birds-eye view of Owens as a member of the Eagles’ coaching staff and that T.O. isn’t exactly on Ozzie Newsome’s Christmas card list.

You may recall back in 2004 when the Ravens made the trade with the San Francisco 49ers for Owens that the mercenary receiver claimed that one of the reasons he didn’t want to come to Baltimore stemmed from alleged comments from Newsome.

In his autobiography Owens wrote, that Newsome told the wide receiver's agent that, "He was a black man from Alabama just like TO" and that "sometimes a black man's gotta be slapped."

Ozzie refused to comment on
the allegations but you can rest assured that any bridge from the Ravens to Owens was nuked by T.O.’s racial overtones.

The Ravens remain very interested in bringing veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason back into the fold. Mason is an unrestricted free agent and despite flirting with retirement in 2009, he is expected to play during the 2010 season. Word is the Dolphins are interested in Mason’s services.

Another player that the Ravens would like to see stay is Dwan Edwards. The team was extremely pleased with Edwards’ efforts in 2009 as he supplanted Trevor Pryce as the starter. Pryce who is scheduled to make $4.5 million in 2010 is unlikely to ever see that kind of payola from the Ravens. Don’t be surprised if that money is reallocated to Edwards with a little left over to retain a player like Justin Bannan. If Pryce doesn’t accept a pay cut, he could be gone.

The Ravens’ draft board is set and word is the board has expanded a bit this year. In previous seasons the Ravens typically had 135 to 140 names on their board. With the plethora of underclassmen in this year’s draft that number has swelled to 180. The threat of a rookie salary cap could be influencing the juniors.

While on the topic of influence, judging from the video below Trent Dilfer might be under it. Have a look for yourself and as always your comments are welcomed.






Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Q&A with Eric DeCosta: Part I


Leading up to and immediately following the NFL Draft we will touch down with Ravens’ Director of Player Personnel, Eric DeCosta and gather his thoughts on the dynamic landscape of the NFL and of course the upcoming NFL Draft. We’ll also recap with DeCosta following the draft and collect his thoughts on the newest Ravens.

Tony Lombardi: The NFL Draft is now spread out over four days beginning Thursday April 22 (Round 1); Friday, April 23, (Round 2-3); and Saturday, April 24, (Rounds 4-7). What advantages does that provide a front office like the Ravens? Any disadvantages?

Eric DeCosta: We’ve been prepared for the new scenario for a year now and we like that we’ll have some time each night (Thursday, Friday nights) to evaluate the players still on the board. We think that gives us an advantage when it comes time to restacking our board and making our next picks.

TL: Most teams use scouting services like Blesto to help them populate their draft board. Yet teams like the Ravens, Patriots and Colts prefer to utilize their own scouts. Why?

ED: We train our scouts from a young professional age to learn our scouting system and our approach to player procurement. We trust our scouts and value their opinions more than we would any outside scouting services that are not really familiar with our philosophies. The services themselves [like Blesto] are costly. We prefer to use that money on our scouts. It all comes down to having a process and knowing what you want.

TL: Last year you moved up to select Michael Oher after the Lions picked Brandon Pettigrew a player that you coveted highly. This year a player coming off a knee injury, Jermaine Gresham is another highly touted tight end who might be available with the 25th pick. What do you know about the injury and can you compare Pettigrew and Gresham?

ED: Gresham suffered a knee injury and decided to have a significant surgery to strengthen the structure of the knee long-term to ensure a long playing career. He’s a fine player, probably not the blocker that Pettigrew is but more dangerous in the pass game.

TL: Paul Kruger is a player who didn’t see the field much in ’09 and I’ve heard him referred to as a developmental player. Do you ever consciously draft players based on projected ceilings knowing that they may take a year or two to develop?

ED: Our grading system is based on several different levels. The first level basically asks the question “Is the player a Pro-bowler, a starter, a backup, or a free-agent camp guy?”

The second level breaks the starter and backup categories (the two groups most players fall into) into different levels (i.e. first-year starter like Michael Oher, second-year starter like Ray Rice, potential possible starter over time like Dwan Edwards or Casey Rabach, backup for the Ravens like Haruki Nakamura, or backup for the league).

Our scouts are required to PROJECT players based on their college experience, personality, and background. Unlike a lot of teams, we don’t rank players based on round we would select, we rank players based on role both short-term and long-term. This is a significant difference.

So yes, we draft players with lots different levels of expectations. We don’t expect every player to start day one or even, in some cases, to ever be a starter. We take a more macro approach aimed at building the best possible team. That entails sometimes taking a lesser player with a great makeup who will be a great backup rather than drafting a really good player with a poor makeup who will be a terrible team guy or bad backup.

TL: Fans will look at the Colts and see young productive receivers like rookie Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon and wonder why the Ravens can’t find players like that. How might you address that for fans?

ED: The Colts are led by one of the most successful QBs to play in the past twenty-five years. I look at the Colts as somewhat of an exception, not a rule. I would equate Manning to Ray Lewis in that both players make the players around them so much better.

I’m not sure that Austin Collie comes to Baltimore and has a great impact, kind of like when we see free-agent Ravens go elsewhere and sort of founder. The wildcard in the whole debate is Joe Flacco. While we definitely recognize the need to get better at the receiver position, we also believe that as Joe continues to mature physically and improve as a passer and student of the game, he’ll have a huge impact on our receiver group (whomever they may be) as a whole, like Manning has had on Indy’s offense.

