Help Wanted Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

Lombardi's Way Help Wanted

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Ravens Need Playmakers

As we sit back and observe the 2017 NFL Playoffs, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to compare and contrast the Baltimore Ravens against the remaining postseason participants.

Where do the Ravens come up short relative to their peers?

How do they prevent sitting at home for the playoffs for the 4th time in 5 seasons at this time next year?

What does the team need to do to save John Harbaugh’s job?

Tough questions, no doubt. Yet it’s incumbent upon the front office, scouts and the entire coaching staff to seek and discover solutions.

They could start with finding some playmakers.

The first goal of any season is to win the division and for the Ravens that means beating the Pittsburgh Steelers if they harbor hopes of capturing the AFC North in 2017. For the most part the Ravens compare favorably with the Steelers but where they fall short, embarrassingly short, is in the number of playmakers on their roster.


 

Playmaker: someone with the preternatural ability to influence the outcome of a game by making incredible plays. ~ Urban Dictionary


 

Think about it. What player on the Ravens’ roster fits this description of a playmaker?

You’re still thinking, aren’t you?

Now ask the same question about the Steelers.

That didn’t take long, did it?

The Ravens desparately need playmakers on both sides of the ball and such playmakers have to affect the passing game. Joe Flacco needs that go to receiver who can make a big play in clutch situations. That guy who can come up big even when the opponent knows that he is the target.

The Ravens also need a player who can disrupt the quarterback – a player who commands double teams, a player who is game planned for. A player who makes the complementary players around him that much better.

To make that happen Ozzie Newsome can look to the draft, free agency or the trade market.

Trades are difficult and almost always require a sacrifice of draft picks. The Ravens have had their fair share of trades – Steve McNair, Anquan Boldin and Eugene Monroe come immediately to mind.

Ravens need playmakers

Photo Credit: Getty Images

The draft is unpredictable and bonafide playmakers are hard to secure immediately unless the Ravens move up in the draft by sacrificing more draft picks. But as we’ve seen in the past, the Ravens covet such picks and collect them like a squirrel gathers acorns after Thanksgiving.

Free agency has always been a challenge for the Ravens because they haven’t been the most efficient managers of their salary cap. They’ve overpaid for veterans who don’t live up to their contracts and the dead money they carry forward limits the team’s free agency bargaining power. 2017 will be no different unless Newsome & Co. get out their cap scalpels and carve out some players who carry substantive cap figures.

One that immediately comes to mind is Elvis Dumervil.

Doom’s productivity has steadily declined over the past 2 seasons. He had a terrific 2014, contributing a team record 17 sacks. But he followed that up with 6 sacks in 2015 and 3 sacks in 2016. His production has dropped precipitously while his salary climbs steadily. That’s symptomatic of a roster that fails to perform to the level of its cap.

It’s a prescription for staying home in January.

Parting ways with Dumervil will save the Ravens $6M in cap space for 2017. The Ravens have little choice but to make the move. Gambling on aging stars to rediscover their youth is a recipe for disaster. Unless of course your name is James Harrison.

At 38, Harrison continues to make plays and while his sack totals aren’t what they once were (5 in 2016), he affects games with his relentlessness and cognitive abilities. Pro Football Focus ranked him 11th among all NFL edge rushers. Comparatively speaking, Terrell Suggs ranked 40th and Dumervil, had he played enough, would have registered a grade that would place him at No. 47 in his peer group.

In 2016 Suggs carried a cap number of $7.45M with a base salary of $4.5M. Dumervil’s numbers were $7.375M and $5M, respectively.

Harrison’s?

Try a cap figure of $1.5M and a base of $1.25M.

Ironically, the Ravens seriously considered signing James Harrison back in 2013, before FaxGate allowed the Ravens to swoop in on Dumervil.

Those Steelers sure do find those playmakers – AND wide receivers.

Do you realize that in 2017, Ben Roethlisberger will have Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton at his disposal again?

The Ravens better get busy on finding those playmakers…

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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 CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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