THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens’ news, rumors and observations

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens’ news, rumors and observations

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Last week I opined that there’s a strong chance that Ed Reed will not return to the field in 2010, the operative word of course being “strong.” In this case I think it’s 50-50 strong. Ed Reed’s ailments are real and they are serious.

That said count me among the 50% in this equation that believes Reed will return but expect to see a lot of Tom Zbikowski and/or Haruki Nakamura spelling the perennial Pro Bowler.

The guess here is that if Reed does return, he’ll miss significant time. I can easily see a scenario in which he’s down for about a third of the season, perhaps even saving himself for the more important games in December. He could hand pick teams on the schedule like the Browns for instance, to take a self-imposed week’s vacation.

Speaking of Nakamura, don’t count him out as the preferred choice to replace Reed when he does sit. The former Cincinnati Bearcat has excellent ball skills and Rex Ryan once compared his instincts to those of a young Ed Reed. The issue with Nakamura has been suspect tackling and until that is resolved Zbikowski will be the go to reliever for Reed, barring some surprising draft day maneuvering.

The Ravens will not sit still on draft day. There’s a strong chance that unless a player the team heavily covets falls into their lap at No. 25, they will trade back to acquire more picks.

In years past the Ravens draft board generally consists of about 135-140 players. Word is that this year’s board is stacked with 180 players because of the depth of talent in the 2010 draft pool. Many underclassmen have entered the draft fearful that there soon could be a rookie salary cap.

With such a talent laden draft, the quality of undrafted free agents is likely to rise as well. In past years the Ravens have earmarked about $15,000 to bring in undrafted players. The Ravens leverage their stellar track record of developing undrafted free agents who go on to earn very healthy paychecks in the NFL to lure UDFA’s. Priest Holmes, Will Demps, Bart Scott and Maake Kemoeatu are a few of the names that the Ravens remind UDFA agents of during the hectic courting period.

That $15,000 budget has normally been spread among roughly 10 UDFA’s but don’t be surprised if the Ravens bring in far fewer of such players this season. Think quality over quantity during the chaotic period that ensues after the selection of Mr. Irrelevant. The faxes, emails and phone calls are flying as part of an effort to capture the most appealing talent that goes undrafted.

Last year’s Mr. Irrelevant was Chiefs’ kicker Ryan Succop who was targeted by the Ravens as a UDFA. They had an offer ready to fire off through the fax machine just prior to the Chiefs’ call for Succop. The rookie hit 25 of 29 field goals last season and converted all 29 PAT’s. Three of his four misses were from beyond 50 yards. His longest converted kick was a 53 yarder. Succop was hardly irrelevant.

While the Ravens are likely to be active with undrafted free agents, don’t expect much activity from the club in the area of unrestricted free agents. Look for Ozzie Newsome to be very pragmatic and seek out bargains along the lines of Matt Birk and Chris Carr, signings from 2009. One of those bargains could be a defensive tackle to replace the departed Justin Bannan.

The Ravens had interest in bringing Maake Kemoeatu back into the nest prior to the Redskins signing him. Mike Shanahan apparently was willing to pay Kemoeatu more than the Ravens and that’s really no surprise given Washington’s desire to move Albert Haynesworth to DE in their new 3-4 alignment.

Back to the topic of bargains, the Ravens clearly scored one with the Anquan Boldin contract. The newest Raven will get $10 million in guaranteed money as part of his four year, $28 million deal. These contractual parameters match those extended to Antonio Bryant by the Bengals. However Bryant’s deal can eclipse Boldin’s with incentives. Nate Burleson’s 5 year, $25 million deal includes $11 million in guarantees.

For the record, here’s how the 3 receivers compare statistically:

Player                   Age        Receptions          Yards     Average                TD’s

Boldin                   29           586                         7,520     12.8                        44

Bryant                  29           372                         5,685     15.3                        30

Burleson              28           263                         3,547     13.5                        27

Besides the money, the cost to acquire Boldin included a third round and a fourth round pick in 2010. The 2010 fifth round pick the Ravens received in return from the Cardinals was the final negotiating point in the deal. Given the depth in this year’s draft, the Ravens front office believes that there is little drop off in the talent pool from the fourth to fifth round and as a result they view the real cost for Boldin as a third round pick – one they were very comfortable forgoing for the talented former Cardinal.

Opposite Boldin this season will be Derrick Mason. Mason’s two year deal includes $3.5 million in guarantees, essentially making it a one year commitment from the team. Mason fans (and I consider myself one) should not get too used to the idea of No. 85 being in B’more beyond the 2010 season.

The Adam Terry era is officially over in Baltimore. On Friday the former Syracuse Orangeman signed a 1 year deal with the Colts.

The 27 year old Terry was selected in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft after the Ravens moved up to make their second, second round pick that year. Going against their best player available credo, the Ravens reached for a need pick, a move heavily influenced by Brian Billick.

Terry started 18 of 48 regular-season games before missing the 2009 season due to a knee injury. The tackle’s toughness was often questioned and he struggled mentally with the transition from left tackle to right tackle.

It will be interesting to see how he works out in Indianapolis. Something to keep in mind, Peyton Manning’s rapid fire release is an offensive lineman’s best friend. They don’t have to hold their blocks as long.

Need proof? Take a look at some of the Colts’ linemen who have moved on to take bigger paychecks from other teams. More times than not they fail – much like linebackers who leave Ray Lewis’ side.
Terry’s career just might get a needed boost while wearing the horseshoe.

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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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