Baltimore Ravens: A Season in Review, Part II of V

To be considered among the top five plays of 2009 I coupled the excellence of the achievement together with the timing of its occurrence. In other words the play needs not only to be a top highlight it must also have a significant impact on the game or possibly the season.

As for the worst plays, the thought process is similar. The level of the physical failure is paired up with the play’s negative effect on the team.

Let’s start with the positive, the Best Ravens’ Plays of 2009…

Ray Rice v. Patriots, Wild Card Playoff Game

It isn’t often that a running back can go 83 yards untouched on the very first play from scrimmage after taking a handoff designed to run straight up the middle. What makes the play even more amazing is that the Patriots entered the game hell bent on stopping the Ravens’ best offensive weapon, Ray Rice. That is Bill Belichick’s M.O. And when you consider how often the Ravens started games in 2009 with a Rice run, the excellence of this play cannot be overstated. To a man every Raven did what they were supposed to do and the results prove it.



Willis McGahee v. Raiders

The Ravens took a dreaded west coast road trip to the Black Hole in Oakland to take on the Raiders, a team that had a better record against winning teams than the Ravens. Leading 7-3 in a must win game to assure the Ravens’ post season berth, Cam Cameron’s unit struggled. Joe Flacco was anything but crisp and the team’s passing attack was flat out anemic. With 4:27 left in the first half the Ravens were pinned in at the 5 yard line. After a Flacco completion to Todd Heap who beat Hiram Eugene for 18 yards, the Ravens had some breathing room and could now get back to the running game. Eugene would again play the victim.

On the ensuing play McGahee would take the handoff, weave his way through traffic and take on Eugene in the open field. It was no contest as McGahee hit Eugene with a left cross stiff arm then rambled 77 yards for the score to provide the Ravens a much needed spark. McGahee would gather 167 yards on the ground in total on a very economic 16 carries, including all three Ravens’ touchdowns in their 21-13 win which punched the team’s ticket to the playoffs.



Terrell Suggs strips Tom Brady

After jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots and a place that had yet to witness a Tom Brady playoff loss, the Ravens’ defense took the field. Hoping to answer the Ravens’ score, Brady faced a third and 11 from his own 26. Dropping back to pass, Terrell Suggs beat Matt Light off the edge and not only stripped the ball from Brady, but recovered the fumble giving the Ravens a first and 10 from the Patriots 17. Five plays and 2:44 later the Ravens held a 14-0 lead. The beat down was on.

Lardarius Webb 95 Yard Kickoff Return v. Broncos

The Ravens were fresh off their bye week and they desperately needed a win. After starting the season 3-0 the team dropped three straight and lost their comfortable perch atop the AFC North. Making the challenge even more daunting the Ravens hosted the 6-0 Broncos on a sunny November 1 afternoon. Leading 6-0 at the break and struggling offensively, the Ravens needed a spark. They got one when Lardarius Webb took the second half opening kickoff 95 yard to stake the Ravens to a 13-0 lead – one they would not relinquish.



Ray Lewis’ game saving tackle v. Chargers

The Ravens were clinging to a 31-26 lead during the waning moments of this shootout. Philip Rivers had torched the Ravens secondary for 421 net yards passing. Faced with a fourth and 2 from the Ravens 15 with 37 seconds remaining, the Chargers inexplicably opted to run Darren Sproles instead of throwing. Ray Lewis saw something familiar and moved into position to make the play pre-snap. There was little that Sproles or the Chargers could do but walk off the field as losers.



And now the worst plays of 2009…

Hauschka misses field goal v. Vikings

After trailing 27-10 with just over 10 minutes to go in the game, the Ravens behind Joe Flacco and Ray Rice rallied to take the lead 31-30 with 3:37 left in the game. Brett Favre and the Vikings answered with a field goal to put Minnesota back on top 33-31. After the ensuing kickoff the Ravens took over at their own 33 with 1:49 to go. They moved the ball down to the Vikings 26 before sending Steve Hauschka out on to the field to attempt a 44 yard field goal. The miss marked the beginning of the end for the young placekicker here in Baltimore.



Mark Clayton’s drop v. Patriots

The Ravens looked to take their record to 4-0 and win on the road against a second consecutive quality opponent. Trailing 27-21 with 3:32 remaining Joe Flacco & Co. had the unenviable task of marching 80 yards for the go ahead score. The Ravens seemed up for the challenge. After maneuvering their way to the New England 14 the Ravens faced a fourth and 4 with 32 seconds left in the game. Joe Flacco hit Mark Clayton between the numbers for what would have been a first down but Clayton in his angst to add on some yards after the catch forgot the football. Game New England.



Derrick Mason drops TD v. Steelers (3:10 mark of video)

Despite so many missed opportunities and costly penalties against their archrival Steelers, the Ravens were deadlocked at 20-20 as the fourth quarter began. On the very first play of the quarter, Derrick Mason was sent on a stop and go down the right sideline from the Steelers 21. The ball was delivered perfectly by Joe Flacco for what appeared to be an easy touchdown. Instead it was an embarrassing drop by the normally dependable Mason.



