Newsome’s once stunning draft record is suddenly, at the very least, questionable. His propensity to hit on picks in the early and late rounds of draft after draft has seemingly betrayed him in recent years. Devoid of the top of the 1st round picks on which he once upon a time built that legacy; Newsome has instead defaulted to draft day cuteness. The Ravens have been alarmingly willing to trade out of the first round to acquire more picks but have been less and less adept at putting those picks to use in finding diamonds in the rough.
Moreover, as everyone in Ravens-land seems to believe that his is a team that is changing its balance of power from defense to offense, the actions of the front office don’t seem to suggest it. Throughout the Harbaugh/Flacco era, the Ravens have routinely turned over 40% of their offensive line on a yearly basis. Aside from a trade for a past his prime Anquan Boldin there has been little done to address the revolving door of limited receiving talent at hand and of course the quarterback’s contract situation remains up in the air.
The Ravens made a substantial financial commitment to Ray Rice this past off-season, and have a very highly paid fullback to clear lanes for him. That’s an offensive approach that not only suggests that the Ravens aren’t yet ready to commit to begin a high powered offense, but also one that stands in stark contrast to what successful NFL teams are doing to build their offenses these days.
This year the Ravens are paying roughly $37.25 million (in cap numbers) to Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. That’s nearly 1/3 of their total cap for players that aren’t contributing nearly as much on the field as those numbers would suggest they should. Meanwhile they’re paying $8 million to Joe Flacco, $8.2 million to the entire offensive line protecting him, $9.3 million to the offensive backfield (Rice and Leach) and $10.5 million to the receiving corps (Boldin, Smith, Jones and Pitta). That’s 12 players making up essentially your entire starting offense for approximately $36 million or just under what you’re paying to 4 underperforming superstars on the defense.
The Ravens have allowed, as a result of their use of the franchise tag in locking up former stars, a lot of young talent (particularly on the offensive line) to get away, yet seem intent on selling the notion that his is a team shifting their focus to the offensive side of the ball and setting their quarterback up for long-term success. Setting him up is more like it. Given these circumstances the fact that Flacco has remained, thus far, injury free is all the more amazing.
If rumblings that defensive players at least contributed to the mutinous atmosphere that ultimately saw Cameron fired are true, it’s time for those guys to put their money where there mouths are, or more aptly to live up to the money that the Ravens are spending on that side of the ball. If high risk and high reward offense didn’t mesh with their style of play, then they had better be prepared to continue defending narrow leads for the remainder of the season as the offense looks to become more and more intentionally lethargic, methodical and time consuming.
If Steve Bisciotti in some way forced the hand of John Harbaugh, a seemingly safe guess, it’ll be the second time that he’s apparently allowed the fans and the players in the locker room to dictate major changes of management personnel. The last time it happened he stumbled into John Harbaugh and the rest is history. If this time works out even nearly as well we can all be more than thankful, but no matter what happens moving forward with the offense a potentially dangerous precedent could be being established. If a team can so easily cast it’s leaders onto the proverbial sword and mandate changes when things aren’t to their liking and where accountability should be called for instead, expect them to get comfortable in that realization and further or additional uprisings to follow if things aren’t straightened out in a hurry.