Ravens haven't missed out on much this offseason

Organization is playing the offseason just right

March 15, 2013|Mike Preston

The Ravens almost lost another key player in free agency.

Oh, ho-hum, another day, another top player gone.

Who cares, and at this point, did anyone expect anything different? Despite the exodus of players, the Ravens haven't made any major mistakes in cutting players or not re-signing them.

So far, the offseason has gone as expected with the Ravens losing six starters from last season's Super Bowl championship team. On Friday, future Hall of Fame safety Ed Reed almost became the latest before he left Houston without a contract.

The Texans and some of their front office greeted Reed as if he was an astronaut who had returned from one of those famed Apollo space missions, and they might have found out he is just as spacey.

But at least the Ravens didn't have to say bye, bye yet.

There will always be great respect for Reed. For the past 11 seasons in Baltimore, he proved he was one of the best to ever play the game. Early in his career, before the injuries, he was one of the NFL's top tacklers.

Few have played with more passion and even fewer showed such remarkable instincts. Reed was a game changer and his trademark was that long, loping stride down the sideline after an interception and returning it for a touchdown.

He was about to be missed on Sundays, and so were those stares and tough words he used to have for me in the locker room and on the radio during the course of the week.

Yet after the Super Bowl, there was a good chance Reed would not be in a Ravens uniform again. At 34, with several nagging injuries and having lost a step which no longer allowed him to freelance as much in coverage, only a contending team that believed Reed was the missing ingredient would pay him big money.

It appeared to be Houston, but not any longer. Despite flying Reed in on the owner's personal jet, the two sides failed to reach an agreement. There is speculation Reed wanted a contract worth $6 or $7 million a season, and the Texans wanted a more modest salary loaded with incentives.

Reed is learning a tough lesson. Free agency is time for the young and that is why former Ravens linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe made out so well.

Both developed well through the years and had successful seasons in 2012-13. But there is no way the Ravens were going to pay Kruger $8 million or Ellerbe $7 million per season like the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins.

They shouldn't have.

Unfortunately, the NFL has its way of rewarding incompetent franchises, and free agency is the great equalizer.

As for Reed, he can put some confidence into a Houston secondary that played poorly in the final quarter of the regular season and in the playoffs. Is he worth the millions he wants from the Texans, or possibly the Indianapolis Colts?

Maybe.

It depends on your needs. If you want a safety that tackles well and plays within the scheme, then he is not worth it. If you want a safety that can still play a great center field and take away one half of a field, then you want Reed.

In the age of the salary cap, Super Bowl teams are often raided for their players, but the Ravens have another issue as well.

This is head coach John Harbaugh's team now, and that went into effect immediately after the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers, and Ray Lewis took his shoulder pads off for the last time after an illustrious 17-year career.

Now, the Ravens have to make a decision on Reed. What is the price and limit for tolerating some of his antics? Reed was a part of a group of players that complained and were critical of Harbaugh.

There was speculation during the regular season that the Ravens wouldn't invite Reed back once it was over, and that appeared near certain once Lewis announced his retirement.

Harbaugh was going to clean The Castle of all malcontents.

Harbaugh is old school. He wants tough, hard-nosed players who practice hard, but also ones that operate within the team concept.

Lewis was that way, but also a player who could disrupt a team if he didn't get his way which is why he never came off the field despite being a liability on passing situations during the last five years he played.

Reed is often moody. His relationship with Harbaugh improved during the last two years, but possibly not to the point where Harbaugh wants to keep him around, especially at a high price. The Ravens are probably being polite to Reed in negotiations, but not serious.

Both receiver Anquan Boldin and safety Bernard Pollard were tough guys on the field, but also regarded as rebels and constant complainers.

Boldin was traded to the 49ers after declining to take a $2 million pay cut and Pollard was cut earlier this week.

Pollard had also become a liability in pass coverage, but there is a pattern here.

If Harbaugh had brought back all of these players with the exception of Lewis there probably would be an implosion. M & T Bank Stadium couldn't have housed all the egos again.

Give Harbaugh credit. He made it work through the years and still managed to win a championship.

But now it's time to move on. The Ravens have successfully made the transition from a defensive team to one which is carried by offense. In the meantime, they have to rebuild a defense which is in need of a defensive tackle, middle linebacker and a safety, possibly two.

But there is still a lot of time remaining before training camp starts and the Ravens have one of the best organizations in the NFL.

The Ravens don't make many mistakes and they haven't this offseason. They are being punished for their own success. They have some great players who are eating up a lot of the salary cap, but a lot of the good ones get away.

It's no big deal, though, just another ho-hum day at the office for the Ravens.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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