Words: Kyle Simpson, Ravens Correspondent
Free Agency has taken its first two players from the Ravens in Danelle Ellerbe and Paul Kruger. Ellerbe will be a linebacker in Miami for the next five years (at $35 million) and Kruger will be a defensive end in Cleveland also for the next five years (at $41 million).
I personally expected Kruger to go. Kruger going to Cleveland was probably the worst kept secret in the NFL going into yesterday and the Ravens were prepared to lose him after drafting Courtney Upshaw last year. Ellerbe was a bigger surprise considering the only news that anybody had heard was that he and the Ravens had not reached a deal by 4 PM; then later that night, news that he had signed with Miami came across the wire.
That was two days ago. Yesterday brought a whole new shock. Safety Bernard Pollard was released early yesterday morning. So what could the story possibly be behind this move? You could say that Pollard was a liability on the field with numerous personal fouls for high hits, but his ability on the field more than made up for that. Pollard was also behind a “mutiny” in October after the Ravens got trounced by Houston. He had two years left on his contract with the Ravens which points to Ozzie weighing his options with current talent with future cap situations and his bold new vision of where he want the team to be in the next four years.
The cap numbers next year for key players are absurd. Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Joe Flacco all break the $10 million mark and Ray Rice is supposed to get $9 million.
Before you say, “Kyle, you are just talking nonsense,” hear me out. When the Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001, they spent a lot of effort and money on reworking contracts of current veterans to keep the Super Bowl winning team together. While that might seem logical on paper, that idea put the Ravens in an awful cap situation that forced a mass purge of players in 2002. The sad reality is that Kruger and Ellerbe were going to go. Boldin was going to go. Let me repeat that: Boldin was going to go, no matter if Joe Flacco’s cap hit was $6 million or $8 million (so please stop blaming Flacco).
Ozzie Newsome is aiming for one thing, and one thing only: the long-term prosperity of the Baltimore Ravens. If that means that the Boldins and Todd Heaps and the Derrick Masons of the world have to get cut to keep that vision alive: so be it! I want a WINNING team for a long time, and not a back-to-back team that eventually has to get rid of all of its talent because the salary cap is rearing its ugly head and then the team is stuck rebuilding for the next three years. Both he and Bisciotti both said they would not let that happen again.
That was part one of the reality check, here’s part two: Ozzie Newsome is not done yet. Veteran Ed Reed is meeting with the Houston Texans today. If he walks out with an offer the Ravens do not want to match, so long Ed Reed. Happy trails, unless he is willing to finish his career in the same city it started for less money. Ozzie knows what he feels Reed is worth (Reed was also connected with the munity that Pollard was a part of). I would also expect Vonta Leech to be let go in the coming days.
What Ozzie knows and what fans need to remember is that football is a business. Teams do not have the luxury to get so emotionally attached to their players that they will endanger the long-term goal of the team to succeed so they can keep the Ed Reeds of the world. Of course: I could be completely wrong. Ed Reed could value career monogamy over the cash raise like Ray Lewis did (the both hired the same agent for the same kind of negotiation). And I kind of hope I am. But in case I am right: be prepared.
Buckle up; we are on Ozzie’s magic carpet ride now, and he is going onto a brave new world.