THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens face RFA challenges

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens face RFA challenges

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NFL players will utilize their offseason in a variety of ways. Take for instance the Steelers’ Hines Ward who will use his down time to connect with his inner Mikhail Baryshnikov on Dancing with the Stars. Others like the Ravens’ Tom Zbikowski will jump inside the boxing ring at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to release his inner Mike Tyson.

Instead of lacing up his dancing shoes, I’d rather see Ward string up a pair of gloves and take on Zbikowski atop the canvas and watch the cheap shot artist wide receiver’s pearly whites crumble like a pack of saltine crackers. But I digress…

Zbikowski’s bout against an unnamed opponent (as of this writing) is scheduled to take place on March 12. By then we will know if there’s labor peace in the NFL. If not, Zbikowski is under no contractual obligation to the Ravens. That said one does have to question his commitment to the team by willingly accepting the risks of boxing, particularly since the Ravens’ backup strong safety missed half of the 2010 season with nagging injuries.

If there is labor peace and restricted free agent Zbikowski accepts his original round (3rd) tender from the club and still chooses to get in the ring, it will be interesting to see how it affects his relationship with the Ravens – more specifically John Harbaugh. Chances are there’s some room in Harb’s doghouse.

While we’re on the subject of restricted free agents, we’ll soon learn how the Ravens value their own vis-à-vis the yet to be announced complete list of tender offers. Surprisingly Haruki Nakamura received only an original tender offer (6th round). Teams interested in the Ravens reserve safety and special teams ace would only have to give up a sixth round choice to sign Nakamura. Of course the Ravens could always match an interested team’s offer.

The difference between the low (original) tender and the next highest level tender (2nd round) is $635,000. You may recall a few years back when the Browns signed Ravens’ then restricted free agent Chester Taylor to an offer, it cost the Ravens dearly.

Instead of offering the 2nd round tender to Taylor, the Ravens extended the original round offer (6th) despite a less than healthy Jamal Lewis. Knowing the Ravens’ needed Taylor and seeing their vulnerability with the low ball tender to Taylor, Browns’ GM Phil Savage duped his former boss Ozzie Newsom by offering the versatile back a $3 million/year deal.

The end result was that the Ravens paid twice what they had to for Taylor when they matched Cleveland’s offer. Had Ozzie assigned a second round tender, Savage would not have touched Taylor.

Another interesting tender offer to watch will be that of Marshal Yanda. Yanda has been labeled a priority by the Ravens and it would be surprising to see them offer anything short of a first round tender to their versatile offensive guard. Anything less could cost them. Keep an eye out for the Philadelphia Eagles who reportedly have interest in Yanda should the Ravens not adequately protect him.

Haloti Ngata signed his franchise offer which means that he won’t be a training camp holdout (assuming there is a training camp). Word is the two sides are confident that they will strike a long-term deal once the new collective bargaining agreement is struck. Until then, word to NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi – his name is pronounced “Nah-tah” not “En-gah-tah.” Get a clue!

Give props to 105.7 The Fan for handing the captain’s chair during the now 1-3P M-F time slot to the much deserving Bob Haynie. The sports IQ of the show skyrocketed with the announcement that Bruce Cunningham was leaving the daily grind to spend more time with his family. I hope that’s good news for the Cunningham clan and I know that’s good news for sports talk listeners in B’more.

Cunningham’s fans have taken solace in the mad lover of Baltimore’s announcement that he can be heard on The Fan on Saturday’s beginning March 19 from Noon until 3PM. Not so fast…

From what we hear, Gary Stein is entrenched in that time slot as he should be. His show is far more rewarding than anything Cunningham can muster on his own without capable wingmen who keep him comfortably within the boundaries of his “navigational buoys”.

Finally, mark your calendars for Thursday, April 21st and Ravens Chix will co-host an intimate Q&A with the Ravens Director of Player Personnel Eric DeCosta, the last such event before the Ravens are on the clock just one week later on April 28th.

The event will be held at Liberatore’s in Timonium and is intended for novice fans looking for an education on the draft as well as fans like who want to dive deep into draft discussions. This promised to be a pleasant and informative evening for men and women alike. $10.00 gets you a seat and access to a Liberatore’s buffet.

Doors will open at 6 for this event and Eric is scheduled to begin the Q&A at 7. Seating is limited to roughly 200. A portion of the proceeds will benefit a The Boys & Girls Group near Eric’s hometown of Taunton, MA.

We will be accepting questions in advance. I’ll present them to Eric and our goal is to cover as many areas as possible vis-a-vis your submitted questions. Feel free to submit them here and finish them with (as example) Bob from Parkville.

Advance tickets are being sold at both the Liberatore’s in Timonium and in Perry Hall.


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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of and 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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