Sometimes admitting a mistake, cutting ties with said mistake and moving on is the best way to succeed in the NFL.
In recent years, the Baltimore Ravens have successfully admitted their mistakes sooner than later. They cut a rookie draft pick – cornerback Marc Anthony – during the final cuts of 2013 training camp, realizing he may not have been worth a draft pick, moving on and getting rid of the mistake.
In the 2012 draft, the Ravens used draft picks on safety Christian Thompson and wide receiver Tommy Streeter. Before the midway point of the 2013 season, neither was still in Baltimore.
It hasn’t required much effort for the Ravens to part with draft busts over the past two years, but perhaps some of the longer-tenured picks have led to different viewpoints for the organization.
The trend of moving on from mistakes hit a road bump when the Ravens had a standing one-year offer for Michael Oher prior to his departure for the Tennessee Titans.
Now, the Ravens have an offer on the table for free agent tight end Ed Dickson.
This should be a no-brainer for the Ravens (granted, the terms of the offered contract are not available).
Let’s just put this plan and simple: Dickson was a bust, never fully developed and at this point in his career, won’t likely begin to rapidly develop. What Dickson is now is likely what he’ll be for the rest of his NFL career.
Four years into a once promising career, Dickson’s continuous drops – particularly in 2013 – made him more of a punch line than a legitimate weapon in Baltimore’s offense.
A former third-round pick in 2010, Dickson joined the Ravens the same year as fellow tight end Dennis Pitta. Of the two, Dickson had immense potential, while Pitta figured to have the lower ceiling.
Now here we are: the tight end the Ravens picked after Dickson – Pitta – just cashed in on a five-year contract worth over $30 million, while his counterpart – Dickson – is still searching for work.
When the two were rookies, this situation never seemed to be a likely scenario.
But when a four-year veteran causes an interception on throws right into his hands like this, it’s easy to see why he is still unsigned.
Right now, Dickson’s athleticism is the only thing keeping him afloat as an NFL tight end.
He can still produce after the catch with breakaway speed, which is an asset that can’t be taught.
But that’s just about where Dickson’s value ends.
Let’s be blunt: Dickson’s hands proved to be a liability last season, and his blocking is painful to watch more times than not.
As unfortunate as it is to say, Dickson’s is one of the NFL’s worst blocking tight ends.
For a Ravens team that just gave a hefty payday to a tight end in Pitta who isn’t a traditional blocker, bringing back Dickson makes little sense if the desire is to have a balanced offense.
Baltimore’s offensive line didn’t do Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce any favors last season. The linemen often receive most of the blame for the run-game woes, but Dickson was often just as much a culprit as any lineman.
Athletic tight ends such as Dickson typically aren’t supposed to be traditional in-line tight ends, but he was forced into the role in recent years as Pitta occupied the slot often.
As a four-year veteran, Dickson should have at least been to the point last season where he could be adequate in the run game.
He didn’t need to be a lineman-like, imposing blocker in the form of Rob Gronkowski; he just needed to hold blocks long enough to let plays develop.
Instead, Dickson easily got pushed around, and his functional strength was yet again exposed. It was rarely a tough task for opposing defensive linemen to shed Dickson with ease before the run play fully developed.
Dickson simply wasn’t strong or violent enough as a blocker to overcome the deficiency, and if he couldn’t do it last year or in 2012, it’s highly unlikely he suddenly develops the ability to constantly hold down blocks.
It wasn’t just Dickson’s blocking strength that was his demise, it was also who he didn’t block.
Let’s use a play against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 7 as an example.
Dickson swings across the line on a run play.
With the offensive line holding off the defensive linemen, Dickson can pull across and seal off the oncoming defensive back from the outside, giving running back Ray Rice an easy lane up the middle.
He briefly looks at the defensive back, but opts to pass him and turn upfield (where there is no unblocked Steelers defender to be found), leaving Rice wrapped up for no gain.
It’s hard to justify what Dickson was doing on this play.
Being a tight end in today’s NFL still ultimately comes down to receiving before blocking, and if Dickson were a viable pass catcher, his blocking wouldn’t be as big of a problem.
But with his inability to ever fully assert himself as quarterback Joe Flacco’s go-to tight end, his blocking becomes more of a focus. At the very least, a struggling receiving tight end needs to block in order to extend his NFL career.
Billy Bajema has nine NFL seasons under his belt, after all.
When a tight end as deficient in the blocking department as Dickson rolls around, justifying his roster spot isn’t easy. Dickson once had promise, and maybe one day he’ll begin to develop in the way some thought he would.
But to think that turnaround could happen in Baltimore is more than wishful thinking at this point. Perhaps a change of scenery could be the best thing for Dickson’s career.
Admitting wrongdoing eases the construction of NFL rosters, and the Ravens need to employ that tactic with Dickson.
A one-year “prove it” deal with little guaranteed money could make a Dickson-Baltimore reunion justified. If Dickson can get anything more than that elsewhere, let him walk and move on.