GRAPEVINE: More roster fine tuning ahead for the Ravens?

Lombardi's Way GRAPEVINE: More roster fine tuning ahead for the Ravens?

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The Ravens have done a nice job in recent years augmenting their roster with complementary players who have proven to be relative bargains like Jim Leonhard, Justin Bannan, Lorenzo Neal, Gary Stills and Corey Ivy. Another of those players is Willie Anderson.

Anderson provided needed stability on the right side of the offensive line and while he may not have been what he once was earlier in his career he brought competency, leadership and a team first attitude.

The Ravens would have preferred to keep Anderson around for another season but nagging injuries thwarted his training and from what we hear, the former Pro Bowler’s availability at the start of training camp was doubtful at best. Anderson’s retirement frees up $2.9 million in cap space and the Ravens are expected to strengthen their roster with more complementary veterans.

Don’t be surprised if one of those vets is a tight end. The Ravens have Todd Heap and L.J. Smith as proven options to go with Quinn Sypniewski and rookie Davon Drew. Neither Heap nor Smith has been a beacon of health during their careers and Drew is raw. His skills are more refined as a receiver than a blocker which then leaves Sypniewski. The fourth year player from Colorado is recovering from major knee surgery and from what we hear he isn’t exactly a lock to be ready in time for training camp. Sypniewski is an Ozzie Newsome favorite and he will get every opportunity to prove he’s ready to go. Don’t be shocked however if Sypniewski is once again on the injured reserve list when the season starts.

A player who falls off the radar screen for most observers of the Ravens is offensive tackle Joe Reitz.  Reitz is a solid athlete and an accomplished basketball player.  He was offered scholarships to play football by a number of MAC Conference schools and Indiana University but he opted instead to play hoops at Western Michigan where he averaged 15 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a senior. Reitz stands at 6’7” and is clearly a project but from what we hear, he’s a worthy project in the eyes of Cam Cameron and has been referred to as a poor man’s Joe Staley. Reitz will be an interesting player to watch throughout camp.

Back to Joe Staley, Ravens officials are now said to be please that the 49ers jumped in front of them during the 2007 NFL Draft to select Staley with the No. 28 overall pick.  With the 29th pick the Ravens looked to Ben Grubbs. Staley has been a huge disappointment so far for the Niners and had he still been on the board, the Ravens may have chosen him. Grubbs hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his two seasons but there is far more optimism about his future than that of Staley. 

But the real story within the story as it relates to Staley and Grubbs is this…If Staley had been the Ravens’ choice in ’07 they probably don’t go to the supplemental draft to nab Jared Gaither in the fifth round. And so far of the three, Gaither has performed the best – and it isn’t even close!

While the Ravens and Terrell Suggs are at an impasse in contract discussions, the Pro Bowler is busy focusing on movies and plans to write and produce his own creations for the silver screen sometime in the future.  Recently he sat down with the folks of How real was Any Given Sunday and if you could relate to any character in that movie who would it be?

Terrell Suggs: It was very real, so real that the actors got into a fight on the set! I couldn’t really relate to any one character because they didn’t have a young LB/DE at the top of his game who was also trying to make movies. But as a whole I did relate.

Let’s hope he doesn’t follow the free agent path of Any Given Sunday’s star Steamin’ Willie Beamen, played by Jamie Foxx. That said, thanks Sizzle for yet another excuse to embed perhaps my personal favorite scene from any sports movie (even though I think on whole AGS was about a 5).

And finally in a non-Ravens related news, AFC North rivals the Cincinnati Bengals will be the featured team this season on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” ESPN’s James Walker points out in his AFC North blog that featured teams have felt the wrath of the Hard Knocks curse:

  • In 2002, the Dallas Cowboys made their first of two appearances on "Hard Knocks." A case can be made that they invented the curse, not the Ravens. Dallas went 5-11 the first go around and became the first non-playoff team on Hard Knocks. Head coach Dave Campo was fired after the season.
  • After a five-year hiatus (the Jaguars participated in a similar program in 2004 but not under the "Hard Knocks" brand) the Chiefs were the third team on the program. Former coach Herm Edwards’ group was coming off a playoff run but finished an abysmal 4-12 in 2007.
  • The Cowboys also became the most recent team on "Hard Knocks" last season. Dallas was widely considered the most talented team in the NFL. But the Cowboys finished 9-7 and out of the postseason, making them one of the biggest disappointments of 2008. The curse hit the Cowboys twice in six years.

Walker then wonders aloud if the Bengals can end the curse.

Well yeah…can the Bengals possibly be any worse?

What might be considered a curse reversal, only one player incarcerated in ’09?

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 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.

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