Monday afternoon, the Ravens started the process of putting together their roster for the 2011 NFL season.
It was ugly. Blood was shed. Tenure came to an end in a couple of cases.
And the fans, as they always seem to do in these parts, went into severe over-reaction mode, wondering long and hard how the Ravens could be such bastards, severing ties with the likes of Heap, Mason, Gregg and McGahee.
Tuesday rolled around and the sun came up and the next day in the history of the Ravens commenced.
Breaking news: The Ravens will be just fine.
Here’s what I know about the football team in town — and unfortunately, I’ll need to use the baseball team for a comparison that only those who follow both franchises will comprehend.
The Ravens will be just fine for one simple reason — really good NFL players know that Baltimore’s franchise is one of the league’s best…and as long as they’re not positionally-blocked, really good NFL players will always consider the Ravens as their potential employer.
That’s what happens when you’re successful and you start each off-season trying to improve your team by adding good, quality players.
The rest of the league picks up on that.
Players talk. Agents talk. There aren’t any REAL secrets in the NFL. The Raiders organization is a s***hole. The Bengals can’t get out of their own way. The Bills stink because…well…because they stink. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the likes of the Patriots, Colts, Saints and Ravens, just to name four of the upper-class organizations in the league. Players around the league know those four teams smell of expensive wine, fine cigars and sweet perfume. To borrow a popular phrase these days — players around the league are dying to hook up with the elite franchises.
And the Ravens are an elite franchise.
That, then, is the “secret”. The Ravens know they’re a popular destination for really good players.
So, when free agency starts in earnest later this week, the Ravens are going to pick from the tree with the ripest fruit. They certainly won’t get EVERYONE they want. I’m not trying to say they will. Other teams want to win too, and they’ll do their part to woo the likes of Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards and Charles Johnson and Nnamdi Asomugha to their city. But I know this for certain. The Ravens will replace Heap, Mason, Gregg and McGahee with four players of better value. You can make book on that.
That’s what winning does for you.
It allows you to do what the Ravens did on Monday. It allows you to survey the landscape, look at your financial numbers, and say to one another in the boardroom: “You know what, with a couple of tough decisions, we can save $15 million or so and go out and really upgrade at a few positions and take that next step to beating the Steelers and the Colts when it matters.”
You can take that gamble because you’re safe with the knowledge that players — really GOOD players — want to come and be part of your family.
When you win, you’re popular.
When you lose, no one wants to come to your house.
And that’s where our beloved Birds get sewn into the fabric of this story.
The Orioles haven’t won since Clinton was President. And none of the REALLY good players in baseball give Baltimore a second thought,