Joe Flacco’s interception v. Green Bay

This was a painful game to watch, one marked by 23 penalties in total for 310 yards. Yet the Ravens had a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Trailing 24-14and with the momentum beginning to swing in favor of the purple and black, the Ravens faced a second and goal from the Packers’ 3 yard line with 9 minutes left. Flushed out of the pocket, Joe Flacco rolled right and then committed the cardinal sin of quarterbacking – he threw against his body. Result: Packers’ interception and a Ravens’ defeat.



Joe Flacco’s interception v. Colts (4:25 mark of video)

The (5-4) Ravens hosted the undefeated Colts (9-0) and all observers wondered how the Ravens secondary could contain Peyton Manning. Yet the difference in this contest was the Ravens inability to score a touchdown, having to settle for five field goals. Trailing 17-15 the Ravens faced a third and 7 at the Colts 14 yard line with 2:49 left in the game. Well within field goal range, the last thing the Ravens wanted here was to force a play resulting in a costly turnover. Unfortunately Joe Flacco didn’t get that memo – he did exactly that and tossed a short pass intended for Ray Rice into the waiting arms of Gary Brackett. The Colts killed all but 28 seconds of the clock before punting. Ed Reed in an attempt to pull off a miracle fumbled attempting to lateral to Lardarius Webb during the punt return. The Colts took back the ball and the win.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Part I: Baltimore Ravens 2009 in Review, Studs & Duds



Today I will begin a series entitled, “A Season in Review” and it will unfold as follows:

Part I: 2009 Studs & Duds

Part II: The Best & Worst Plays of 2009

Part III: The Best & Worst Games of 2009 (team)

Part IV: The Best & Worst Games of 2009 (individual)

Part V: The Best & Worst Offseason Moves

Your thoughts and opinions as always are welcomed!


Studs & Duds

First, let me explain my definition of each.

A stud for purposes of this review is a player who performed beyond expectations even if those expectations were relatively high to begin with. Consideration is also given to value. What was that player paid and what did he deliver?

Similarly a dud is a player who underachieved and failed to meet expectations. Once again payola enters the equation and a watchful eye is placed on value.

STUDS

Ray Rice: Rice delivered 2,041 yards from scrimmage during the regular season plus he delivered another 343 yards in 2 playoff games all for the bargain basement price of $385,000.

Marshal Yanda: Yanda took over the starting RG duties from Chris Chester in Week 12 and from that point forward they averaged over 180 rushing per game. He had not one but two key blocks to spring Ray Rice for the 83 yard TD run on the first play from scrimmage during the Wild Card playoff game in New England. Yanda’s W-2 will read $460,000.

Michael Oher: The 2009 first round selection was a starter from day 1 of his first OTA and never looked back. The runner-up offensive rookie of the year showed great versatility playing both right and left tackle and never missed a start. Like Yanda, Oher delivers a welcomed level of nastiness. (2009 salary: $310,000 plus a roster bonus of $940,000).

Dwan Edwards: Once labeled Mr. Softee by many, Edwards had a career year as a rotation guy on the defensive line and eventually assumed Trevor Pryce’s starting position. His high motor and hustle paved the way to 47 tackles (2 for a loss) and one sack. Comparatively speaking Kelly Gregg had 63 tackles and 3 sacks. The unrestricted free agent’s take home pay in 2009: $1,000,000.

Lardarius Webb: Before his injury Webb showed excellent instincts with a nose for the football. Pound for pound he was one of the team’s best tacklers and he adds a degree of explosiveness in short spaces and in the return game. The 3rd round pick collected $310,000 in 2009.

Honorable Mention: Willis McGahee

DUDS

LJ Smith: A mystery signing if there ever was one…John Harbaugh was intimately aware of Smith’s china doll “toughness” yet they signed him for $1,500,000. That equates to $750,000 per catch.

Demetrius Williams: Here’s a player who had an opportunity to step up and failed, tallying just 8 catches for 142 yards – that equates to about $125,000 per catch. Word is he wants to hire LJ’s agent.

Mark Clayton: The 2005 first round pick has never reached expectations and for a player supposedly playing for his next contract he was anything but clutch. Thirty-four catches for 480 yards is solid if you are a rookie chosen in the fourth round, not one paid $2.07 million.

Terrell Suggs: He was out of shape from day 1 of training camp and never really worked his way back into shape. He also proved to be a slight disruption off the field with some domestic issues. Four and one-half sacks and failure to contain on the edge is far less than the Ravens bargained for after agreeing to a new deal that included $33 million in bonuses.

Tavares Gooden: He was supposed to be willing and able to step in for the departed Bart Scott yet was eventually replaced by the much more dependable undrafted free agent Dannell Ellerbe. Gooden shows flashes but may not amount to much more than a special teams player. (Take home pay: $385,000).

Honorable Mention: Paul Kruger, Davon Drew, Steve Hauschka.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A message board, grave site violation



Recently a thread entitled “Ravens fan pays Irsay his respects” was posted on our Ravens24x7.com message board and featured a picture of a Ravens’ fan doing his best Roger Daltrey impersonation while re-enacting the album cover of The Who’s, “Who’s Next” at Robert Irsay’s grave site.

The topic was brought up by Drew Forrester during his Comcast Morning Show on WNST on Friday.

Fair enough.

Debatable topic featuring strong emotions is good radio.

However Forrester violated an understood message board code that protects the anonymity of message board members when he mentioned a member by his actual name. How he discovered the name for the moment is a mystery. (Maybe President Obama should send Forrester over to Afghanistan to track down Bin Laden...)

