To woo Ogden, show him the offense

ON THE RAVENS

February 10, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

Somewhere in Honolulu, Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden is playing golf, according to general manager Ozzie Newsome. He might be contemplating retirement. Here in Baltimore, Newsome waits for the word, but he is hardly sweating.

There has been a lot of speculation, but no official word from Ogden to Newsome. After the Ravens lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the playoffs almost four weeks ago, Ogden said he would make a decision within a week. Newsome didn't expect that to happen then, and he still doesn't have a timetable.

"I still think the best way to handle it, having had to go through it at some point myself, is to treat a man like a man, and we'll allow everybody to make their own decision when they want to make those decisions," said Newsome, a former Cleveland Browns tight end who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ogden is no Willie Roaf, the former Kansas City Pro Bowl tackle who announced his retirement shortly before the Chiefs opened training camp this past season. But you can pretty much predict what is going through Ogden's mind these days.

In his 11 seasons with the Ravens, he has always been frustrated with the team's offense and play-calling. During the Colts game he was livid, rightfully so, that coach Brian Billick declined to run the ball in the second half. Several times during the season, Ogden had animated exchanges with offensive assistant coaches and Billick on the sideline about the play-calling.

Before he makes a decision, Ogden is going to find out what changes will be made with the offense. He'll try to leverage management to bring back veterans and old friends like center Mike Flynn and guard Edwin Mulitalo for one more season.

If he doesn't like what he sees, he'll retire. Can he walk away from a $6.11 million salary? Yes, absolutely. Ogden is one of the richest offensive linemen ever to play the game, and he has saved a lot of money. He's cheap. But with 10 Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl ring, all he cares about is another ring, not just the money. Ogden has clout. Let's not forget that when the players orchestrated the firing of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel last season, the trigger man was Ogden.

He'll probably make his decision before the draft. If he does retire, it will be strange seeing some player other than No. 75 playing left tackle for the Ravens.

Mughelli tests market

Fullback Ovie Mughelli isn't a big name as far as free agents, but it will be interesting to see what he commands on the open market if the Ravens don't re-sign him.

Mughelli played well at the end of last season, and it seemed as though he and halfback Jamal Lewis were just starting to develop chemistry, with Lewis making cuts off his lead blocks. Mughelli also became a receiving threat out of the backfield, which makes him a commodity as a fullback.

The Ravens have struggled finding a fullback to replace Alan Ricard during the past two seasons. Mughelli had trouble with his blocking assignments early in his career, especially with defenses that shifted a lot, but he seems to have settled in. Other teams might see the same thing on game film, and might be willing to take a chance.

Rolle takes the hit

Don't count Samari Rolle out as a starting cornerback yet.

It appeared as though Rolle got lit up several times on long passes this season, but there were times when he didn't get support from safety Ed Reed, who while trying to make big plays got caught out of position. There has been speculation that Rolle might become the nickel back.

One thing the coaching staff appreciated was that Rolle took the blame and never pointed fingers. Reed, though, never made himself accountable. At times last season, Reed was "uncoachable."

Gregg deserves raise

If there is one player on the Ravens who deserves an increase in pay, it's defensive tackle Kelly Gregg. He was fourth on the team in tackles last season with 101, behind Pro Bowl linebackers Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas. Gregg is the classic overachiever. He doesn't have great size at 6 feet and 310 pounds, but has super strength in both his upper and lower body, and uses great leverage to defend against much bigger offensive linemen. He never complains and seldom misses playing time. He deserves a new contract that puts him in the same range with some of the bigger names at his position who haven't played nearly as well.

Rhodes would fit

Every time I see Dominic Rhodes play, I firmly believe he could help the Ravens. The Colts will try to retain Rhodes, an unrestricted free agent, because he forms a great tandem with starting running back Joseph Addai.

But Rhodes' style fits into the Ravens' running game. He is a north-and-south runner, yet has enough patience to cut back and hit holes. At 5-9 and 203 pounds, he isn't overly big, but he always seems to gain yards. His shoulder pads are always parallel with the line of scrimmage when he hits a hole, and he has good body lean.

It's apparent that he doesn't have to be the starter. He could work in conjunction with Mike Anderson or Jamal Lewis.

Another good fit here would be Indianapolis outside linebacker Cato June, if the Ravens don't re-sign Thomas.

As for Jamal Lewis, if he doesn't return next season, I consider the $6 million he made this past season as a farewell gift from the club for his previous years as a starter.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

Read Mike Preston's Ravens Central blog at www.baltimoresun.com/ravenscentral.

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