The Ravens have invested in Wink Martindale’s unit this offseason and there’s little reason to find fault with that. What better way to support a young quarterback than by beefing up the defense via free agency and the draft, complemented by a productive, time-consuming run-oriented offense. Should the Ravens make additional free agent moves this offseason, look for them to remain on the defensive side of the football with the exception of an interior offensive lineman, should an attractive option become available.
Also keep in mind that this offseason has been a unique one. The second-tier free agents have been forced to wait due to the inability of teams to properly conduct physicals after agreeing to terms with players. COVID-19 has altered the offseason landscape and consequently, that second wave of signings might not take place until after the NFL Draft.
Speaking of the draft, the Ravens might have a decided advantage over many clubs in the league. This particular draft has more challenges that any other draft in the modern era. There will no longer be the traditional war rooms given social distancing mandates. Communication during the draft will be compromised and unexpected issues could present themselves. All of this will add to the difficulties of vital decisions during and between draft picks.
Any franchise with less than ideal IT personnel could struggle. Any franchise that has a new coaching staff or new front office and have yet to experience a draft together, will be at a decided disadvantage. And this is exactly where the continuity of the Ravens organization will shine.
Adding to the complexity of choices during the draft will be draft eligible players with question marks. Teams schedule visits with players in which they have interest when there’s uncertainty about medical and/or character issues. Devoid of those visits, team executives will be forced to take calculated risks with such players. It could lead to more early round busts and/or Day 2 and 3 steals.
During the Pre-Draft Zoom Conference on Monday, NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala questioned Eric DeCosta about managing such red flags.
“There is going to be in this process probably some questions that we simply can’t answer, and some of those questions may be about a players’ personality, it might be about an injury that the player sustained, it could be a lack of a workout. Whatever that might be, we have to figure it out. How do we value those unknowns, and what impact do those unknowns have on the process? That takes time. That’s not easy for some of us who like to have as much information as possible. It brings me back to what it was like in 1996-97, really, before the internet, before we had all this information, how we went about our jobs before we had the chance to bring in 30 players to Baltimore pre-draft and spend time with those guys. How did we accomplish our goals? And I think some of our best drafts we’ve ever had were during that timeframe, so we know it can be done. Like John [Harbaugh] said, every team is operating under the same parameters and the same rules. We’ve come up with a plan, we’ll adjust, and we’ll figure it out.”
The Ravens are among the league’s best during draft weekend. This year, given the adverse conditions, they may very well be the best.
Until Next Time Kevin
Last week we learned that Kevin Byrne is retiring and has plans to eventually move to South Carolina. Since the Ravens’ inception, Kevin has been an outstanding spokesperson for the team, while guiding it through some troubling off-the-field issues that delivered temporary black eyes to the organization. Steve Bisciotti’s franchise enjoys one of the NFL’s best reputations and Kevin’s influence and crafty workmanship contributes to that measurably.
Back in 2005, I had my first encounter with the team’s top watchdog, something I’ve shared on these pages before. In 2004 I was given the Ravens schedule prior to it being revealed to the public. It was given to me by a friend of a friend who worked in the league’s offices in Manhattan. I posted it on what was then Ravens24x7.com, and the schedule was spot on and in many ways it helped to put our site on the worldwide map for Ravens fans.
In 2005, the same source leaked the Ravens schedule to me again. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, the Ravens had vowed to give their biggest customers – the suite owners, the first peek at the schedule for their own planning purposes. When I posted the 2005 schedule before, just as I had a year earlier, the suite owners were livid. The Ravens switch board lit up with complaints due to the schedule I posted.
Making matters worse, not a single week during the 17-week regular season of that schedule was right, not even the bye week. A posted schedule that was flawless one year earlier, was a train wreck in 2005.
Then, the Ravens Chad Steele called me and he wasn’t happy. I had to take the “earned” medicine that Chad was dishing. It was my clumsy indoctrination to the team’s protocol.
The next time I saw Kevin, he approached me and we talked about the schedule. He delivered some sage advice.
“If you think you have a story, give us a call. If you are wrong, we will tell you. If you are right, we will either confirm it or we’ll say nothing.”
I’ve never forgotten those words. And I’ll never forget Kevin Byrne. His mark on the franchise is indelible.
It’s often said when determining a person’s Hall of Fame worthiness, you should ask if history would have changed without that person’s contributions. When that thought process is applied to the Ravens, clearly Kevin is a Hall of Famer. The Ravens ride from Cleveland to Baltimore and the past 24 seasons would never have been the same without him.
Here’s to your continued success and happiness Kevin, as your journey has you southern bound.