Intoxicated by a Super Bowl Championship, the Ravens sobered up their fans with some unexpected personnel moves.
Their physical Super Bowl hero wide receiver traded away for what seems to be no more than a discount coupon at the grocery store – gone!
Two top young, promising defensive starters signed away by 2013 Ravens’ opponents – gone!
Eight starters in total missing from the Super Bowl XLVII winning team – gone!
Two local legends, sure-fire Hall of Famers – gone!
And Ozzie Newsome was the party pooper!
Fans thought Ozzie had lost it. Why let all of these players go who significantly impacted a championship?
Ozzie hasn’t lost it. In fact, he’s getting better at his job.
Those close to the Ravens GM will spout out the many fine attributes he possesses. But the one attribute that seems to be repeated most frequently, and it’s one that is so important in the salary cap era, is patience.
Ozzie will never set the market for free agents. His goal, his job really, is to distribute his resources (cap dollars) in a way that maximizes the quality of the roster.
So as the casual fan beats up Newsome for being asleep at the switch (I’ve even done that in years past) and not playing fantasy football, he’s hardly taking a snooze. Instead he’s seeking value.
Obtaining the likes of Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, Michael Huff and a 2014 fourth round compensatory pick (could even be a No. 3) for the price of matching Cleveland’s offer for Paul Kruger is EXACTLY that – VALUE!
Sure, Ozzie has made some mistakes. Perhaps he paid Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs too much money. Time will tell. Maybe this offseason’s investment in the defensive line helps the investments in Nos. 92 and 55. Maybe they pay big dividends in 2013 and beyond.
But let’s remember that like players, the skill sets of the front office and coaches is anything but a stagnant situation. These men, Ozzie, Eric DeCosta, Joe Hortiz, John Harbaugh, all of the scouts and assistant coaches and even owner Steve Bisciotti are continually growing and improving in their roles.
If you had the luxury of spending some time with any of these men, you’d realize first and foremost just how intelligent they are; secondly how much they understand the game; and perhaps most importantly, they’ve forgotten more about football than most fans will ever know.
Does anyone think these guys want to lose?
Their jobs (save Bisciotti) hinge on winning just like your job is tied to the profitability of your employer.
The Ravens looked at last year’s defense and knew they needed to get younger and faster. Sure, they won the Super Bowl and had a great red zone stand to clinch it, but let’s not forget that the defense gave up a Super Bowl record 468 yards for a winning team. Changes had to be made. Remaining status quo was a recipe for failure in 2013.
And fortunately failure isn’t an option.
During the team’s press conference to close the 2012 season, the organization provided some hints as to how they would manage the team. They want to give their young talent a chance to perform. They want to get results from players who are looking to make their mark in the NFL when they team has them on the NFL’s minimum wage scale.
They were also reminded during the 2012 campaign of something very important.
You don’t have to be the best team early in the season.
You don’t have to have the best record during the regular season (hello Denver Broncos).
You just have to manage your team to get better and be in position to win your division.
Look around the AFC North. Does any team in the division scare you? Now imagine a more youthful Ravens squad, competing for the AFCN title – and they get it. They begin to gel late in the season and their place on the postseason dance card has been punched.
Like the Green Bay Packers 3 seasons ago; like the New York Giants 2 seasons ago; and like the Ravens last season, all you need is a chance and good things can happen.
Thankfully the Ravens have a patient GM, one who can step back and observe and then strike when the “right player, right price” surfaces.
Sit back and enjoy the ride Ravens fans.
The driver of this bus has skills!