As we approach the NFL hunting season (aka free agency) I thought to take a look back at the Baltimore Ravens best and worst free agent signings (emphasizing value) since the club’s inception in 1996, along with a quick random thought that comes to mind when reflecting upon the signing.
1. Shannon Sharpe ~ Sharpe brought leadership to the offense along with big play ability from the tight end position. His tutelage of Todd Heap and his support of Ray Lewis following the double murder trial and during the Super Bowl season were priceless. Consequently it is hard to imagine the club ever making a more impactful signing than Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe.
2. Sam Adams ~ While Tony Siragusa is remembered more affectionately given his comedic public persona, Sam Adams was the disruptive force on the Ravens D-Line that helped pave the way to Ray Lewis’ MVP performance.
3. Rod Woodson ~ The 49ers gave up on Woodson as a corner opting instead for former Raven Antonio Langham. Woodson arrived as a corner but made his mark as a Raven when he made the move to safety providing intelligence, athleticism and leadership to the defensive backfield.
4. Mike McCrary ~ Despite chronic knee problems the undersized McCrary’s unparalleled motor earned him 2 Pro Bowl trips to Honolulu.
5. Kelly Gregg ~ Discarded by the Philadelphia Eagles Gregg was a staple of the Ravens defense for a decade willingly accepting the dirty work for a star studded defense.
6. Derrick Mason ~ Tough, durable and reliable, Mason is the team’s all-time leading receiver and played in every game during his 6 seasons in Baltimore, four times eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark.
7. Matt Birk ~ Although he has never performed at a Pro Bowl level in Baltimore, Birk brought stability and leadership to the offensive line and each season the Ravens found their way into the playoffs.
8. Trevor Pryce ~ Never has a Raven been held more than Pryce whose signature slap-rip move was problematic for opponents. He was a pass rushing force for 3 full seasons in Baltimore from an interior line position.
9. Qadry Ismail ~ For three seasons the former return specialist was the team’s best receiver including the Super Bowl season, when offense was severely lacking in Baltimore.
10. Trent Dilfer ~ He wasn’t pretty and he wasn’t very effective but he was a leader when the Ravens sorely needed one. And if not for him the Ravens would have leaned on Tony Banks to deliver a championship and the rest of us would still be awaiting the club’s first Super Bowl appearance.
Honorable Mention: Vonta Leach, Bernard Pollard, Cory Redding, Jim Leonhard
1. Elvis Grbac ~ His teammates didn’t respect him and he was a quitter and a cap drain for years.
2. Leon Searcy ~ Big pay and never played a down as a Raven. Would anyone even recognize him if they walked by him? Former Steeler.
3. Domonique Foxworth ~ A reach of a signing from the start. Over valued by the club, Foxworth earned about $5 million per interception as a member of the Ravens.
4. LJ Smith ~ The former Eagle was signed to a one year deal worth $1.5 million in 2009. He caught 2 passes.
5. Mike Anderson ~ The Ravens signed the then 32-year-old Anderson to a four year deal for $8 million, including a $2 million signing bonus. Anderson ran the ball 54 times for 245 yards during his two seasons in Baltimore.
6. Corey Fuller ~ Best remembered for the back of his jersey, illegal card games and handgun violations.
7. Keydrick Vincent ~ Looked more like a matador than an offensive guard. Former Steeler.
8. Frank Sanders ~ Signed to a four year deal the 31-year-old Sanders was expected to be a starter. He caught 14 balls in his 13 games as a Raven for a paltry 170 yards.
9. Carnell Lake ~ ”He gives us a huge veteran presence,” then Ravens Coach Brian Billick said of Lake. Coach never really was a great talent evaluator. (see Kyle Boller, Adam Terry, Scott Mitchell, Elvis Grbac, etc) Former Steeler.
10. Bam Morris ~ Giving “junk in the trunk” new meaning. Former Steeler.
Honorable Mention: Kordell Stewart (former Steeler), Eric Green (former Steeler). Sensing a pattern here?