And I certainly don’t blame the Ravens for not trying to overbid for Ellerbe or Kruger. I use the word “decent” when describing them for a reason. That’s what they are, frankly. They’re good, decent football players. Nothing more than that. Both of them were slow starters in Baltimore because they initially weren’t able to grasp the NFL playbook in the same quick fashion that others before them did. As their media guide bio reveals, it took both players a couple of years to break into the starting team and then, the only reason they did was because of departures by others (Jarret Johnson in Kruger’s case) or injuries to starters who were ahead of them on the depth chart (Ray Lewis for Ellerbe).
To suggest that Kruger and Ellerbe were ultra-important to the Ravens moving forward is just plain wrong. They will be replaced, quite easily I assume, either through the current Baltimore roster, free agency or the upcoming NFL draft. I’m not saying those two were duds — they both played a key role for the Ravens last season. But they aren’t Pro Bowl caliber players.
The panic that set in following the departure of those two was side-splitting funny. It was as if Ozzie Newsome was literally tearing down the team just for the hell of it.
“Well, looks like we’re going 4-12 next season,” someone wrote to me about a half-hour after Ellerbe signed in Miami.
“We already have the 5th toughest schedule in the league in 2013, now we’re going to have play those teams with no good players on defense,” said a fan on Twitter.
“Can’t believe we’re having this fire sale,” was authored by another expert.
Hilarious. No team has drafted a player yet. A lot of teams haven’t signed a quality free agent yet. No one’s key player has been injured in training camp yet. But, somehow, the Ravens are already doomed because they play the 5th toughest schedule in the league next season. Two players leave via free agency and one player who refused to take a pay cut gets sent to an NFL West team and, suddenly, it’s a “fire sale”.
Give me another minute or so to explain some more logic, please.
When you win, which the Ravens have done with great regularity, it sets up a process that makes the NFL “supposedly” fair, by allowing teams with worse records to draft higher the following season. This is how scrub teams like the Browns and Dolphins, for example, are reasonably expected to get better. It also means, with perennial winners like Baltimore, that clubs who pick in the lower end of the draft should reasonably expect to have a down year or two because they’re getting the short end of the stick.
Except something weird has happened over the last decade. Baltimore, Indianapolis, New England, Pittsburgh — they’ve all been fairly consistent winners and playoff participants. In fact, those four teams have all won multiple Super Bowls since 2000 with the exception of the Colts, who went twice and won once. The Dolphins and Browns have basically stunk for the last decade. So have the Jaguars. And the Bills have been woeful, too.
Would you trust that the Dolphins and Browns made the right moves yesterday by signing Kruger and Ellerbe? With all due respect to those two players, they’re both going to the NFL’s version of the great abyss. We might not see much of them again.
The Ravens, meanwhile, have this annual spring house cleaning and never seem to fare any worse the following season. Isn’t that strange? Remember these players, won’t you? Mason, McGahee, Gregg, Heap, Redding, Johnson, Nakamura, Zbikowski. They were all March departures in various forms over the last few years and somehow life went on in Baltimore.
When Bart Scott left for the Jets, panic set in. How about the great Jim Leonhard? Remember him? He was a fan favorite for some weird reason, even though he was barely a good player. ”Holy cow, how can we let Jim Leonhard go?” folks cried. Yeah, boy, we never recovered from that departure, did we?
(Please see next page)