After the NFL lockout ended on July 25, Ravens executives were forced to make their roster a bit cheaper. If they could get younger and faster at the same time, all the better.
The team had aging and expensive veterans and needed to free up roster spaces and funds for free agents and draftees alike. These decisions led to much anguish among Ravens fans when players like Todd Heap and Derrick Mason were shown the door.
Ozzie Newsome, one of the greatest GM’s off all time, had people doubting him.
Fast forward 11 weeks and the Ravens are in 1st place in the AFC North with a 3-1 record. Dubbed an early contender for the AFC Championship, the Ravens have already dominated both participants in last years AFC Championship, the Steelers and Jets.
Every major player let go by the Ravens are either still free agents, playing on teams with losing records, or were overpaid by the Washington Redskins.
If Ozzie Newsome resigned Le’Ron McClain, would we still be subject to #MCClain4RB campaigns when we already have a top tier rusher in this league? Would Willis McGahee have John Harbaugh or Cam Cameron on his bad side with the way he was utilized in the team’s offense?
And finally, you could be nearly certain Derrick Mason would have expressed the same distaste with the Ravens inconsistent offense as he has with the Jets. At least Rex stepped up and put his “foot” down with displeasure, basically benching Mason against the Patriots amidst rumors of bellyaching by he and the other receivers.
These problems are now someone else’s, because Ozzie Newsome is smarter than all of us and the team is proving that.
Let’s look at some of our biggest areas for concern heading into this season:
Ed Dickson brings the exact same qualities to the Ravens as Todd Heap did when he was drafted 11 years ago. In the beginning of his career, Heap’s playing style mirrored that of a wide receiver with tight end size and Dickson looks quite similar.
Dickson’s speed and athleticism makes him a threat over the middle and has made him a great new check down target for Joe Flacco. Dickson has outperformed Heap this season as well playing in one less game but having one more catch, thirty yards and a touchdown more than his predecessor has with his new team in Arizona.
Throw in Dennis Pitta, who has shown the ability to work underneath and to be effective on tight end screens, and the Ravens look to be set at tight end for the foreseeable future.
It was clear that Willis McGahee wouldn’t be coming back to Baltimore with his hefty price tag. Without McGahee stealing goal line carries from Rice, you would have to assume Rice is now happier knowing that he’ll have more touchdown opportunities. McGahee totaled 17 touchdowns in his past two seasons in Baltimore (as a backup), which had to have bothered Rice. He’ll never admit it, but he had to be frustrated by doing all the work on drives, just to see Willis end up as the one dancing in the end zone.
The biggest addition made in free agency by Ozzie was landing Vonta Leach, coming off a Pro Bowl season for the Texans. The Leach signing impacted the Ravens in multiple ways. First, everyone knew they were going to give Ray Rice the ball and with Leach blocking, the quickest way to the end zone is straight through a defender.
The signing of Leach also meant the distraction of a fullback who would openly rather be a running back was no longer welcomed in Baltimore.
Anyone who has been to Westminster for training camp knows Derrick Mason loves to run his mouth. Apparently, Mason’s mouth has found him on the way to the bench in New York. A struggling receiving corp full of rookies makes it hard to think the team is happy to not have Mason, but like Le’Ron McClain, the team is definitely better off without his distractions.
The jury is still out on Lee Evans, who came over in a trade from Buffalo for a 4th-round draft pick. At the time the trade looked like Ozzie stole Evans from the Bills. This season, Evans has been plagued with injuries and only has two catches in two games. Evans should return this week versus Houston and hopefully he will finally start to prove his worth to the Ravens.
Over the last 15 years, Ravens fans have been spoiled with great “home grown” players from the draft and a competitive product out on the field for most seasons. All of that is attributed to Ozzie Newsome and his unique method of player evaluation, as well as his ability to, time and again, make the correct difficult decisions.
Newsome is the reason this franchise has won 10 playoff games since 2000. Newsome is the reason the Ravens have only missed the playoffs four times since they won Super Bowl XXXV. Every single Ravens fan needs to realize this – Ozzie Newsome is smarter than you. Until Ozzie proves the Ravens faithful otherwise, he should not be criticized for his personnel decisions. I personally will never doubt him again.
In Ozzie we trust!