I’m not sure what you think about Flacco, but I can tell you what the Ravens think about him: They love him. They really believe he’s on the verge of several years of elite play and I’m sure they’ll prove that to him sometime before the season kicks off.
So, Rice and Grubbs are the two you have to consider next, and I’d ask you to go back and do that exercise I wrote a few lines up. Without Rice, Grubbs might not be the left guard of one of the league’s best rushing offenses because the Rice replacement might not hit the hole as cleanly and expertly as Rice. And without Grubbs, those holes might shrink up for Rice.
Get them both signed. The Ravens need Ray Rice and they need Ben Grubbs.
I wouldn’t throw caution to the wind and say “pay ’em whatever it takes”, because I think both of them are certainly replaceable if somehow, someway, they both got away this off-season. And if you’re the Ravens, just because playing hardball is usually the only way the teams avoid getting hammered over every single contract, you play hardball with both Rice and Grubbs because the truth of the matter is you really can’t afford both of them once you get Flacco done…unless you’re willing to take that gamble that great teams and executives take when the rubber meets the road and ceremony and loyalty meet reality and change. When you’re faced with a decision on a player, you need only ask yourself two questions: 1. Is there any chance last season was his last hurrah? 2. If it wasn’t, could this season be his last hurrah?
If you answered “yes” to both of those questions – which, frankly, I think you could say “yes” to Ed Reed – then it’s probably time to move him along…if you’re pressed.
I’m not saying to cut Ed Reed just to cut him. Lord, no. He can still play in the NFL. But is he a $7.2 million player on reputation and a $4 million player on the field? And if keeping Reed in 2012 meant that either Rice, Grubbs or Flacco had to go, I think it would be silly to keep #20 at the expense of losing one of those three. It also wouldn’t shock me if Reed starts posturing for another year or two added on to the final year of his contract, which comes up this season. I’m sure it would be easier to get more of “Happy Ed” if the Ravens threw another $10 million or so at him for ’13 and ’14. And, honestly, I wouldn’t even fault the Ravens for at least promising him a contract “discussion” at the end of next season if he’s healthy and produces at a high level in 2012. But to “pre-sign” him for ’13 and ’14 now, just to give him “reason to play” in ’12? I hope the Ravens aren’t that gullible. But I suspect Reed will likely try and pull off something like that between now and the start of training camp.
It’s a complicated system in the NFL these days because teams can now start carrying over certain portions of money (on the cap) from year to year and with the reduced college draft pick salaries, more and more money can be used in bonuses and up front cash to woo players as free agents or reward your own with a big contract.
I’m not emphatically stating — cut Ed Reed.
But I am saying this: If somehow or another it came down to a concept as simple as — “you can keep Grubbs, Rice and Flacco and make them all happy this off-season by adding Reed to the chopping block” (joining the likes Foxworth and Evans), I’d have to say chop away.
If the Ravens work some summer magic and it winds up they can keep Reed and still add those three in the off-season, I’ll be even happier.
It would hurt to see Ed Reed play a season or two of football for the Bears or the Buccaneers or the Redskins, so I’m hoping he finishes up in Baltimore.
But in this day and age, sometimes a guy has to be (professionally) sacrificed to maintain the momentum the consistency that growing, young players bring.
I say re-sign Rice and Grubbs and make Joe Flacco happy and let’s add a big, tall wide receiver or two and get to New Orleans for Super Bowl 47.
I hope Ed Reed is part of that.
But if I had to part company with him to get there, that’s what I’d do.