By not signing LeGarrette Blount, Ravens made a big mistake

Ozzie Newsome shouldn't have let the power running back head to the Pittsburgh Steelers

April 01, 2014|Mike Preston

With a lot of local attention over the weekend focused on running back Ray Rice's recent indictment on a charge of aggravated assault and Opening Day for the Orioles, some big news went unnoticed.

The Ravens didn't sign running back LeGarrette Blount — and the Pittsburgh Steelers did. The two-year deal, which is reportedly worth $3.85 million, leaves the Ravens with a big hole and also means they'll have to face a new two-headed monster in Pittsburgh with Blount and Le'Veon Bell.

It's hard to understand why Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome didn't pull the trigger on a deal with Blount, who wanted to play in Baltimore. And his agent even submitted several proposals.

His deal with the Steelers seemed reasonable, and certainly affordable, for the Ravens. But maybe it hinged on possibly surrendering compensatory picks. Or maybe there was something in Blount's background that may have been suspicious, even though that seems unlikely, with the Ravens having previously signed players with off-the-field issues like Sergio Kindle and Rolando McClain.

Whatever, this decision could backfire on the Ravens. While it's possible that Rice won't serve any jail time on those aggravated assault charges filed by a New Jersey grand jury for a February incident in which he allegedly knocked his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino, no one knows if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will suspend him.

There were other factors the Ravens should have considered as well. Rice had a poor season last year, when he rushed for only 660 yards on 214 carries. He admitted to having added too much weight before the start of the season, but he also might have been showing the natural wear and tear of a running back.

Which Rice will show up for the 2014 season?

There are just as many questions surrounding his backup Bernard Pierce, who struggled with several leg injuries last season and had only 436 yards on 152 carries.

Pierce is constantly plagued by injuries and had shoulder surgery in the offseason. He said he will be ready for training camp, but can you count on him if Rice is unavailable?

Really.

That's why Blount seemed such a logical option. The Ravens can still get a running back in the NFL draft, but they have more pressing needs at offensive line and safety. They could get a running back in the third or fourth round, but that's risky. That appears to be the only option, however, unless a veteran running back gets cut.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh had to be losing some sleep over not signing Blount. He believes in having an attacking offense, but he also likes a power running game. The 6-foot-1, 244-pound Blount is a change-of-pace back compared to Rice.

His straight-ahead style is similar to Pierce's, but he runs with more power. These are the type of runners who can finish off an opponent when your team has a lead in the fourth quarter. They can wear down defenses in the second half.

Now, Pittsburgh has two of them in Bell and Blount. The Ravens know Bell well. As a rookie last season, he rushed for 860 yards and eight touchdowns. In two games against the Ravens, he had 93 yards on 19 carries on Oct. 20, and 73 yards on 16 carries on Nov. 28.

Meanwhile, Blount seemed to be reaching his peak at the end of last season. He set a new franchise record with 334 all-purpose yards, including 189 on the ground, in the New England Patriots' 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 29. Then, he had 166 rushing yards on 24 carries in a 43-22 victory against the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs.

He also had success against the Ravens, rushing for 76 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, when the Patriots won, 41-7, at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 22.

Maybe the Ravens had short-term memory loss. Maybe they forgot that Rice has legal issues and Pierce has had health problems. Maybe new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak intervened and said he didn't need another power back in his West Coast offense.

For whatever reason, Newsome and friends didn't get this one done, and it was a big mistake — one the Ravens now have to face twice a year.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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