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One Unpopular Move Doesn’t Define an Offseason

Lombardi's Way One Unpopular Move Doesn’t Define an Offseason

Posted in Lombardi's Way
36+ Comments Mel says Q did the right thing for him .... He signed a contract 4 years ago and was ready to fulfill that contract. The Ravens had decided to not fulfill their end of t

Only once since 2005 has a Super Bowl Champion won a playoff game the following season when defending their title.

Let that marinate for a moment…

Why is it so hard to defend The Lombardi?

Well there’s the unavoidable target placed on the collective back of a champion. By nature teams come gunning for you and those teams are among the NFL’s most competitive by virtue of the first place schedule forced upon a champ.

And then of course there’s the issue of the salary cap.

Players and their agents want to capitalize on their market value that has peaked given their recent successes. Some will try to stay with the team. No one really wants to leave a champion. But then the reality of limited cap dollars to go around sinks in and the emotional high of earning that ring wears off.

“Business decisions” are then thrust upon the team and its players.

Many careers are fleeting.

Contract dollars are not guaranteed.

Players want to support their families the best way they can driven perhaps in part by the fear of becoming another millionaire who retires to bankruptcy.

And then, having already sipped from the cup of a champion, perhaps the competitive edge has been tempered a little and the money becomes more important than winning another championship.

During the 2001 season, the Ravens tried to keep the team in tact the best way they could, mortgaging the future and even acquiring a free agent quarterback (Elvis Grbac) and a backup quarterback (Randall Cunningham) who they thought would help upgrade the offense.

The strategy failed.

Over the course of the next 6 seasons, despite a consistently outstanding defense, the Ravens would make the playoffs just twice without winning a single postseason game.

Steve Bisciotti and Ozzie Newsome have vowed not to repeat the mistakes they made in 2001. They want to keep their window of opportunity open because as we’ve seen from the Ravens and other teams in recent years, if you can earn a spot on the postseason dance card and get on a roll, even if you have to do so on the road, a championship is possible.

But keeping that window open is the tricky part and it doesn’t happen without making tough decisions.

In 2011 the Ravens parted ways with Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Willis McGahee and Kelly Gregg. Last year they parted ways with Jarret Johnson, Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura. This season there will be more.

And yesterday it started with the trade of Anquan Boldin the pain of which is hardly tempered by paltry consolation prize of the 31st pick in the 6th round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

On the surface, the deal looks like a bad joke. Obviously the Ravens decided that part of their offseason strategy had to include Boldin at a lower cap figure. Boldin didn’t budge and so the team did the right thing by Boldin, sending him to a winning team willing to pay him his $6M.

But this is just one piece of the offseason puzzle and it isn’t fair to judge the Ravens today on one tough, albeit very unpopular decision. Instead, let’s judge Ozzie Newsome & Co. in September when the team takes the field with their best 53-man roster.

Let’s see how they use the additional cap space.

Let’s see how they keep that window of opportunity open.

Let’s see if they can do what no other defending champion has done since 2005.

Let’s see if they can repeat.

None of the moves to part ways with the aforementioned players was ever popular at the time the decisions were made. As fans we attached ourselves to these players. We invest our emotions and saying goodbye isn’t easy.

But have the Ravens really missed any of those players?

Has the multiple parting of ways forced that window of opportunity shut?

Quite the contrary!

The Ravens have been to and won a playoff game in each of the last five seasons, something that no other team in the NFL has done. They’ve won two Super Bowl titles in the last 12 seasons.

I think those guys in the front office know what they’re doing. We all just need to sit back, observe and watch their plan unfold.

Chances are it will be a happy ending even if in the short-term it feels like a Super Bowl hangover is about to set in.

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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. A diehard Fab Four fan, Tony is a frustrated musician who thinks beating on the steering wheel is akin to being John Bonham. Follow Tony on Twitter @RussellStReport. More from Tony Lombardi
34 comments
Mel
Mel

Q did the right thing for him .... He signed a contract 4 years ago and was ready to fulfill that contract. The Ravens had decided to not fulfill their end of the contract.but as said above ... They did the right thing for Q ... He will be in th Superbowl,again next year

Jerry B
Jerry B

Tony: the NFL is much like college football these days with free agency and the draft mirroring graduation and recruiting so that teams have to reload every few years. All I can say is that Ozzie Newsome has a wonderful track record and a goal of getting better and younger each year. So, we'll just have to wait and see how this all plays out.......