Now one may argue that thoughts expressed on message boards are public and therefore they can be discussed publicly – even on radio. I get that.

But to call out a person by his or her real name on air violates a message board’s collective understanding regarding anonymity. On a message board a member who chooses to remain anonymous can debate with other members who can choose their own flavor of anonymity and they can do so at their own discretion and frequency.

However taking that debate from one forum to another (radio in this case) places all the control in the hands of the radio host who also happens to be a message board member. The fairness of a level playing field (the message board) has been removed.

Anonymity, unless sacrificed by the message board member freely and intentionally, is an understood concept and board members shouldn't be raped of that benefit.

And certainly doing so on the radio takes the violation to an even greater level.

To borrow from The Who again, allow message board members their "Eminence Front."

After all, "It's a put on..."


Friday, February 12, 2010

The Baltimore Ravens: A Season in Review


On Monday I will begin a series of blog entries sharing the theme, “A Season in Review.” The series will unfold as follows:

Part I: 2009 Studs & Duds

Part II: The Best & Worst Plays of 2009

Part III: The Best & Worst Games of 2009 (team)

Part IV: The Best & Worst Games of 2009 (individual)

Part V: The Best & Worst Offseason Moves

Your thoughts and opinions as always are welcomed!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Baltimore Sports Odds & Ends


Now that the NFL Draft is spread out over the course of three days (Rd. 1: Thurs., April 22, 7:30 p.m. ET Rd. 2-3: Fri., April 23, 6:30 p.m. ET Rd. 4-7: Sat., April 24, 10 a.m. ET Radio City Music Hall, New York) coupled with the restrictions on free agent signings for the playoff teams, expect more trade winds to be blowing amongst the league’s GM’s.

Might Ochouno be joining the Bengals? If you listen to Chad Ochocinco, No. 81 Terrell Owens could be heading to the Queen City. According to Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer, Ochocinco said he’s “sure of it.” Maybe another NFL bad boy could join them –Donte Stallworth.

Speaking of Stallworth some have wondered if he would be a good fit for the Ravens. Not that he fills the need for a big playmaking receiver, but Stallworth might not be a bad economically appealing addition to the Ravens’ pass catching corps as a guy coming off the bench challenging opposing nickel backs. I don’t get the sense that Stallworth is a potential repeat offender and he appears very remorseful, something that could be a motivator for the physically gifted receiver.

It’s difficult not to be happy for the folks in New Orleans. Their Super Bowl Champion Saints serve as a welcome oasis in the midst of a still battered city infrastructure and quality of life courtesy of the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. That said if Katrina never happened the Saints might be the San Antonio Armadillos.

A week or so ago I beat up on Rex Ryan for his behavior at a mixed martial arts event in South Florida. Judging from pictures and the interview (you can see both on this blog entry) I will venture to say that Rex wasn’t totally lucid before he flipped the bird to Dolphins fans.

However I’m now willing to cut him a little slack after hearing that Ryan was spat on three times and insulted viciously by intoxicated fans. ONLY flipping the bird actually was a sign of restraint.

Maybe the lesson for Rex is to not put himself in environments like that, particularly when you consider that he is the head coach of a bitter rival. The fact that he also pops off regularly makes him an inviting target.

"On a scale of one to 10 it's a 14," NFL Players Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith said last week about the chances for a lockout by owners in March of next year when the current CBA expires. Hmmm, I call that posturing at its finest. It will be interesting to see how all of the would-be unrestricted free agents in a typical capped season who lost their “unrestricted” status will support the new director on this one. Count me among those that say, “Advantage owners.”

In a five part mini-series intended to educate us all on the sports media in Baltimore but instead morphed into a clinic in narcissism, we learned that everyone and everything covering Baltimore area teams not tied to WNST has severe flaws.

Parts I-IV were delivered in a timely fashion (last Monday through Thursday) but Part V took a bit longer and was posted yesterday. Maybe the author even put himself to sleep after a blizzard of “me’s” and “I’s” that made our February snow fall seem like a light dusting.

Was it worth the wait?

Absolutely!

The local sports scene is now safe and offers us all promise – at least according to WNST’s lead dog Nestor Aparicio. “I worked at The Sun, wrote The Moon and now I will attempt to shape the next decade of sports media in Baltimore and where it’s going by building a company that serves our community. (Maybe we’ll call that 'The Stars.')"

Keep reaching Nestor...

Monday, February 08, 2010

Random thoughts on Super Bowl XLIV


Drew Brees…WOW!

Here’s an undersized quarterback with average arm strength, cast aside by the Chargers and largely ignored by even the most QB-needy teams (the Ravens included) when he was a free agent following the 2005 season due to rotator cuff issues.

Yet the Saints took a chance and clearly they’ve been rewarded.

Has there ever been a more deserving Super Bowl MVP – a player universally adored by teammates, fans everywhere and the City of New Orleans.

Drew Brees you’ve taught us all something about determination, perseverance, class and style in reaching the pinnacle of your profession.

Thank you!

S-A-T-U-R…D-A-Y NIGHT! Why not change the day of the Super Bowl to Saturday?

Super Saturday sounds just fine to me. Besides, if last night was any indication the party was just getting started when the Saints finished marching all over the Colts en route to their Super Bowl XLIV victory. But instead of hearing, “Let’s Get it Started”, we had to “Take the Long Way Home.”

