Too costly for Ravens, but acquisition of Simon makes sense for Super Bowl-ready Colts

On the Ravens

Pro Football

September 06, 2005|By MIKE PRESTON

WHEN RAVENS defensive coordinator Rex Ryan first heard the news, he thought Christmas had come early. Defensive tackle Corey Simon was about to be signed, sealed and delivered to the Ravens.

But the dream disappeared as quickly as it came, and Simon signed a five-year, $30 million contract, including $13 million in bonuses, with the Indianapolis Colts last week.

"Oh, that would have been something," Ryan said yesterday, as the Ravens prepared to meet the Colts in Sunday's season opener. "Now, I'm just hoping he's not ready to play."

The Ravens never were seriously involved in negotiations for Simon, but the deal could have serious ramifications for both teams in the immediate, as well as distant future.

Simon, 28, is the missing piece for both teams. If the Ravens could have signed him, he would have been the pass-rushing threat the Ravens so desperately need up the middle.

In Indianapolis, the Colts believe he could propel them to the Super Bowl as the final piece to a struggling defense. He was a gamble the Colts had to take because they believe they're on the verge of a Super Bowl appearance.

The Ravens actually lost twice - in a bid to improve their own team and to take away from a possible postseason opponent.

"I can understand why the Colts made the deal," Ryan said.

It's also understandable why the Ravens didn't. Forget the stuff about Simon being disgruntled and moody. As defensive line coach, Ryan had a weird collection of misfits in 2000 and 2001 with ends Michael McCrary and Rob Burnett and tackles Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa. Critics say that Simon takes a few plays off, but there are few defensive linemen who weigh more than 315 pounds who don't.

There's no doubt he would have made this defense much better. Simon doesn't excel at stopping the run, but he has great explosion, which allows him to penetrate and cause disturbances in the backfield.

During the past two years, the Ravens' defensive line has worn down at the end of the season, but that probably wouldn't have happened with a four-man rotation at tackle of Simon, Kelly Gregg, Maake Kemoeatu and Tony Weaver.

Most importantly, Simon is a good pass-rusher (32 sacks in five seasons), someone who can collapse a pocket. The Ravens haven't had this type of tackle since Adams. It would have been a great combination on passing situations: Peter Boulware and Terrell Suggs bringing heat on the outside, with Simon as the force inside.

But here's the rub: Simon would have cost the Ravens too much. In addition to salary, the Ravens would have probably lost either Kemoeatu or Weaver or both at the end of this season because they're both free agents.

The Ravens' defensive line could again collapse at the end of the season, especially if young players Dwan Edwards and Aubrayo Franklin don't step up, but the overall price tag for Simon was too high.

Money wasn't an obstacle for the Colts. It shouldn't have been. When a team is close to making a Super Bowl appearance, there's nothing wrong with taking a gamble, or possibly overpaying a player.

With the Colts, their defense has to get better. Last season, they had the 20th-ranked defense in the league, and they couldn't stop the run. With the addition of Simon, they should improve.

For years, Indianapolis thought it could get by with fast and light defensive linemen. The starting defensive tackles, Larry Tripplett and Montae Reagor, weigh 295 and 285, respectively.

Now the Colts have Simon, who could weigh anywhere from 315 to 325 depending on whether he ate before he jumped on the scale. Opposing teams also have decisions to make on passing situations.

Do you double-team Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney, or the other end, Robert Mathis, who is actually quicker than Freeney? If you double the ends on the outside, then how do you handle Simon inside?

These are questions the Ravens will have to answer Sunday. They need to get improved and inspired play out of center Mike Flynn and guard Keydrick Vincent if they want to run the ball in the middle.

The Ravens' strength is running the ball, but with Simon, the Colts are more prepared than they were a year ago, in fact, just a week ago. Simon says he is in great shape, and ideally the Colts would like for him to play 15 to 20 plays against the Ravens.

But regardless of how much he plays Sunday, he has given the Colts hope. The Ravens had an opportunity to sign him, but it just wasn't the opportune time.

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