Don't bet against Ravens on reclamation projects

No surprise that Baltimore is taking a chance on Rolando McClain

April 14, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

Ten days before the NFL draft, the amazing transformation of the Ravens continues.

Rolando McClain is just the latest new piece of the puzzle. And I wouldn't bet he's the last free agent the Ravens sign, not with the team still $4.1 million under the salary cap and several gaping holes in the lineup still to be filled.

But by signing the volatile linebacker after the Oakland Raiders dumped him, the Ravens reaffirmed that they're willing to take chances on players other teams wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.

Oh, they're not exactly Father Bisciotti's Home for the Wayward.

But their mantra goes something like this: Give us your trouble-makers, your head cases, your whiners and malcontents. And if there's enough upside in them and they're not totally incorrigible, we can probably straighten them out.

Even with team leaders like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed gone, the Ravens are confident they have the type of organization to keep someone like McClain on the straight and narrow path.

In fact, McClain is almost the poster boy for the kind of reclamation project the Ravens think they can pull off.

A police record that includes assault and firearms charges? A team suspension for two games in 2012 for arguing with coach Dennis Allen and generally being a pain in the butt?

Three seasons with the Raiders during which McClain, Oakland's top draft choice in 2010, was pretty much a bust?

None of that scared away the Ravens.

Instead, they made sure the guy was serious about wanting another chance. Then they signed him to a low-risk deal (one year, $1.1 million max.)

Then they practically opened their arms and said: "Com'ere, you big lug. You just need a little tough love."

"Once he gets in our locker room and we lead by example and show him how we do things, it will be a great thing for him," cornerback Lardarius Webb told The Baltimore Sun. "He's a young man and he has so far to grow.

"Not taking anything away from Oakland, I know the organization we have and the people we have in our locker room, it's going to be a great fit for him."

Here's the other thing about the Ravens: they're smart enough to know you don't want too many knuckleheads with questionable pasts on the roster — no matter how good they are.

There's a tipping point at which too many of them start to poison your team. But with so many solid citizens in their locker room, the Ravens can afford to take a chance on one or two quality players who go rogue and now seek redemption.

So now we'll see what the Ravens do in the upcoming draft, where they have a total of 12 picks and the transformation of the defending Super Bowl champions continues.

Signing McClain takes away the pressing need to go after an inside linebacker right away. But even with the additions of defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and safety Michael Huff, this team has needs.

My priority if I'm general manager Ozzie Newsome? How about a left tackle to make sure they're not scraping Joe Flacco off the turf every time he goes back to pass next season?

Reading the tea leaves when it comes to Bryant McKinnie, who's now an unrestricted free agent, is almost impossible.

The Ravens don't seem terribly interested in the guy who solidified that spot for them during last season's playoffs after being replaced by Michael Oher in the regular season.

Maybe it's McKinnie's age (33). Maybe it's memories of his 2012 training camp, when he reported late, fat and got winded just putting on his shoulder pads.

Maybe it's all the talking he's done lately about wanting a starting job, along with hints he's dropped that the Ravens haven't treated him fairly in that regard.

I don't know, is that a good career move?

Needing a job and bad-mouthing a possible future employer? Young people, I wouldn't recommend that tactic. It's probably not in the "Top 10 Ways to Ace a Job Interview" handbook.

Whatever it is, McKinnie is telling people he doesn't expect to have any more talks with the Ravens until after the draft.

Then, presumably, he'll know if the Ravens drafted a tackle and whether he has a chance to be a starter for this team.

If not, maybe he ends up as a reclamation project somewhere else in the league.

The Ravens don't need another one of those now, that's for sure.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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