Curt
Curt

Not to speak for Tony but we're not in cap hell, just close to the line. For instance, can you think of how many Patriot players have big contracts? I can only think of Brady? Even with Ray Ray, Birk and most likely Reed gone - We still have top positional contracts with Suggs, Ngata, Rice, Flacco, Yanda, Webb, etc.

seatraveller
seatraveller

An open question to Mr. Lombardi. Why are we in cap hell. We afforded last years team. Ray Lewis and Birk retired. Williams was cut. Flaccos conract is less this year than last. Kruger and Williams are effectively gone. Did someone have a huge increase this year. Why are things so tight Boldin has to go.

Jay
Jay

Bogeyroy, yeah I also agree that we didn't want to go into cap hell, but I don't think keeping Q would have done that to us. Agree it's not Flacco's contract the problem, anyone who really follows should know that, I just hope Ozzie has something up his sleeve to fill that void, and not just some rookie or cheap vet. I just feel really bad about this one. Last I felt this bad was when he passed on Nicks for Oher, and when he traded back and drafted what was Kindle instead of taking McCourty. Only thing that I believe can slightly fix this is a guy named Jennings. We'll see.

bogeyroy
bogeyroy

Jay, I agree...Ozzie certainly is not perfect, nor is any other GM in any professional sport. Athletes are drafted in hopes they reach their full potential...some do...most do not ! Also agree about Searcy and Williams...not so much Foxworth and Grbac. Foxworth got hurt, and that can happen to anyone...when Grbac was here, Jamal got hurt in training camp. Can you name our RB's the year Elvis was here ? Jason Brookins and an old washed up Terry Allen...I think that tells a big story. I am going to miss "Q", but I am looking ahead and not back. "Q" is a great player and a wonderful person, and I wish him well. We have cap problems, and despite what people think, it is not because of Flacco's contract ! After we won our first Super Bowl, the Ravens re-did many contracts to try and make another run, but all that did was put us in "cap hell" for the next few years...and Ozzie and Steve aren't going to let that happen.

Jerry M
Jerry M

Boldin will be missed greatly There's NO doubt about that but don't forget we have a deep threat in T.Smith & 1 overlooked player who will handle his business in 2013-2014 is T.Doss Also the draft has some promising slot recievers. Not to mention the free agent market for recievers is pretty powerful as well. Like I always say Just BELIEVE its the BMORE way and thats how true RAVENS fans should feel.

bogeyroy
bogeyroy

Curt, people said the same thing about Derek Mason, Bart Scott, Jason Brown, Todd Heap and so on and so on...and they all turned out to be "legit" moves ! It's part of the NFL and the salary cap. Lots of Chicken Littles here in B'more !!!

Jay
Jay

We want to continue winning so lets get rid of one of our best players. Seems legit.

Curt
Curt

You will all soon realize that Ozzie knows what he's doing. Boldin is clearly on the downside of his career despite a phenomenal postseason. He's simply not worth the price based on the current roster and contract obligations. Get ready because I suspect Reed will be the next to go. Enjoy the super bowl and look forward to the season!

bogeyroy
bogeyroy

Too many "Capoligists" around here...think before you write !!!

Ravenwoman
Ravenwoman

The team is going to get younger and cheaper. We have to move forward carrying over some salary cap so that we can sign a few of our coveted draft picks, while developing a system of turning over the roster each year and drafting well. Going forward, the Ravens won't be in a position to make draft errors, as that will end up costing the season. Fans are going to have to start supporting the team and stop worshiping the player.

karl w
karl w

One thing to consider. What if Boldin retires before the start of training camp?

seatraveller
seatraveller

This is really a product of Newsome's flawed strategy. He does not sign our good young players to long term deals earlier in their careers when they are affordable. When they get to free agency they are unaffordable. Some examples, Jason Brown, Ben Grubbs, Kruger, and Ellerbe. Some are kept but signed to large deals, leading to situations like Boldin being let go.

Rxdoxx
Rxdoxx

Yep, the process is never easy (more like labor pains). Could say not smooth either, but Oz and Co. seem to have a smoothness to their process that shows a lot of planning and thought. Great reminder Tony that we fans' job is to sit back and wait even while we struggle because we can't see parts of the vision. There is a plan B, C, and D for Boldin's slot....just none of it can be shown publically.... There is a blueprint for another playoff contender and we are only seeing the process starting (and as fans want to know all the answers now).

Bonnie Miranda
Bonnie Miranda

Bull$hit. Boldin made Flacco better, and our greedy a$$ qb thanked him by costing our team a great receiver. I hope Boldin takes his new team all the way.