Everyone wins by moving this game to Saturday.

If not, then how about making Super Bowl Monday a national holiday?

I’m a bit torn about Peyton Manning’s decision to make a beeline to the locker room after last night’s game. My initial reaction was to tag the behavior lame and borderline classless. But I’ve shoved those labels aside for the time being because Manning consistently shows class and I’ll take what I believe as a rather lame explanation at face value.

"I certainly know how it was three years ago when we won . . . " Manning said. "There's the stage being set up, and the celebration, and it's time for the Saints to celebrate. It's their field. They deserve the moment."But I certainly congratulate all their players and the Saints organization. I will speak to Drew Brees, speak to Sean Payton, and they deserve all the credit."

The Saints have something in common with the Ravens. Along with the Tampa Bay Bucs and the New York Jets they are the four teams to win their only Super Bowl appearance.

Did the game officials let these teams play or what? Eight penalties for 64 yards in TOTAL! That’s a well behaved day for the Ravens. Although I have to admit that if I was a Colts’ fan, I would have been pretty steamed over the offensive holding penalties that weren’t called. But I’m not so, GO SAINTS!

Is Reggie Bush a necessary Saint? I don’t think so and something tells me the uncapped season will give the Saints an easy way out and they’ll dump that big salary just south of a 10 digit number in ’10. By the way the Texans got it right selecting Mario Williams over Kim Kardashian’s significant other…Chris McAlister, a player many around here clamored for during the ’09 season, could have been a Super Bowl champion again but the fact is as it stands right now, the guy can no longer play, doesn’t care enough about the game or both and that’s why he remains on the outside looking in. What a waste. The guy could have been a Hall of Famer.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, can someone please explain to me how Floyd Little gets in and Shannon Sharpe is still on the outside looking in? The HOF should be embarrassed by this. Little played nine years, had just one 1,000 yard season and scored 52 career touchdowns – hardly HOF worthy.

Was Tracy Porter’s pick 6 reminiscent of Duane Starks’ in Super Bowl XXXV or what? And you know it was set up in part by similar circumstances. Back in 2001, Armani Toomer ran a square in route that was hardly crisp. Toomer’s tentativeness was influenced in large part by the way the Ravens were hitting the Giants’ receivers when they entered the area of the field inside the numbers. Starks recognized the film studied tendencies of Kerry Collins and jumped the route.

Similarly Porter jumped a less than precise square in route of Reggie Wayne’s who was seen sporting a slight case of alligator arms earlier in the game. Physical play, like body blows in boxing almost always has an effect late in football games. Super Bowl XLIV was no exception.

I have a friend who is a bit of a grammatical geek and corrects my abuse of the English language from time to time. He thinks that last night’s halftime entertainment should be called The Whom. That said, I am a fan of The Who but I think it’s time for those guys to hang it up.

Hey, maybe Geritol should consider being a Super Bowl sponsor.

And while we’re on the topic of sponsors, I admit to having a bias towards the ETrade ads and for me this one (below) was at least among the best, if not the best.



Sunday, February 07, 2010

Safety and strength in numbers


Snow is the topic of conversation for most of us here in the Land of Pleasant Living. And why not, it will affect nearly all that we do for the next few days, maybe more.

While witnessing Mother Nature unleashing her fury my mind wandered and I found myself isolating on a single snowflake. These are the places where thoughts travel while in the grip of cabin fever.

As one flake would touch the ground I watched another and then another. And then it dawned on me how such a fragile little creation of God, that single crystallized unique configuration of water, can make such a difference when it sticks together with other flakes.

Look around you.

Look what they’ve accomplished together.

The two feet plus of achievement made me wonder what people of varying opinions, styles, political persuasions, religions, colors, etc., etc. can achieve if they work together to promote the greatest good.

It could be your family working in harmony or your neighborhood or employer.

It might even be your favorite football team.

I thought about this wonderfully simple concept of banding together again yesterday when I learned of some unsettling news about a very dear friend.

Janine learned several months ago that doctors discovered cancer. She attacked the cancer with the same zest and determination that characterize her life. She is truly an inspiration for all who know her.

I first met Janine less than three years ago and immediately I was attracted to her energy and enthusiasm. The twinkle in her eye was the beautiful byproduct of a soul fueled by optimism and positivity.

Aggressive chemotherapy would dominate Janine’s life for months. Doctors believed that they removed all the cancer from her body during surgery prior to the chemo treatments – treatments which were then considered somewhat of an overkill but in essence an insurance policy for Janine to emerge cancer free once and for all.

Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out that way.

Janine now has more cancer and a lesion on her brain. She has been scheduled for brain surgery tomorrow at 1pm. After surgery, she will undergo cyber knife radiation and more chemo.

Despite it all, this brilliant beacon of light for all who know her takes it all in stride and views the physical challenges ahead as nothing more than a few speed bumps along the path of her life’s journey.

She continues to inspire…

I often wonder why God would allow one of His Rembrandts to suffer so. Why Janine? Why now?

Sometimes I think she was chosen because of who she is. Perhaps more than anyone I know, Janine can handle this with grace, style, dignity and faith and in doing so, she continues to be that beacon of light showing the rest of us the way.

Janine might not be thrilled that I’m sharing this story but I think that it absolutely captures the essence of her being.

