The Ravens signed Donte Stallworth today to a 1 year, $900k deal, with up to $300k more in incentives possible.
Of course, it is not possible to write about Donte Stallworth without first talking about what has transpired with him off the field. As most NFL fans know, Dante Stallworth plead guilty to DUI manslaughter, in result of a crash on March 14, 2009, that killed construction worker Mario Reyes. Stallworth was suspended without pay for the 2009 season, and was subsequently released by the Cleveland Browns.
Stallworth went on to reach a financial settlement. Of the terms of the agreement, he was to serve a 30 day jail sentence, which he served. After his release, Stallworth was to be on house arrest for 2 years, and probation for 8 years.
The first part of this piece is all about off the field issues. Obviously, that is one of the negatives of this signing. Distractions. Non-football talk. That is not something that John Harbaugh cares for very much, and unfortunately, he and the rest of the organization are going to have the face the questions.
At the State of the Ravens address, Steve Bisciotti maintained that he was open to taking risks; that he was open to giving players second chances. He commented that if a team was looking to trade a Randy Moss for a 4th round pick, that he would be first in line looking to acquire that player. The signing of Stallworth is similar. The organization takes on added baggage, while acquiring the player for less than the talent normally would go for.
Stallworth is not Randy Moss, but $900k is also not a 4th round pick. Steve Bisciotti took a risk, and he should be commended for that.
My opinion as to whether this is a good move or a bad move, is that it could go either way. Now, most people will say, of course it could go either way. He could be very productive and go to the Pro-Bowl, or could be 2 steps slow, with more DUI’s in his future.
However, that is not the criteria that I am going to use when judging this move. I am not going to use hindsight, after seeing what Stallworth does in a Ravens uniform. It will be very clear how good of a move this will be, before the Ravens arrive in Westminster for camp. The key? Where the front office goes from here.
Joe Flacco needs a true, #1 WR to grow with. I have said it before and I will say it again. You cannot ask Flacco to go into his 38th start, as the most important player in the next 15 years of the franchise, without ever having a target better than Derrick Mason. He needs a target that he can trust; one that does not require him to fit the ball into the smallest of windows in order to complete the pass.
He needs a Brandon Marshall, a Vincent Jackson, a Malcolm Floyd; a big #1 target that he can grow with.
That has not been Donte Stallworth, and that is not going to be Donte Stallworth.
Ozzie Newsome has acknowledged that he needs to get Joe Flacco a #1 target on the outside. If he goes on to do that, then this acquisition is a very good one. If he doesn’t, and touts Stallworth as that guy, then it is a very bad move.
My thinking is that this will turn out to be a good move, because I feel they will do more. I feel that this signing fits into the right player, right price philosophy. Here is a low risk, high reward signing, as far as resources spent, and talent possibly gained. Stallworth represents another solid WR in case Derrick Mason retires, and adds much needed depth in the WR department, even if Mason does return.
The Ravens want Mason back, and he is expected back. With the signing of Stallworth, and the return of Mason, the Ravens can break camp with, potentially, 3 good WR’s in a new #1, Mason, and Stallworth. Then they can bring Clayton, Williams, or Washington back as the #4, or draft a receiver later in the draft, and groom him in the #4 slot.
I believe that this is the thinking of the front office. I do not believe they signed Stallworth to be “the guy.”
Stallworth will get $1.2 million, at the most, from this deal. Ozzie and the organization has acknowledged that they need that big playmaker. They are not so financially or cap strapped, to the point of having to settle for Stallworth as that #1 guy.
Football logic tells us that this was a move that the front office thought made sense. It fit. It was a risk worth taking.
Football logic tells us that this should absolutely, 100% not change anything the Ravens were planning to do as far as obtaining a true #1 WR.
There will be much talk about this move throughout the day and the coming weeks. Fans will wonder, is this our target? Is this the coup that we have been asking for throughout the past years?
If it is, then the front office deserves criticism, for going into another year of possible contention, with a young and growing QB, without a true #1 target.
If the Stallworth signing represents the scenario and thinking that I have laid out, as in added depth, and right player right price, then the organization, from Bisciotti on down to Harbaugh, deserves credit; credit for taking a risk, making perhaps an unpopular move, and getting as much talent in the organization as possible.
Which course will they take? Ravens fans will find out that answer as we move towards the draft and training camp.
That answer, will be the answer to the question: Was signing Dante Stallworth a good move or a bad move for the Ravens?