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The Baltimore Ravens are Playing With Fire

anquan_boldin“It’s just business.”

I’ve always hated this phrase. It’s bothered me for as long as I can remember knowing what it meant. I think that probably goes back to something basic, if (arguably) a bit naive: I never thought it was cool that screwing someone over could suddenly become OK if it fell under the auspices of “business.” Whatever that means, or meant.

Of course as I’ve gotten a bit older I’ve learned that life comes pre-loaded with some harsh realities, and among these is the occasional need to make tough and/or uncomfortable decisions. I’ve learned, equally, that there’s nothing automatically wrong with this and not much we can do about it anyway. Sometimes “it” really is “just business.”

None of which is to say, however, that there shouldn’t be — that there aren’t — limits.

Back when the Ravens first won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at the helm, then unceremoniously dumped him, I regarded it as a betrayal. That they got their just desserts and then some with the Elvis Grbac debacle did little to sway my feelings. Plenty of folks regard loyalty as a weakness when doing business. I’m not one of them. At the very least I thought Dilfer should have been given a fighter’s chance to keep his job, as he had earned at least that much. He wasn’t much more than an average quarterback, sure, but he did enough to deserve better than he got.

Fast forward to the present offseason and I find myself more than a little bit curious about what’s inside the head of Ozzie Newsome & company as they fashion their roster for 2013 and beyond.

First, they pony up a record extension for Joe Flacco, a quarterback who had an epic postseason but who had been regarded as an iffy bet for most of his career prior to that. He’s been good, sometimes very good, but the sum total of time he’s spent being great amounts to about four games.

Then, they ship Anquan Boldin off to San Francisco for basically nothing. Here’s another player coming off an epic postseason performance, one that in fact had a lot to do with making Joe Flacco look as good as he looked. You can say that without Flacco playing as well as he did the Ravens probably don’t win the Super Bowl. You can say the exact same thing about Boldin.

Remember this with Boldin: we’re not talking about a free agent they didn’t have room to re-sign, and we’re not talking about a role player. That Lombardi trophy has his fingerprints all over it. Hell, forget the postseason for a second. If he doesn’t throw that block on fourth-and-forever against San Diego then who knows what we’re talking about today?

Now, I get it. “Business.” QBs are more highly valued than wide receivers. Boldin is 32 and, as such, exiting the prime years that Flacco is still enjoying at 28. Nobody who understands the NFL — both on the field and in the front office — could possibly argue that Flacco isn’t more valuable than Boldin.

That said, in the NFL it’s well-known that smart teams pay players more for what they’re supposedly going to do than for what they’ve already done. What most people lose in that equation is that the really smart teams also make wise decisions about what their players are doing right now. And, right now, the Ravens are a weaker team without Boldin.

They’re also a team with a mountain of chips in the center of the table on Flacco, a guy they’re paying explicitly for what he’s doing now in addition to what they think he’ll do in the future. A future that includes Tandon Doss where #81 once roamed.

If you’re a Ravens fan you have to hope that Joe Flacco finally worked out the kinks and is ready to become the kind of player who doesn’t need an Anquan Boldin. You have to hope he’s Aaron Rodgers or Eli Manning and not simply Matt Schaub or Matt Stafford. All four are good quarterbacks. Only the first two make the players around them better.

I’m not saying Ozzie is wrong. I can’t know that. But what I am saying is that in football, as in life, there’s often more than one way to make a tough decision. I’m not sure Ozzie chose the right one here. I think this just might be a classic case where a little bit more loyalty might have gone a long way. Even if it is “just business.”

12 comments to The Baltimore Ravens are Playing With Fire

  • neal s

    And now Bernard Pollard is gone, with Mike Preston offering some interesting insight as to why (warning: Sun paywall link).

    Like I said: playing with fire. And maybe in this case it’s not “just” business after all.

  • neal s

    And if they let Ed Reed go? Sheesh. This Ravens offseason has been way more interesting than I thought it would be. They’ve earned the right to make tough decisions in a confident manner but there’s a fine line between that and hubris.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    you almost had me until hubris. they’re the best front office in football dude haha. the only issue i have with any of their moves is pollard. i have a feeling that in a few months they’ll look like geniuses as usual.

  • neal s

    @ Big Ben’s Motorcycle: I’m definitely not saying they won’t come out of all this looking smart, I just think they’re walking a damn fine line. No doubt they’ve shown in the past that they know what they’re doing.

  • dan the man

    neal s wrote:

    And if they let Ed Reed go? Sheesh. This Ravens offseason has been way more interesting than I thought it would be. They’ve earned the right to make tough decisions in a confident manner but there’s a fine line between that and hubris.