As is the case with most chemo patients, Janine shed her dazzling blonde hair and was forced to revert to a temporary back up plan – a wig.

In November while attending the Bruce Springsteen concert at The Arena with some of her BFF’s, Janine let loose. As Springsteen romped through song after song without taking a break, Janine refused to let her ailment break her. She yanked off the wig and waved it in the air like a pompom as she swayed and celebrated with The Boss.

That is energy.

That is determination and confidence.

That is living.

That is Janine!

There is not a doubt in my mind that her recent setback is merely temporary and like all those memorable twists and turns along the path of her life, this too will soon be in her rearview mirror.

Janine’s friends will band together in support and in prayer.

And like those snowflakes so fragile alone yet so safe in numbers, together we can make a difference.

Here’s to the journey Janine.

Your effervescence will prevail!

Godspeed.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Paging Bruce Cunningham


This site has been critical of The Bruce Cunningham Show. Some might even say we’ve been overly critical.

The show just doesn’t do it for me on so many levels but that isn’t the point of this blog.

Despite my criticisms, I do tune in from time to time and I receive my fair share of emails from folks who share my opinion about the show. Yet we keep coming back.

Maybe that’s because some can’t capture WNST’s signal; maybe some don’t like Jim Rome; others don’t have satellite radio.

And it could be all the above.

Yesterday I listened and heard Bruce introduce a new feature of the show…a 15 second rant session for listeners calling into the show. It wasn’t exactly a smash hit coming out of the gates but in time, perhaps it could be.

To help recover from the rant’s sloppy start, Cunningham asked frequent co-host Mike Preston to vent his spleen for 15. Preston’s beef was about the vicious criticisms he receives from anonymous posters. The Sun columnist regularly exhibits some pretty thick skin and he’d like those posters to shed the veil of anonymity.

The rant was fully supported by Cunningham who seems to prefer a forum in which thoughts and ideas can be freely exchanged and debated with a measure of accountability.

Now for those who aren’t aware, Cunningham frequents message boards yet often categorizes their members as spineless and gutless. Perhaps there’s some small truth to that in a few cases but to use such a broad stroke is very inappropriate. I know from firsthand experience that many are very insightful and well versed in the intricacies of the NFL both on and off the field.

Cunningham’s beef seems to center upon the inability to exchange and debate on message boards without knowing who you are debating with. He even lumped in some bloggers with the anonymous posters. Maybe that was a shot at Mojo Rizon…

So with all this in mind it sparked an idea. Why not formally and publicly invite Bruce Cunningham to be a 24x7 blogger? C’mon Bruce, man up! Get your thoughts out there Bruce. Here’s a venue for you to say what you want to say without censorship.

This is a sincere invitation with no agenda other than to provide you with another way to share your ideas, opinions or even those trips down memory lane that might not be a comfortable fit for the corporate setting of 105.7 The Fan or Sinclair Broadcasting.

If you want to slam me or anyone, bring it on. Any blog comments whether anonymous or not you are free to respond to in the professional manner that I’m sure you are more than capable of.

And please don’t say that you don’t have the time.

As you’ve always said, you want your show to be a dialogue between you and callers. And that’s cool. That’s your M.O. You have Mark Zinno and Mike Preston there to dig into the things that are outside of your comfort zone. So how much preparation does that show really require?

And as for your Fox 45 duties, how much time is really needed to prepare 10 minutes of copy for the teleprompter?

Here’s your chance Bruce.

Accept it and I’m sure your listeners will appreciate it and it will expand your Bruce Cunningham brand.

Reject it and some will think you are a poser.

Prove you are not.

The ball is on the tee Bruce and the 24x7 fairway is wide open.

You can send your blog entries to TL@profootball24x7.com.

Thank you for your consideration.

I hope you don’t let us down.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Marshall and the Ravens not a match


It doesn’t take a CSI to read between the lines of comments made by Steve Bisciotti during the State of the Ravens presser yesterday and find clear messages.

One of those messages – the Ravens have no interest in Brandon Marshall.

One of our site visitors took me to task on the following opinion that appeared in a blog entry entitled, Marshall, Marshall, Marshall:

Given Ozzie’s track record with No. 1 picks, fans should keep in mind that more than likely you are exchanging a future Pro Bowl player for a current one.

For the record I absolutely encourage everyone to challenge the opinions stated here. I’m just a fan with the good fortune of having team access.

Ok, back on point.

So I did a little research to support the opinion emboldened above....

Since the Ravens arrived in Baltimore in 1996, Ozzie Newsome has had 16 No. 1 draft picks. Of those 16, nine have gone on to the Pro Bowl, 1 (Grubbs) has been named an alternate and 2 others (Flacco, Oher) are highly likely to make an appearance during the next couple of seasons.

Of those that didn't make it (Boller, Starks, Taylor, Clayton) all had something in common -- they were need picks.

Yesterday Ozzie made it very clear that they will not make that mistake again.

"I'll never put this organization in a position where need becomes more important than best player."

I think the track record does suggest that more than likely Ozzie's next No. 1 pick is a future Pro Bowler. And if you buy that Flacco and Oher will one day become one and Grubbs moves from alternate to the actual squad, the math suggests that Ozzie hits on a Pro Bowler 75% of the time.

Take away the need picks and maybe that number is even better.

