Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ravens part ways with some fan favorites

At 5:48PM, just hours after the NFL announced that the lockout had officially ended, Ravens Executive Vice President & General Manager Ozzie Newsome issued the following statement:

“We are excited to be back in the business of football and looking forward to having our players back.

“With this agreement comes a new salary cap, unlike last season when there was no cap. We will be making a number of roster moves in the next 48 hours that will free up salary cap space. This will give us the ability to make offers to our players we want to re-sign, plus put us in a position to sign free agents from other teams.”

Within an hour Black Monday started to unfold as we learned of the Ravens decision to part ways with (in order): Willis McGahee, Kelly Gregg, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason.

The first two came as no surprise. The productivity of both players fell far short of what their respective salaries suggested -- McGahee ($6.0M) and Gregg ($3.5M). This is the business of the NFL.

Todd Heap would be next to fall along with his $4.6 M salary. That is a big number for a player who by most evaluations doesn’t crack the top third of the league’s best tight ends. It’s possible that the Ravens could bring Heap back at a more reasonable number but then again, there is a reason the Ravens drafted two tight ends in the third (Ed Dickson) and fourth (Dennis Pitta) rounds of the 2010 NFL Draft.

Perhaps this was part of Ozzie Newsome’s plan all along. You may recall back in 2002 Shannon Sharpe was a salary cap casualty, supplanted by Heap who was then in his sophomore season.

And then there’s the player generally considered to be quarterback Joe Flacco’s security blanket – Derrick Mason. Before the 2010 season Mason announced that he was retiring only to return with a new two-year deal structured like a one year commitment. At the age of 37, despite few if any signs of slowing down, Mason’s scheduled $4.5M sticks out like a Terrible Towel at a Ravens Convention.

And the salary cap knife took notice.

Each will be missed in many ways and it’s possible that Heap and/or Mason will return at market value salaries. But if this truly is goodbye I’ll remember each in different ways:

McGahee, for his boyish optimism and that unforgettable run against the Raiders to put the Ravens into the playoffs during the 2009 season.

Gregg, Buddy Lee, for showing us that all things are possible for those who relentlessly pursue a goal and also for that against-all-odds sack of Michael Vick.

Heap, for laying out his body time and time again, the catch against the Chargers during the 2006 season and of course, HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAP!

Mason, for your leadership when the offense had none, your consistency and that TD catch against the Titans (1:36 mark of video below) during the Divisional Playoff Game from the 2008 season.

Today is a day for heavy hearts. And yes I get that this is football, that it’s just a game and that all of these players are wealthy and will lead good lives. But nevertheless, today feels like one of those days when a co-worker who has become your friend, decides to leave the company or perhaps even more fittingly they learn that there’s been a cutback and their jobs are no longer available.

Thank you gentlemen for all that you've given as winners both on and off the field. Your achievements and good deeds will NOT be forgotten!

And our memories are safe from the blade of any salary cap knife.


Jerry B said...

Always sad to part with favorites, but that's the business end of the NFL. The salary cap savings will help them get better as a team.
If they are to take the next step towards a Super Bowl, they need to strengthen the OL and develop a pass rusher because in today's NFL, the two keys to winning are: the ability to pass the ball on offense and to pressure the passer on defense! The Packers used that formula last year to win a Super Bowl......