    I’ve been tired of Ed Reed for 2 years now. I know that’s not a popular sentiment, but the dude is 35 and simply cannot get away with freelancing anymore. He plays alright in the playoffs, but if we’re jettisoning our 17th ranked defense, we might as well jettison the final remnants of the “Baltimore Defense” and move on with our lives.

    The worst part of all this isn’t losing these highly replaceable players, it’s that the fans haven’t had time to soak in the SB win before being bummed out by “just business”, and it sucks that more of them don’t understand that this is a Good and Necessary Purging. A vast majority of these fans need to wake up and realize that the most overpaid player on the roster isn’t Joe Flacco and in fact he counts less against the cap than Ngata or Suggs, both of whom are injured far more often than Joe.

    This was going to happen in another year or two when the Ravens would have been in cap hell, so I say get a jump on it now. Rebuild what was a poor, injury-prone, and over-paid defense anyway. Be done with the Ray Lewis era and being the Joe Flacco era. Let Harbaugh and Caldwell take the reigns.

    The Ravens will be fine, I’m just not so sure about the fans.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    totally agree with that. emotionally it’s been a rough week but if there’s any organization i trust to be okay come september, it’s this one. man the seahawks and 9ers are gonna be scary. and dare i say, the dolphins?

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    once again the ravens pull a rabbit out of the hat. don’t know how they do it, they just do it. a healthy lardarius webb, jimmy smith stepping up a little bit and who knows how good the defense could be. and twelve draft picks.

  • Cpt.Peebles

    Question: What do you guys think of Teo? Signs seem to be pointing toward him being available at 32. His 40 time improved at his pro day (not sure that says much). Crazy girlfriend stuff aside, do you think he is worth the Ravens 1st rounder?

  • dan the man

    @ Cpt.Peebles:
    If I’m Ozzie, there’s probably someone else I’d rather spend my first rounder on than Teo.

    Saw this tweet regarding the signing of Huff:

    “In the past three seasons Huff has missed 18 tackles. Ed Reed missed 16 in the 2012 regular season alone.”

    Not to throw unnecessary hate towards Reed or anything, but seriously – the only guy the Ravens lost who isn’t 100% replaceable (and most times replaceable with an upgrade) is Boldin, in my opinion. Ravens D already looks better than last season once they find a LB in FA or draft.

  • Big Ben's Motorcycle

    the way things are going i figure that harbaugh will win boldin back in a game of horse with jim over the summer.

    i really think that the defense will be faster, hungrier, and 100 percent less bone-headed next year. as good as suggs has been, i feel like he’s delighted to be out of ray and ed’s shadow and with the addition of dumervil he could have another 2011 like year.

    and i hadn’t even realized how bad things have gotten in pittsburgh until i visited the post-gazette the other day. feeling good about the ravens’ chances next year for sure.

  • Cpt.Peebles

    @ dan the man:

    I think that in the end the defense will be better than it was last season. Everybody on that defense last season was replaceable. Nobody had a stellar year or really carried the defense. It will be interesting to see who steps up to take the leadership role (obviously Suggs should be one guy), but other than that their pickups have been awesome.

    The Boldin “trade” is still puzzling, but not earth shattering. He was great in the postseason, but disappeared at times during the regular season. It will be interesting to see what they do to replace him, I’m guessing they let him go so easily because they had a plan or a some idea of how to replace his production. They do need to add a receiver at some point though (I don’t trust Tandon Doss).

    This offseason has been harder on the fans than it has been on the quality of the team. Boldin, Reed, Pollard, Lewis, and even, to some degree, Ellerbe were all fan favorites. Losing all of those guys in one off season is hard for the fans. Replacing their production on the field won’t be nearly as difficult.

  • sci

    OK, transitioning to O’s, Keith Law has them at 79-83, in last place. He has Boston with 86 wins.

    Two quick facts: The O’s had the best record in baseball in August and September of last season. Their run differential for those two months extrapolated over the whole season would have been the best in baseball.

    They have even more depth this year, and we don’t have to endure Tommy Hunter in the rotation. No hitter seems set to have any sort of a dropoff. In fact, many could be set to improve. You know Hardy will be better offensively than last year. Wieters will likely improve a bit at the plate. Roberts and Casilla will give them more at 2B than they had last year. Machado will improve, maybe dramatically. Davis could still improve. Markakis, if healthy, will give his typical numbers, which will be a net improvement.

    And if any rotation member falters, we’ve got 3 or 4 guys ready to step in at AAA and AA. Gausman is close to being ready. Bundy may be up in July or so.

    In summary, I feel good.