THE GRAPEVINE: Re-signing Leonhard could prove too expensive

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Re-signing Leonhard could prove too expensive

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Should I stay or should I go now?  It would surprise no one if that classic from The Clash echoed through the cerebral cortex of former Ravens’ Director of Pro Personnel, George Kokinis. He is now entering the Twilight Zone of the NFL – the capital of Disorganized Chaos, the Mecca of Staph Infection, aka the front office of the Cleveland Browns. 

Word is that Kokinis had second, third, fourth thoughts and more about the job and despite his friendship with new Browns’ Head Coach Eric Mangini, he wanted to back out but thought that his little tap dance had gone on a little too long.  Kokinis wisely concluded that to bail now would hurt his career as an NFL executive down the road.

Good luck George and watch out for flying beer bottles from those always pleasant Browns’ fans.

Chris Chester surprised many people with his performance during the ’08 season after starting right guard Marshall Yanda was lost for the campaign due to a knee injury. Hence I’m a little hesitant to beat up the Ravens if they choose to pass on offering a mega contract to Jason Brown and opt instead to go with Chris Chester at center.

Chester provides more mobility than Brown but lacks a strong lower base and that leaves the Ravens vulnerable to a collapsing pocket when behemoth AFC tackles like Shaun Rogers push Chester into the feet of a retreating Joe Flacco. Besides the physical skills, Chester isn’t the leader that Brown is and that is critical when playing the QB position of the offensive line. If Brown’s contract proves to be too rich for the Ravens’ liking, they have only themselves to blame.  Brown was ripe for an extension prior to signing the restricted free agent tender last year.

This won’t go over well with Ravens fans but Jim Leonhard in my estimation is as good as gone.  He stepped up when it counted the most and the entire country was on hand to see via nationally televised games during the post season.  Someone will overpay for Leonhard and what they will get is a hard working player who is a great teammate, pushes his physical abilities to the edge and has a nose for the football.

Of course the Ravens would love to keep him but in my opinion he will ultimately fail Ozzie Newsome’s acid test of “right player, right price.” Clearly he’s the right player for the Ravens.  But his asking price will probably persuade Ozzie to look towards the next men up and Dawan Landry aside, it’s difficult for even the most staunch advocate of Leonhard to conclude that neither Tom Zbikowski nor Haruki Nakamura aren’t capable of giving John Harbaugh in ’09 what Leonhard provided during the ’08 season.

It’s been suggested on these pages and written about over and over on blogs and message boards throughout the internet – tag Terrell Suggs and trade him for Anquan Boldin.

While the Ravens covet Boldin, they do not see him on equal footing with Terrell Suggs. The Ravens’ front office believes that Suggs is a bigger difference maker than Boldin and that Boldin benefits greatly from playing opposite Larry Fitzgerald and to some extent No. 3 receiver Steve Breaston. Plus Boldin’s 4.7 speed doesn’t exactly strike fear in the hearts of defenders and the Ravens prefer to find a No. 1 who can stretch the field.

The Ravens haven’t exactly set the standard for finding talent at WR in the draft. If anything they are closer to setting the standard for how not to find talent at the position. Since the team’s inception in 1996, the Ravens have drafted 14 wide receivers.  Lamont Brightful and Derek Abney were drafted as wide receivers but were drafted primarily as return specialists and are not among these 14.  Brightful played more defensive back than he played receiver and never caught a pass in the NFL as a member of the Ravens.  Abney was cut during training camp the same year he was drafted (2004).

The 14 who were selected to play wide receiver (I’ve included Yamon Figurs in the 14) were chosen on average with the 117th overall draft pick – a mid-fourth round selection. The total number of catches by all 14 as members of the Ravens is 797. Comparatively speaking Marvin Harrison (selected in 1996) has 1,102 receptions, Terrell Owens (1996) has 951 and Hines Ward (1998) has 800. Harrison was a first round pick while Owens and Ward were third round choices.  The Ravens in 1998 drafted Patrick Johnson in the second round with the 42nd overall pick – fifty slots ahead of Ward.  PJ had 60 career catches over the course of 5 seasons with the Ravens.

Needless to say, the results are embarrassingly abysmal. The Ravens believe that their difficulties in drafting a quality wide receiver who can become a prototypical No. 1 are directly tied to the position of quarterback.  Their research suggests that the high number of draft busts at the position for all teams is directly correlated to the team’s competency at the position of quarterback.  Put another way, a fourth round WR going to the Colts has a much better chance of success than even an earlier WR pick going to the Chiefs.

This in from the Ed Block Courage Foundation…Baltimore Ravens S Ed Reed was a dominant force on the Ravens defense throughout the entire 2008 season. He put together a remarkable season by any standard. What’s even more incredible is that he did it while suffering from a nerve impingement in his neck.

Overcoming this adversity earned Reed the admiration of his teammates, and their vote for the Ed Block Courage Award. 

And finally it’s being reported that the Ravens will officially name Greg Mattison as the franchise’s fourth defensive coordinator replacing the departed Rex Ryan.  Mattison was lured to Baltimore by John Harbaugh and one has to wonder if the DC position was promised to Mattison before he moved to the Land of Pleasant Living.  Mattison had repeatedly resisted overtures by other NFL teams but the connection to the Harbaugh family (Mattison coached with John’s dad Jack) and the likely departure of Ryan was apparently too tough to resist for the former Gator.


 

Ravens’ players and executives don’t seem to be too concerned about the transition to Mattison.  Ryan leaving for the Jets caught no one by surprise and the team prepared accordingly.  Ryan’s assistants are very familiar with their former boss’ schemes and there little reason to believe that the transition will be anything but seamless.


 

Here’s a look at Greg Mattison’s bio.


 


 

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts "The Fanimal" also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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