For all of his greatness, Ozzie Newsome has been quite flawed when it comes to finding/acquiring significant pass-catching talent during his tenure as Ravens’ General Manager. (I hope you remembered to repeat that thing I told you at the start of the column.)
Newsome was not named Ravens GM until 2002, but he served as Vice President of Pro Personnel since franchise began play in 1996. During that span, Newsome (and staff) have accomplished the following in the area of pass-catchers…
-A likely Ring of Honor worthy ten seasons from former TE Todd Heap, albeit while surpassing 800 receiving yards in only two seasons.
-Six quality seasons (including four of 1,000 yards or more) after signing WR Derrick Mason as a free agent in 2005.
-Three solid seasons (800 yards or more) from WR Anquan Boldin after trading two draft picks to the Arizona Cardinals to acquire him in 2010.
-One solid season (939 yards) from 2005 first round pick WR Mark Clayton.
-Two 1,000 yard plus receiving seasons from WR Qadry Ismail after signing him as a free agent in 1999.
-Two 800+ yard receiving seasons from Smith after drafting him in the second round in 2011.
-Two 800+ yard receiving seasons from TE Shannon Sharpe after signing him as a free agent in 2000.
-One 800+ yard receiving season from WR Travis Taylor after selecting him with the tenth overall pick in 2000.
The only other players to have had even a single 800 yard receiving season are Derrick Alexander (two) and Michael Jackson (two), both of whom came over with the Cleveland Browns in 1996.
The legacy of pass catchers during the Newsome era of course also includes receivers like Kevin Johnson, TJ Houshmandzadeh, Kelley Washington, Demetrius Williams, Donte Stallworth, Jermaine Lewis, Eric Green, Patrick Johnson, Marcus Robinson, Frank Sanders, Floyd Turner, Darnell Dinkins, Dan Wilcox, Justin Armour, Devard Darling, Randy Hymes, Clarence Moore, Quinn Sypniewski, Terry Jones and countless others whose names we’ve fortunately forgotten all about.
For all of Newsome’s success, this area is an unquestionable flaw. His track record in this area makes it a bit difficult to simply spew the well known Charm City phrases like “next man up” or “In Ozzie We Trust”, because once upon a time trusting Ozzie lead to Lee Evans’ arrival.
(For the sake of fairness, I should point out that the organization’s run/defense mentality played some role in this. As did the list of the quarterbacks who threw to these pass-catchers until the organization made Flacco their first round choice in 2008. I should also point out that many of the game’s greatest pass catchers in the last five years (including Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Gonzalez, Andre Johnson, DeSean Jackson, Jimmy Graham, Roddy White, Rob Gronkowski, Dez Bryant, Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall, AJ Green, Percy Harvin, Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones and more) have never won a Super Bowl.)
My lack of confidence in the organization’s identification of pass catching talent was part of the reason I was so turned off by the idea of letting Boldin go-even if his $6 million price tag didn’t sit well with Newsome. Trading him to San Francisco felt silly at the time, it feels plain awful now.
The Ravens may still have more moves to make before then open the season in Denver against the Broncos September 5. It’s just hard to feel comfortable about the group responsible for making up what the team will miss without Pitta.
I’d love to tell you I simply trust Ozzie Newsome here. I almost always do. This is just the one area where the track record suggests otherwise.