Ozzie Newsome Has Resume to Be Successful in Brief Offseason

Steve O Speak

By Guest Blogger Alanzlot:

Since the NFL players association voted to approve the new collective bargaining agreement on Monday, ending the NFL’s 136-day lockout, it is a fair assessment to say that the Baltimore Ravens have made a lot of headlines with their roster moves.

Realizing that they were $1 million over the $120 million salary cap, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome and the rest of Baltimore’s front office started the brief off-season by cutting four important veterans.

Fan favorite and long time nose tackle Kelly Gregg along with running back Willis McGahee became the first victims of the Ravens salary cap slash. Baltimore followed up a few hours later by cutting the top two pass catchers in team history, tight end Todd Heap and wide out Derrick Mason.

Not all of the news has been bad for Ravens fans as yesterday they re-signed one of their own. A player thatPeter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC ranked as the second best free agent lineman available behind Matt Light of the New England Patriots.

The second-richest deal ever given to a Ravens offensive lineman, behind future Hall Of Famer Jonathan Ogden’s contracts, belongs to the versatile guard/tackle from Iowa, Marshall Yanda.

Marshall Yanda

According to SI.com and the Baltimore Sun, Yanda agreed to five-year, $32 million deal that includes $10 million signing bonus. He will receive $21 million in first three seasons. Yanda started all 16 games last season at right tackle after Jared Gaither missed the entire season with a back injury.

The Yanda signing is cause for celebration as the Washington Redskins were expected to back up an armored car for him. Daniel Snyder and Mike Shanahan obviously like the Ravens roster of 2010 as they have reportedly signed cornerback Josh Wilson and wide receiver Donte Stallworth

The Ravens possess one of the front offices that analysts and pundits said would have an advantage headed into the brief off-season.

I do not ever remember thinking or saying to myself over the last ten plus seasons, “what were they thinking” during the Newsome/Modell/Biscotti era. The Ravens have always been on top of the situation and they will continue to be.

The Baltimore Ravens will be a Super Bowl caliber team when they take the field on September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baltimore’s front office is as experienced as they come and Monday is a great example of that.They can say all they want about how hard it was to cut Heap, Mason, Gregg, and McGahee but the fact remains that nobody at the lavish Owings Mills, Maryland training complex known as “The Castle” blinked an eye in doing so.

Sure, the Ravens will try to re-sign all of them but McGahee to cheaper deals but do not be surprised if only Heap returns. There are simply too many other options available and many of them are better than a 37-year-old wide receiver and an injury prone 12-year veteran nose tackle.

As a Ravens fan I loved watching Mason and Gregg but as we are reminded by the players and front offices around the league during every off season, this is a business first and because we have been reminded so frequently, the moves to cut the fan favorites stung at first but I’m over it.

I was happier about the Yanda signing than I was upset over the cuts and it’s not just because the NFL has programmed their fans to be this way with this is a business first mentality. I have faith in the Ravens front office and you should too.

I am anxious for the next move. I am signed up for Ravens texts alerts and anxiously await the next beep on my phone to see whom the purple and black have signed or cut. My previous channel button on my remote thinks it is September already as I am constantly jumping back and forth between ESPN and the NFL Network.

There will be low points like former Terrapin Josh Wilson agreeing to play about 45 minutes down I-95 for about $4.5 million to $5 million per season. However you must say to yourself, ” big deal and good luck Josh Wilson”. The Ravens have Ozzie Newsome and the Redskins charge $20 to watch training camp.

The Ravens will replace Wilson and any other player that eludes or leaves them. History says they will. However, to expect the Ravens to sign the top free agent on the market, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha would be foolish.

The reason is because a good front office like the Ravens knows that by being close to the salary cap, one player could severely limit their ability to continue to fill in pieces of a Super Bowl puzzle that they are very close to completing. Even if that player fills a need it is important to remember it is just one need, no matter how big.

The Ravens front office knows that Asomugha money could sign two quality DB’s or one DB and a good O-lineman. The Ravens will sign a few free agents and possibly one big name but it will not be Asomugha.

I do believe the Ravens need to focus on bringing back Dwan Landry and Chris Carr but if they cannot, then Newsome and company will find a way to replace them. The Ravens will also count on their philosophy of next man up.

Many fans in Baltimore clamor to have what their hated rivals; the Pittsburgh Steelers have in terms of championship hardware. For years now, the Steelers have allowed players to go via free agency and have been fine in the process. They always find the next man.

In fact, one of those players, James Harrison, was on the Ravens roster after failing as a Steeler in his first attempt. Although Harrison struggled mightily during the early stages of his career, the Steelers needed him to be the next man when Clark Haggans was injured in an offseason weightlifting accident and the rest, including his 99 yard INT return of a Kurt Warner pass in Super Bowl 43, is history.

The Ravens will still be a Super contender headed into the season with or without Heap and Mason. You must simply have faith that Ozzie and company will do the right thing. Newsome and his staff have earned your trust with their years of success.

The Ravens have on many occasions been one of the highest rated teams following the NFL draft and on just as many occasions have been considered one of the top winners during the off-season in free agency.

Shannon Sharpe

Remember last year when they inked Anquan Boldin, or the year they signed Steve McNair and you can even go all the way back to Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe. Newsome will find a way, he always does.

The players believe in their front office but they also know what is expected of them. They believe in the principals and philosophy surrounding Ravens football.

Speaking to reporters the Baltimore Sun quoted Ravens running back Ray Rice when he was asked about the veteran cuts,”Going into my fourth year, when you take away certain guys like that — all your leaders— it’s always ‘next man up,”. I think my time is now when I can become one of the vocal leaders on this team and this offense.

“The young rookies are going to miss that [veteran] leadership, but we do have a guy like Anquan Boldin, who has been at the Super Bowl and played in one, and we still do got that guy like Ray Lewis on the defense and Ed Reed and those kind of guys who are going to mold this team together. But me, Michael Oher, Joe Flacco…there’s going to be a lot of, you know, not pressure, but a lot of leadership responsibilities put on us.”

This is good news that the next man up philosophy is coming from the mouth of Rice. Believe me; many teams around the league would love to have a young player like Rice talking this way after the cuts that were made on Monday.

This week is unprecedented in terms of the NFL off seasons. At no other time in NFL history, has five and a half months of off-season activities been conducted in just 10 days. General Managers cannot call retired GM’s for advice because there is none to give.

The Ravens have a plan and the fans in Baltimore must simply have faith that Ozzie Newsome and his staff have one of the better plans in the league.

I would not be doing my job if I did not inform you that there will still be plenty of lows in the next few days, as players slip away and free agents sign elsewhere. However, there will be highs and because of Newsome and his staff those highs will ultimately outweigh any low, as the Baltimore Ravens head into the 2011 season after another successful, albeit brief, off-season.



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