What do you think the chances are of seeing a new Brandon Marshall mug shot?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

State of the Ravens: Press conference notes

Some notes and observation from today’s State of the Ravens press conference which included Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome, John Harbaugh and Dick Cass.

* The team first introduced new coaches Jim Zorn & Dean Pees…

* Steve Bisciotti will be meeting on Saturday night in Ft. Lauderdale with owners to discuss the CBA...said he doesn't believe the "Final 8" status will hamper the team that much; they have a budget for what they are confident will be an uncapped season and they plan to spend up to it; Bisciotti believes his budget will be just as competitive as any team's.

* Ozzie thinks the uncapped season will result in some good players being cut on par with players like Derrick Mason & Samari Rolle (when they were acquired by the Ravens)...He added that the restricted free agent pool will be bigger than usual and that you may see more player movement there than in the past.

* What happened to Demetrius Williams? That was a question. Ozzie said Derrick, Mark and Kelley happened to D Will.

*Ozzie: "I'll never put this organization in a position where need becomes more important than best player." He was very emphatic about this.

* On whether the uncapped season will upset the balance of power in the league due to there not being a floor...Bisciotti: "We already have a structural problems." ... Net income for some teams was lower than their linebackers' salaries; teams are covering 10,000 seats with tarpaulin to prevent blackouts; the Rams have been for sale for 18 months, original asking price was $900 million but now that has been cut to $600 million because the cash flow doesn't justify the investment...owners need more income and want to take money away from the players' pool, the last deal was a bad deal for the owners; Bisciotti also hinted slightly at a rookie cap by saying that teams need to be able to sign the good players they drafted to the more expensive second contracts.

* Character issues were brought up and the names Plaxico Burress and Brandon Marshall were mentioned...Bisciotti said that he is more of a risk taker than the others (Ozzie, Harbaugh, Dick Cass) but emphasized that while he likes to give people who have made mistakes a second chance, you have to be careful when you give repeat offenders another chance. He added, "What do you have to lose if that person fails you?" I took this has a thinly veiled way of saying that they are not interested in Marshall.

* The subject of pass interference was brought up and the inconsistencies in the way it is called. Ozzie (a member of the competition committee) said that it's important for them to draw "bright lines." He said they did that with the force out rules for receivers who catch the ball but are pushed out before they get their feet in play. If the feet aren't down, it's incomplete, plain and simple. That is a "bright line" for the officials. He said they need to do the same for pass interference in order to establish consistency with the call.

* Ozzie made a comment about restricted free agents, particularly those that would have been unrestricted had 2010 remained a cap year. He said the uncapped year might be an opportunity to extend the contracts of such players who they would like to keep for more than one season. The assumption I believe is that these players will want more than just the typical one year RFA deals and may have some incentive to take accept more team friendly terms.

* When asked what thing bothered him most about the 2009 Ravens, Bisciotti said, “Penalties.” He added that there really doesn't seem to be any direct correlation between penalties and success since 10 of the most penalized teams were among the 12 playoff contenders. He did hint that the Ravens penalties were at crucial times during games and that players need to be more aware of the game situation and their techniques during such times.

These are the things that jumped out most for me...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Could this Malcolm be the Ravens "X"?


Some have suggested that the Ravens direct their attention towards acquiring Chargers’ wide receiver Malcolm Floyd. Floyd is a big-bodied receiver (6’5”, 225 pounds) who has averaged 16.5 yard per catch during his career. The career Charger is coming off his best season as a pro during which he caught 45 balls for 776 yards (17.2 avg.) and 1 TD.

But let’s put an asterisk next to these stats.

Floyd had the luxury of playing in a more prolific offense led by MVP candidate Philip Rivers than he would in Baltimore. Moreover, he wasn’t exactly the top priority of opposing defensive coordinators who were forced to deal with top end pass receiving threats like Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson.

Floyd would be a solid addition but let’s not get too carried away thinking that he could be the answer to that prototypical No. 1 target that has eluded the grasps of Newsome. That said he at least would give the Ravens a different look with that big body and his ability to stretch a defense.


Marshall, Marshall, Marshall


Even with Anita Marks gone, the name Brandon Marshall continues to pop up. The majority of Ravens’ fans seem to want to look past Marshall’s lengthy list of off-the-field transgressions and according to our most recent poll here on Ravens24x7.com, 62% as of this writing believe that Ozzie Newsome should sacrifice a No. 1 draft pick or more to dress the productive receiver in purple and black.

Given Ozzie’s track record with No. 1 picks, fans should keep in mind that more than likely you are exchanging a future Pro Bowl player for a current one. Granted Marshall fills a big need but Ozzie would be short-sighted not to consider the big picture.

The Ravens aren’t delusional and they don’t expect to employee a collection of choir boys. That said one of the dangers in trading for Marshall is not only the opportunity costs of a high end pick or two to get him, John Harbaugh could lose the locker room if Marshall reverts to his malcontent antics. If the Ravens were forced to cater to the diva receiver in an effort to recoup their investment, might that chip away at Harbaugh’s “What’s Our Name?” and “Play Like a Raven” mantras?

However, if the investment is something less than a No. 1, then the Ravens might deal with an acquired Marshall with a more forceful hand to save face and maintain managerial integrity in the locker room.





Besides the risks in acquiring Marshall, as one of the Final Eight in the 2009 post season the Ravens will have to adhere to certain rules prescribed for the best teams entering what appears to be an uncapped 2010 season.

