With news that Derrick Mason is set to join Rex Ryan in New York City, I can’t help but wonder how the current Ravens who are lucky enough to still be employed in Owings Mills feel about what has been somewhat of a mass exodus out of Baltimore for several talented players.
Mason, for better or worse, has been the leader on offense the past three seasons. He’s been that veteran guy; the last player out of the tunnel when the offense was introduced at M&T Bank Stadium. As all fans in Baltimore have come to realize, Mason really was Joe Flacco’s “security blanket” throughout Joe’s first three seasons in purple and black.
Mason is gone. Ten year Raven Todd Heap is gone. As is Kelly Gregg, a very popular player in the Ravens locker room during the past decade. Willis McGahee and Le’Ron McClain, who have both played key roles as part of the running game, have also departed Baltimore.
Josh Wilson, a cornerback who stood out as perhaps the Ravens’ best corner last season, moved down I-95 to Washington, as did Donte Stallworth. Veteran receiver T.J. Houshamndzadeh is also not expected to return.
While some of the aforementioned players, specifically Stallworth, Houshmandzadeh, and McGahee in recent years, were not utilized to their full potential in Baltimore, that is still a boatload of more than capable talent that will be taking their talents elsewhere in 2011.
The Eagles are assembling a “Dream Team” to the north. A little further up the highway, Rex Ryan is busy putting together what he believes is his best Jets team yet. Bill Belichick is at it again, bringing in castoffs from other cities who you just know are going to produce and fall into place up in New England.
The Steelers, until proven otherwise, are still the team to beat in the AFC. They are consistently good year in and year out, and clearly have had the Ravens’ number of late.
Are the signings of Bernard Pollard, Vonta Leach, and the re-signings of Marshal Yanda and Chris Carr enough for the current Ravens to feel good about what they’ve accomplished thus far?
A Malcom Floyd addition would certainly help, as it could be argued that Floyd is a better fit on this current Ravens team than Burress, Mason, or Chad Ochocinco.
But the Ravens, a team that many felt were primed for a Super Bowl run in 2011, have taken a backseat this offseason when compared to many of the other teams that Baltimore will be competing with for a Super Bowl come December and January.
Part of me can’t help but think the Ravens missed the boat last season. As I’ve watched the Ravens practice this past week, while acknowledging that the team has not yet been fully assembled, I just do not see anywhere close to the talent that was here last season.
Part of that falls on Cam Cameron for not taking advantage of two receivers in Stallworth and Houshmandzadeh who had been very good receivers throughout their respective careers. Guys like McClain and McGahee were also obviously under-utlilized at different points. Those situations covered up some of the talent that was on the team last season.
Talent-wise, this Ravens team is not as good as it was last year, and even if Malcom Floyd does find his way to Owings Mills within the next few days, I still do not see anyway that the 2011 version of the Baltimore Ravens will be better, on paper, than the 2010 Ravens.
The good thing is that championships aren’t won on paper, and the Ravens have what many consider to be a top coaching staff and organization in place to guide this group of players on the right path. The veteran nucleus, even with Heap and Mason gone, is still in place.
But with all of these other teams making good, splashy moves, will the current players start to envy the situations that are unfolding up in New England, New York, and to a lesser extent Philadelphia?
Super Bowl contenders usually get better from the end of the previous season to the beginning of the next season. I don’t believe the Ravens have done that.
That’s not their fault. The reason they had so much talent is because Steve Bisciotti invested above and beyond what was expected in order to fully go for it in 2010. You can’t fault him or anyone in the organization for that.
But again, the realty of the situation is that other teams are getting better while the Ravens have seemingly gotten worse. And that notion hurts even more today as a man who Ravens fans called one of their own is joining up with the enemy in Rex Ryan and the Jets.
We’re all glad football is back, but I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy about the Ravens right now. And I have to believe that feeling, at least to an extent, is also circulating around the locker-room at One Winning Drive.