THE GRAPEVINE: Inside Skinny from Owings Mills

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Inside Skinny from Owings Mills

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Each year Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti joins us on the Ravens Rap in Ocean City, a momentary lapse from his vow of silence during the season. Bisciotti is always candid and engaging both during and after the show when he mingles with the enthusiastic crowd on hand.

Last year during his appearance I asked him about re-signing Haloti Ngata and added that he better be prepared to back up the Brinks Truck.

Bisciotti promised that Ngata would be going nowhere because he represents all that the Ravens want in a player on the field, in the locker room, as a leader and in the community.

I could almost hear that backup warning signal from the iron-plated vehicle powered by the sincerity in the Ravens owner’s voice.

And he delivered!

Ngata’s new 5 year deal gives the Ravens some salary cap breathing space and now Ozzie Newsome & Co. have a few extra bargaining chips to help the team now or in the future. On the surface the terms of the deal look to be a perfect example of a well executed win-win. The team locks up arguably its best defender while Ngata lands a mammoth deal that still allows him the luxury to earn that rare third long-term deal during his career.

Once the 5 year deal is complete, Ngata will only be 32 years old, not exactly long in the tooth when it comes to run-stuffing defensive tackles. That carrot if you will, may fuel Ngata’s motivation even more and that is good news for the team and bad news for Ravens’ opponents.

WHAT WILL THE RAVENS DO WITH ALL THAT NEWFOUND DOUGH? Who will they spend it on? Well, the names Rice, Flacco and Grubbs come to mind as possibilities. Flacco has another year on his 5 year rookie deal so the Ravens will probably wait that one out. Plus the guess here is that Flacco’s handlers probably will price him among the Top 10 QB’s in the game, perhaps even higher. I’m not so sure at the moment that he ranks there and it behooves the team to wait it out and see. That’s the beauty of a rookie contract.

As for Grubbs, the Ravens signing Marshal Yanda did in any possibility of the fifth year former Auburn Tiger landing a lucrative long-term deal in Baltimore. The bet here is that the Ravens will go after a Yanda-like player in the draft who will deliver a better value in terms of cost to performance. That’s not to say Grubbs hasn’t been a good player but given Yanda’s deal and Grubb’s first round status in the same draft class as the team’s resident pig farmer, he will no longer be the right player, right price.

And let’s not forget the Ravens may have left tackle issues in 2012 to address. It doesn’t appear that either Michael Oher or Jah Reid is suited to play the blind side.

So that leaves Ray Rice…

And the franchise tag will just scream his name, particularly on the heels of the fat contracts of Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson landed.

Rice is the team’s best offensive player but given the nature of the position, Ozzie may find the franchise tag to be the right price in the short-term. That said 2013 will be D-Day for Flacco and the thought of extending both players in the same season might prove to be a drain on cash flow. Either way it will be interesting to watch these chess matches unfold.

HARBAUGH THE BROW BEATER ~ One thing that is usually NOT interesting to watch is a John Harbaugh press conference. The chatter is chock full of spin and empty responses that often leaves the media with little more than they had prior to the presser. It’s pretty clear that Coach would rather be anywhere other than behind that podium for 20 minutes. It’s been that way for a while.

But lately he’s been more Belichick-esque than ever to the point of being condescending to the media.

When asked earlier this week how long he expects David Reed to be out nursing his injured AC joint Harbaugh quipped, “Probably three weeks. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor, but I play one at press conferences.”

When questioned on Haloti Ngata’s contract status he deadpans (with a hint of sarcasm): “I’m worried about football right now, so I’m not involved in contract negotiations. Thanks for asking.”

The media serves as a conduit from the team to the fans, without which there are no jobs, no money. Brian Billick understood that until he caved to the pressure of an NFL orchestrated mutiny. Harbaugh needs to chill and recognize. He’s no Bill Belichick.

WILL THE REAL RAVENS PLEASE STAND UP! Are the 2011 Ravens the team we saw on opening day against the Steelers or the bunch we watched this past Sunday in Nashville, devoid of any sense of urgency?

Or does the real Ravens 2011 vintage lie somewhere in between?

Against the Steelers the Ravens were the clear aggressors. They delivered the physicality, the tempo and a killer instinct rarely seen from a Cam Cameron offense. In LP Field the Ravens executed poorly, delivered frighteningly familiar results against a Cover 2 defense and despite being down by 2 scores late in the game they moved to the line of scrimmage at a snail’s pace.

Steve Bisciotti once said that he likes Cameron under fire. If they fail to produce in St. Louis, watch out!

It’s next to unconscionable that the Ravens can’t find mismatches with speedy TE Ed Dickson or that they can’t execute a professional bubble screen to Torrey Smith to at least get him into the flow of the game. And not just a throw to the outside so he can go one on one with a corner! How about getting the linemen out in space and at least trying to turn a short toss into a big gain?

DESTINATION OWINGS MILLS ~ The Ravens over the years have morphed from a team that free agents didn’t want to play for to a desirable destination for new employment. That allows them, all things being equal, to convince players to come to Baltimore. And even in some cases the desirability of the purple and black can be alluring enough to free agent veterans looking to win a title that they may be willing to accept a lighter paycheck than they might get elsewhere.

And THAT in part may be why the Ravens are handling the struggling Domonique Foxworth very delicately.

While the Ravens could cut Foxworth and realize $4M in cap savings, they would rather sit tight, help Foxworth heal, make the short-term sacrifices for perhaps some gain down the road all the while preserving their preferred destination moniker.

THE BOXER LACKS PUNCH ~ The Ravens SS Tom Zbikowski is rather stealth these days on the football field and when he does show up, it’s for all the wrong reasons. He hasn’t made an impactful play in either of his two starts this season and it might be time to give Haruki Nakamura and/or Bernard Pollard some of his snaps. There has to be some disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff when it comes to Pollard, a player whose paycheck is far north of his playing time.

As for Nakamura, he’s a far better cover safety than Zibby and from what we’ve seen lately a better tackler too. Add it up and it spells “Knocked Out” of a starting job.

At least that’s the way I see it…


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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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