The “Final Eight Plan” limits what the best 8 teams can spend, and when they can spend, on Unrestricted Free Agents (“UFAs”). The plan unfortunately does not provide much in the way of loopholes (such as a sign and trade) to circumvent the restrictions on UFA’s for the Final Eight. You can read more on the Final Eight Plan here.

If the Ravens want Marshall who is not a UFA, not only will they have to take risks, team capologist Pat Moriarty will also have to get a bit creative.

Ravens might not use No. 1 pick for offensive player


Perhaps one of if not THE worst kept secrets heading into the 2010 NFL Draft is that the Ravens need to upgrade their passing game. That said don’t be shocked if the Ravens opt NOT to select a receiver or tight end for that matter in Round 1.

Their needs in my opinion go in this order: WR; DE; TE; and CB. The balance is simply a question of building the roster from the bottom up and that means adding quality depth.

I don’t see the team veering away from their draft board. The Ravens’ scouting department spends the better part of a year building that board so why abandon it for need? Now they could skip a player or two on the board to fill a need if the grade on the skipped player(s) is only marginally higher than the need pick.

Nobody asked me but if I had a wish list for the Ravens to achieve their offseason goal to upgrade the passing game it would include: 1) Veteran No. 1 receiver; 2) Derrick Mason; 3) One or two quality collegiate WR’s in Rounds 2-3; 4) A tight end.

With the 25th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft... Who knows at this point who the Ravens are leaning towards. Inevitably a player that Ozzie Newsome & Co. covet probably falls down the draft board. But a WR might be a reach at this position in the draft. Only OK State's Dez Bryant appears to be a lock from the 25th pick north. This draft has been described as having adequate depth at WR but not much in terms of blue chip prospects.

Perhaps the Ravens' will trade down and acquire additional picks, one of which I would like to see spent on DE Brandon Graham from Michigan. He could make an impact from Day 1. Double teaming of players like Terrell Suggs or Haloti Ngata might suddenly become a thing of the past unless opponents choose to hold in tight ends and backs to support pass protection. That would then have a naturally positive effect on the Ravens’ secondary – more bodies to cover fewer players.

It’s hard not to watch Graham (No. 55, 1:37 & 2:45 marks of video below) in all his Michigan Wolverine regalia and not think of the Steelers’ Lamar Woodley. I think that move has played out pretty well for Pittsburgh so far.


Monday, February 01, 2010

If Troy Smith wants out, wish him luck!


Some folks have a problem with Troy Smith’s comments about wanting to play in Cleveland. In case you missed it, here’s what Smith had to say:

"[Playing in Cleveland] has always been a childhood dream of mine. It's funny how we always talk about Cleveland. That's the first thing that comes to mind with anything I do whether I get a chance to come home and be a part of that organization or not.

"You know, I would love to get that chance if that opportunity comes up, but the political and right thing to say in this situation is that I would love to be anywhere that would give me a chance. But, without a doubt, there would be no second guessing in my mind if I could come back home and be a part of something that I love."

As a Ravens’ fan, do you have a problem with this?

As a fan of Baltimore sports, wouldn’t you have loved to hear Mark Texiera say something like this before he signed with the Yankees?

Smith is ambitious and he wants to fulfill a dream. That ambition can’t really hurt the Ravens now can it?

I don’t think so.

Will it hurt the team in the locker room?

Nope.

His teammates would all say he just wants to play and they also might add that overused cliché that goes like this: “It’s just business.”

Will it hurt the organization?

Nope.

If Smith wants to sell his “wares” elsewhere, go for it! He’s a short-term backup anyway who will get restless as Joe Flacco’s perpetual relief pitcher. If the Ravens can even manage to pick up Cleveland’s fourth round pick after a draft day panic attack or more equitably a fifth round pick for Smith, why not take it? Maybe that pick becomes a Pro Bowler like Le'Ron McClain or Adalius Thomas.

Smith has an inflated opinion of his skills. And that’s not necessarily bad. He can prove everyone wrong somewhere else. That opportunity won’t present itself here and if it does, that means there are some bad things going on in Ravenstown with Mr. Flacco. (Go ahead, knock on wood.)

The Ravens have John Beck, arguably a better quarterback than Smith who just might be willing to take the Frank Reich/Todd Collins career approach and welcome a lengthy and lucrative livelihood as an NFL backup.

No worries Troy Smith. Go on that campaign trail.

May you and the Ravens emerge successfully!

If you wondered why Rex Ryan isn't the Ravens head coach...


There’s a reason that it took Rex Ryan as long as it did to patrol a sideline of his very own. The Chargers passed on Rex back in 2007 and opted instead for Norv Turner, a career sub .500 coach.

Why?

Tough to say at that time really. Some thought that Rex might not be the corporate type and too much of a chip off the old Buddy Ryan block.

Then when Brian Billick was let go, Rex for the most part was just given the obligatory interview. He was never really a serious candidate for the Ravens because if he was, why go through the exhaustive search process that Steve Bisciotti & Company conducted?

And then when Rex wasn’t seriously considered by the team that knew him best despite the massive support of the players, other teams had to wonder why.

Those close to the team knew that the Ravens were concerned about Rex’ maturity and they passed. Ryan’s behavior this weekend in South Florida confirmed the Ravens suspicions.