THE GRAPEVINE: What Ravens could be on the move in 2010?

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: What Ravens could be on the move in 2010?

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Ed Reed isn’t the easiest player on the planet to figure out. At times he appears unmotivated. Other times observers aren’t sure if he’s hurt or feigning an injury. Some close to the team surprisingly describe Reed as somewhat of an insecure guy while others question his love for the game.

Some call Reed selfish, often abandoning the team concept due to an apparently insatiable desire to make a play – to be the star.

However no one can question Reed’s accomplishments. Yet since he’s been on the shelf for the past four games nursing a groin injury it’s difficult to argue against the notion that the secondary has played better while Reed embraces the role of sideline cheerleader.

Insiders have suggested that Reed has never fully bought into the Harbaugh way. Given the career longevity of the safety position and Reed’s resume, might the Ravens consider trading the 6-time Pro Bowler? Reed has three years remaining on his current deal with the club and each year hovers in the $6-7 million range. Might that be a bit too rich for the Ravens given their many other needs? Should they part ways, free up a few dollars and gain a pick, a player or both in the process?

Keep this in mind…the Eagles parted ways with Brian Dawkins, a seven-time Pro Bowler who for all intents and purposes was their heart and soul, their version of Ray Lewis. They will only get a compensatory pick in return. Also keep in mind that Ed Reed might want to ditch his current deal in exchange for an upfront bonus considering his lingering injuries over the past couple of seasons.

And finally keep in mind that 2010 is shaping up as an uncapped season which means the Ravens can absorb the unamortized portion of Reed’s last signing bonus without any negative repercussions. Perhaps good old buddy Rex Ryan would be interested.

Jared Gaither is a player who brings a smile to the collective face of the Ravens’ front office. The 2007 fifth round supplemental pick has delivered highly competent play at left tackle while trying to fill the mega shoes of Jonathan Ogden. Clearly he has delivered value.

This offseason, Gaither becomes a restricted free agent. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens hang a first round tender on Gaither as opposed to the first and third round tender. Given his sketchy track record and his list of somewhat regular nagging injuries that keep him on the sidelines, the team would do back flips if another club comes along and snags Gaither for the price of a first round pick.

Back to the subject of trades, don’t be surprised if the Ravens search for suitors for the services of Willis McGahee. McGahee might be willing to accept an incentive laden contract with a contending team in order for a chance to see the field more. The former Bill has had his fair share of experience against the New England Patriots and he has fared well against them as a member of the Ravens. Bill Belichick has a history of taking on reclamation projects in his offensive backfield. The Ravens and Patriots have been amicable trading partners for years and like Reed, the uncapped season provides the perfect opportunity to make such a move.
 
Hey Caldwell, Belichick & Lewis…YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! 
 

 
One largely overlooked development in Pittsburgh was the performance of Jalen Parmele in the kick return game. Parmele showed north-south tendencies and decisiveness while averaging 29 yards per return. The former Dolphin also showcased good speed and a burst. If the Ravens do in fact move McGahee, Parmele’s potential affords them with an economical insurance policy to fill the role of Ray Rice’s back up.

Back to the salary cap for a moment, there are more than 200 NFL players who will be affected if the 2010 season is uncapped as expected.  Without a new collective bargaining agreement, 212 players (according to the Associated Press) will lose their unrestricted free agent status. That represents about 13% of all players currently on NFL’s thirty-two 53-man rosters.

The movers and shakers in this offseason may consist of more than just players and coaches. Other organizations are keenly interested in the Ravens’ Director of Personnel, Eric DeCosta. Earlier this season on our Ravens Rap Show at the Greene Turtle in Ocean City, Maryland, Ravens’ owner Steve Bisciotti joined us and DeCosta was among the many topics we covered.

In so many words Bisciotti anointed DeCosta as the heir apparent to Ozzie Newsome yet like everyone else, Bisciotti isn’t sure if and when Newsome will step down and consequently he recognizes that the team could lose the talents of his Director of Personnel to another club.

Word is that at least three other teams have approached DeCosta. Last time I checked, there is no front office salary cap. Maybe Bisciotti should ante up and come to some sort of formal agreement with DeCosta before he and Newsome are both gone. That is a haunting thought. Keep in mind that locking up DeCosta could provide stability to the Ravens front office for many years. The 38 year old native of Taunton, MA has worked his way up from a scouting assistant and has been with the club since its inception.

The Ravens have very quickly assembled one of the more promising young offensive lines in the league and if you listen to some insiders, Marshal Yanda is the most impressive of the lot. Perhaps now is the time to extend Yanda before his price tag becomes too prohibitive.

Speaking of big price tags, one has to wonder if Ozzie Newsome and Steve Bisciotti are feeling a little buyer’s remorse these days over Terrell Suggs. Suggs missed all of the OTA’s during his hold out for a long-term deal. He reported to camp in Westminster noticeably more plump and then quickly injured his foot and sat out for a couple of weeks during camp. His snaps during preseason games were severely limited.

On the season Suggs has only 3 ½ sacks and 1 forced fumble, hardly the playmaker the Ravens thought they had invested in. Suggs is also saddled with some off field issues that include allegations that he poured bleach on his fiancé and child.

In 2009 Suggs has often been overpowered at the point of attack and at times he has even quit on plays. Perhaps the offseason, a little soul searching and a new year will help get Suggs’ career back on track. Newsome and Bisciotti can only hope so.

“Ravens QB Troy Smith, Ohio State alum, native + Heisman winner wants playing time. Ravens notified. Will seek trade after playoffs, SB run.” This statement was posted on Twitter earlier this week by Troy Smith’s agent Ralph Cindrich.

Many fans in these parts have taken exception to the apparently well orchestrated statement, specifically the timing. But really what’s the big deal? How can anyone object to ambition and clearly if Smith wants to be a starter in the NFL, is he ever going to do it in Baltimore?

The Twitter message isn’t a knock on the Ravens or the city of Baltimore. This is simply a case of a player pursuing a dream. And if anyone thinks that this will affect the Ravens locker room, you better recognize. No player is going to have any problem with the ambition of another player. Remember that oft-repeated player mantra: “It’s just business.”

Personally I’d have a problem with a player who did have a problem with Smith.

Much has been written and discussed about John Harbaugh’s proverbial “doghouse.” It started with Willis McGahee and since regular tenants have included Chris McAlister, Antwan Barnes and Demetrius Williams. We can argue the merits of a doghouse but the real issue here is how to persuade or entice players to embrace the concept of team. Some may get it while others may never get it. But at some point a coach has to be careful not to hurt the team just to prove a point. While encouraging players to see the greater good, ball coach needs to do the same. I’m not sure that Harbaugh has done that consistently. Let’s chalk it up to his sophomore slump.

And finally on the very first New Year’s Eve of this millennium, the Ravens hosted the Denver Broncos in a Wild Card playoff game won by the Ravens 21-3 on a blustery, frigid day at PSI Net Stadium. Trent Dilfer was 9 of 14 for 124 yards on the day with one touchdown – a pass that caromed off Jamal Lewis and at least one defender before falling into the waiting arms of Shannon Sharpe who raced 58 yards for the score. Lewis had 30 carries for 110 yards and 2 scores while Michael McCrary had three of the Ravens’ five sack that afternoon. The two teams combined accumulated only 417 yards of offense and 22 first downs.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

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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 CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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