FREDTERP
FREDTERP

Which SB champ since 2005 won a playoff game. I am showing none? FREDTERP

Curt
Curt

Jay, there's a 0% chance we sign Jennings. Instead, he'll go for the value signings once the market settles.....

Curt
Curt

Exactly! I think people are simply connected to Anquan because he's such a good guy and was one the main reasons we won the trophy.

Jay
Jay

He also brought in players like Elvis Grbac, Leon Searcy, Dominique Foxworth, left us dry at WR for such a long time because Demitrius Williams was suppose to be the "next big thing". Those "legit" too? I'm not knocking him by any means but he's not perfect as some make him out to be. There's nothing wrong with saying its a bad move.

Curt
Curt

Correct, we want to win this year and the year after that! As much as I appreciate Anquan as a person, he is not even close to our best player!

Juris Doctor G
Juris Doctor G

Or with 12 draft picks this year and possibly 11 next year, the Ravens could take young players in bulk and see who pans out. That would mean that the rising stars every two or three years would be people who were drafted 2-3 years before and then came off the PS or the bench. If those guys prove themselves, they get big paydays somewhere else and we get compensatories. Rinse and repeat. That puts pressure on the FO and scouts to find the diamonds in the rough. It puts pressure on the coaching staff to develop them. But if you have a strong FO (and, yesterday's unpleasantness notwithstanding, we do) and a strong coaching staff, you rely on them to get the most out of young players, UDFAs and cast offs. When those guys get too expensive, you let them go. You only invest in the positions that you can't cultivate in a year or two and for which stability is crucial (QB, etc.).

Juris Doctor G
Juris Doctor G

Why would he do that? He has 6 million reasons not to -- and I think the Ravens front office just provided him all the motivation he needs to consider. The sad thing in all of this is that Q may now have bittersweet feelings when he looks at his Super Bowl ring. Yeah, he won it. Yeah, it wouldn't have been won without him. But it was with the team that dumped him five weeks later.

karl w
karl w

Bad logic in your argument because none of those guys showed anything until their contract year. Ellerbe, Kruger and Cary are not worth the money they'll get in this market. We always have draft picks ready to replace. The proof is...well...Ellerbe Kruger and Cary Williams. Ozzie is Anointed to do what he does.

Ravenwoman
Ravenwoman

I totally agree with this. Maybe they are realizing this and are turning the ship, albeit slowly. They did sign Lardarius Webb before his contract expired, which I thought was a great move. I think part of the problem is that our draft picks sit too long on the bench and see little playing time. Case in point, Paul Kruger. He couldn't play special teams, so he sits on the bench. They had him bulk up the next year, but couldn't play defensive end. Now, he is back to a hybrid linebacker who rushes the passer and now he is playing at his potential. Had he been playing all along, this mistake could have been avoided.

mystery man
mystery man

Come on now,,,,,you know Flacco's contract didn't cost Boldin his job,,,,,,,,,if you look at it that way Suggs , Gnata and Rice were much bigger hits on the cap than Joes...........grow up............

Chris G
Chris G

Why aren't you downing Boldin for being "greedy"? It's fans like you with no knowledge that gives the rest of us bad names. Flacco DIDN'T cost us Boldin.

Anonymous 2
Anonymous 2

The last time I looked, the QB throws the ball and the receiver catches the ball. Flacco's contract had NOTHING to do with losing Anquan Boltin. Flacco's cap number for this year is LESS than it was last year. Stop hating on Joe. You obviously are not a true Ravens fan.

karl w
karl w

Or Flacco made Boldin better. New OC Caldwell made Boldin better. Most of you all are emotional which is why you're making comments that lack any form of common sense.

seatraveller
seatraveller

Thank you. Tell me (anyone) why we didn't sign Kruger or Ellerbe a year ago.

Derek Arnold
Derek Arnold

Well, Kruger really wasn't any good until midway through last season. So no point in trying to lock him up long-term. They drafted his replacement in Upshaw. No worries there. As for Ellerbe, he was in Harbs' famous "doghouse" for a LONG time. Has also had some health issues. They hoped they had solidified MLB by signing McClain long-term, but his injuries have him as a huge question mark now.

Derek Arnold
Derek Arnold

Upshaw 4.76 40 time, Kruger 4.83. And it was Upshaw who chased down James in the Super Bowl after originally missing him and being sprawled on the turf to cause the fumble that Jones recovered. Took Kruger 2.5 years to be decent, and he was good by the end of year 4. Upshaw looked very good as a rookie, and will improve.

mystery man
mystery man

I would worry about upshaw.........too slow for the way this game is going,,,,,,how is he going to chase down q-backs like rg3 , Keapernik and the like,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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