Friday, March 06, 2009

I was very tempted to get on last Friday as soon as I sat down at my desk and start going crazy over the start of free agency.  But I didn't.  I felt like I should let it shake out a bit and see where we stood after the first round of dust had settled.

I think we did pretty darn well, really.

Let's look at my unscientific list of UFA's the team had...

OL Jason Brown
LB Terrell Suggs
LB Ray Lewis
FB Lorenzo Neal
S Jim Leonhard
TE Daniel Wilcox
CB Corey Ivy
LB Bart Scott
OT Chad Slaughter
PK Matt Stover
WR Terrence Copper
QB Kyle Boller
QB Todd Bouman

Before we go too far, a caveat.  I did suggest using the Franchise Tag on Jason Brown if the team was able to sign Terrell Suggs to a new deal before Free Agency started.  Of the two, it was more important to sign Suggs, because 26 year old DE/LB hybrids with the ability to rush the passer as well as play in space are harder to come by than interior offensive linemen.  Especially when you consider that they do not specify line position when assigning the contract value of an offensive lineman.  And since tackles (specifically left tackles) are one of the highest paid players on a team, it would have been cap suicide to franchise Brown.  

Of that list, only 5 players have been signed.  2 by the Ravens, 2 by the Jets (who hired Raven's Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan as their Head Coach, who took a couple of assistant coaches along with him, which is the norm), and 1 by the Rams.  Of course he is going to want to sign players who he is comfortable with and who can help teach his system to the new team.  Ryan waited outside Scott's house and at 12:01 AM (the moment he could speak to Bart without being accused of tampering) he knocked on the door and pushed hard to get him.  The Ravens pushed hard back, and the final deal (6 years, $48 million) is probably overpaying him a bit.  We will see how it plays out.  Likewise the Jets went after Jim Leonhard, who was a valuable fill in in the secondary and in punt returns after Dawan Landry went down with an injury.  But with Landry returning, and with Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura waiting in the wings (along with Ed Reed still there), he was not a priority and the money will be spent on other areas of the team that need more attention.  That being said, they are two good signings by the Jets, and two players I fully expected to lose.  Jason Brown is good, but Ozzie Newsome once again showed why he is one of the most respected GM's in the league.  The Rams definitely overpaid Brown to get him.  The Ravens responded by signing Matt Birk, an 11 year veteran, formerly of the Minnesota Vikings.  He is going to be a leader on the line and in the huddle, helping the maturation process of Joe Flacco.  He gives the Ravens 3 years to either develop Chris Chester or Marshall Yanda as a center or to draft and develop a center.  The contract is MUCH more cap friendly than Jason Brown's would have been. 

And this is important.  Most people think of the cap only in the context of that particular year.  But the cap is an ever evolving number that affects the team EVERY year.  They probably could have signed Scott, Brown, and everyone else on that list.  But next year they have to re-sign Haloti Ngata, and if you look at Albert Haynesworth's contract that he just signed with the Redskins (7 years, $100 million - $115 million if all incentives are reached), and Ozzie knows that he will have to keep that in mind when he is negotiating with Ngata's agent over the next year.  So the Ravens possibly upgraded on the offensive line and gave themselves more breathing room this year and next year.  And with Leonhard and Scott, there are other, young players waiting to take over.  The Ravens have been known for their linebacking corps for years, and the guys they have on the team (Tavares Gooden, Nick Greisen, Antwan Barnes, Prescott Burgess) are considered bright talents with a lot of upside.  It is the right thing to do to move forward with them.

The big news is that Ray Lewis is re-signing with the team.  It looks like he overplayed his hand when thinking that teams would get into a bidding war for a 33 (will be 34 by the time the season starts) linebacker.  He is going to eat a little humble pie and sign another cap friendly contract that lets him secure his legacy as a career Raven, a Hall of Fame player, and a leader who has the chance to get another ring before he hangs up his cleats for good.

The news that is not getting any attention is that the Ravens have apparently decided to part ways with Matt Stover, severing the last link to the old Cleveland Browns team (unless he does not re-sign with anyone else and is brought into camp to compete for the job.  Kickers have ABSOLUTELY no job security, since their contracts are usually so minuscule in the grand scheme of things that there is no cap ramification to switch them around all willy nilly).

Free agency is not over with.  There will be more deals before the season starts.  But as of now it is a slow trickle of signings here and there.  The big moves are done with.  

Hopefully I will be switching to more baseball coverage now, at least until the draft in April.  The World Baseball Classic is about to begin, and the Orioles have some interesting things happening in camp that should be looked at.

As always, if you have any questions about this or any other sports related questions please leave them in the comments section.  I would love to get a column idea from you.


  1. My quick hits on the free agents.

    I will miss Leonard. Seemed like a hard worker. Scott can be replaced, he is good, but Ozzie is great at finding good LB. Brown (at one point you said about franchising him as a left tackle, he would have been franchised as a center, less money) was grossly overpayed, and was replaced by a veteran who still has a lot of potential. Re-signing Lewis is a great move to keep the city happy as well (sometimes you have to think about your customers), I also think he wouldnt get the same respect from another city.

    With the upcoming resigning of Ngata next year, the Ravens are going to need to break down haynesworths contract- grossly overstated by the press.

    anywho, i feel the ravens are still going in a great direction and cant wait for next year.

  2. BaltimoreMan, I agree with you on the moves that Ozzie has made, and I know that he has forgotten more about football than I am ever going to know. His track record suggests that I leave him the hell alone and let him do what he thinks is best. As far as the Jason Brown thing goes, the league does not divide the Franchise Tag up between line positions. All offensive linemen (and their salaries) are considered when a OL player has the Franchise Tag put on them (look here and you will see what I mean. So while he would have been our center, he would have been franchised at a little over $8 million. So again, in Ozzie I trust.

    But thanks for the comments, and please keep reading and talking!