Ravens' Moss dream would've been nightmare

February 27, 2005|By DAVID STEELE

ONCE AGAIN, the NFL's serious offseason activity begins with wide receivers the hot commodity. Once again, the Ravens are strapping on their boots and wading in. And once again, the best of the lot is out of their reach.

Good news, all of it.

That may not have been the case this time last year; even though Terrell Owens apparently will go to his grave swearing that Baltimore was the next-to-last place he'd ever have wanted to play (just above San Francisco), the Ravens were worse off for not getting him.

This year, though, no tears need be shed over the departure of Randy Moss to a different location. If you're not sure why, listen to none other than Brian Billick himself.

"To have a veteran presence and someone that can accept that leadership role would be a high priority," the coach was quoted in this paper as saying last week.

C'mon, does any part of that statement describe Randy Moss? OK, one part: the word "someone."

Good luck, Raiders. Try to forget that throwing the ball downfield was the one thing you did well last season, and see how well Moss handles catching eight balls for 180 yards and three touchdowns while still losing, 41-38.

Also, ignore the fact that the man played with Daunte Culpepper, Cris Carter and Robert Smith, was coached by Dennis Green, and not only never won anything, but also has spent recent years on the playoff bubble. Oops, already ignored that, didn't you?

Meanwhile, Billick and Co. over at the castle in Owings Mills can sigh in relief that the Vikings looked for, and accepted, more than what the Ravens could have offered. They can still aim for the perfect deal for the receiver they need - acquire someone productive who can add more to the offense than he can detract from the already-fragile chemistry, acquire him for as few key players as possible and for whatever price makes sense, and do it all without disrupting a defensive unit that is better than it looked at times late in critical games at the end of the season.

No, really, that's not asking too much. Asking Moss to justify what the Ravens would have had to surrender (a fat contract, defensive starters, part of their soul) to get him would have been asking too much.

Sure, a cynic would say, a team led by two players with infamous criminal convictions would have been lowering itself to get Moss. Yes, it would. You can call Ray Lewis and Jamal Lewis a lot of things, but you can't call them quitters, or slackers, or soft, as you could call Moss at any given time during a season.

Jamal Lewis played the last quarter of the season on a broken foot. Do we need to remind anyone about how important Moss considered the last play of the Vikings' regular season?

Even with off-field transgressions factored in, there is only so much lack of football character a championship contender can take. And to their eternal credit, the Ravens play for championships, even to the point of deluding themselves about their chances (not that they've done that lately, right?).

Serious contenders, of course, have to take aim at the Patriots. It would be hard for even the Patriots to absorb a guy like Moss, who makes one-time malcontent Corey Dillon look like St. Francis of Assisi. The Ravens didn't need to try, no matter how painful it was to watch the passing game last season.

But enough about the not-to-be-Raven Randy; no sense flogging a dead deal. Wide-outs are still the addition du jour for lots of teams, a situation that can make a general manager look brilliant or stupid. On one hand, the Ravens are justified in getting in the mix for the most desirable ones out there. Across the board, once you get past Moss, they've been mostly productive and carry little baggage.

On the other hand, are all of them that good if they all are that available? As usual, the most desirable wide-outs are almost never the ones that end up the most productive. It's the same theory that tells us that a draft heavy in wide receivers that go early is a weak draft. And there are two (Mike Williams, Braylon Edwards) rising above this draft crop, one of them likely to go to the Vikings with the No. 7 pick they got from the Raiders in the Moss deal.

They might be good enough for the Ravens to consider trading up to get one. Or the Ravens might do as well, or better, right where they are, or finding a gem lower down (like the third round, where Owens was originally taken).

That would be a dream come true. At least it would be a better dream than the one Moss may have conjured up for this franchise.

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