Monday, March 24, 2014

When you wish upon a star...

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you... free agency

Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I don't want to do it!!!  I don't want to talk about free agency!!!

I wasn't going to say anything about the free agency period.  People want to hear nice things about their team's decisions, and maintain a sense of optimism.  I'm not very good at the optimism thing.  Out of some basic awareness of the possibility that I might be an assh*le, I thought I should just keep my grim thoughts to myself...but it's just so hard sometimes (that's what she said).

I really don't care that the Ravens resigned Eugene Monroe, despite the fact that I have repeatedly ranted about how I suspect Monroe is probably mediocre.  It was a predictable move, and I had already braced myself for this inevitability.  The only interesting aspect of this, from my perspective, was that they could have signed Jared Veldheer for slightly less money.  Not everybody is sold on Veldheer to the degree that I probably am, so I guess the benefits of this alternative outcome would be debatable.

Now, even if we ignore the Veldheer option, does it strike anyone as interesting that Monroe only pulled a contract that will pay him $7.5 million per year (couch cushion money)?  Seems to me that there wasn't really that much demand for him, though some will spin this in a more positive manner.  Team loyalty!  Ozzie is a genius!  He wants to play for a winner!  Blah, blah, blah...whatever.  What if the team just felt compelled to show that they really got something out of the two draft picks they traded away to acquire Monroe, rather than viewing that as a sunk cost, and moving on?  People frequently have a difficult time backing away from investments that don't pay off to the degree that they had hoped they would (Hello, Iraq!).  On the other hand, if the team had pursued Veldheer, it most likely would have cost them a mid round compensatory pick in 2015, that they would likely receive for the loss of DT Arthur Jones.  If there is one thing that the Ravens do well, it is to acquire compensatory picks, which is why they rarely target young, expensive free agents, which would count against them in the compensatory pick calculations.  After all, those compensatory picks are quickly becoming the bulk of their picks, since they seem increasingly eager in recent years to trade away draft picks to fill holes at positions they are perpetually incapable of drafting well. 

Umm, but I'm not annoyed by the Monroe signing at all.  Nope.  Not at all.  He's serviceable, even if I do think he is a bit overpaid.

No, it wasn't the signing of WR Steve Smith that stirred me to rant like a loon.  After all, how can you not like Steve Smith?  He's been an excellent receiver, who has had a great career.  Now, he may be a 5'9", 35 year old receiver (at the start of the 2014 season), who will probably stunt the development of any young receivers on the Ravens roster, as they will now get less playing time, but...umm...sure he still probably has something left in the tank.  Actually, the possibility of stunting a young receiver's development would only be a problem if we believed that the Ravens had accidentally drafted one with talent, which is improbable considering the team's history.  In the end it is probably a good thing for the Ravens to sign Smith, which is basically a public acknowledgement of the fact that they can't draft anyone to play the position.

No, that wasn't what annoyed me, because as these things go, Steve Smith is rather cheap, and probably a fairly harmless acquisition.

No, the thing that really annoyed me was the one acquisition that I probably think was their smartest move.  That would be the acquisition of Jeremy Zuttah from the Buccaneers.  Yes, I think Zuttah is probably a fairly decent player.  The computer even backs me up on this hunch, as his -0.405 Kangaroo Score and 0.837 Agility Score, with a short shuttle time of 4.54 seconds, places him comfortably within the range of what I expect to see from a successful center prospect (though I am a bit wary of him as a guard).  So, why is this making me so crazy?  I should be happy about this, shouldn't I?

The reason it annoys me is because, once again, the Ravens are trading away draft picks to address "needs".  Sure, people will say that it is only a 5th round pick in 2015, but that's not the point.  In this past year alone, the team has already traded away 3 draft picks for offensive linemen, with this being the 4th.  At what point did the Ravens decide that throwing these sort of band-aids on a situation made more sense than trying to find cheap young talent in the draft?  

Now, I'm sure that some people will say that replacing Gradkowski at center was a priority, and I would offer no defense to Gino.  He sucked.  I still doubt that they will cut him, which is perhaps the funniest aspect of all of this, because that would be too much of an admission of failure on the team's part.  He will probably stay on the team, tying up a roster spot, until his rookie contract is up.  Continuing to occupy that roster spot means that the team won't be giving someone else a chance to come in and compete.  That just means you need to make even better decisions in the future with your draft picks, in order to compensate for the dead weight you are carrying.

Of course, if Zuttah ends up performing at a reasonable level (which I suspect he will), nobody will care.  People often seem to take the attitude that whenever they manage to identify who the worst player is, that upgrading that position is then such a priority that common sense can be ignored.  You say that you have to have a big name QB to get to the Super Bowl?  Okay, blow $20 million on that, and see if that works.  Oh, but you say that you now need a top tier left tackle to protect him, or you QB isn't worth much?  Throw down another $10 million.  Wait!  Now, they are just blitzing us up the middle, and our center sucks!  WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT!  Wait a minute.  Now our offense is really clicking, but our defense is giving up so many points that we are still losing games.  What should we do?

Look, no matter what you do, every team is going to have its weak spots.  A smart team figures out how to work around this, and conceal these weaknesses.  Now, would I have been content to stick with Gradkowski?  No, but I already drafted a center last year in anticipation of Gradkowski's seemingly inevitable failure.  Maybe that pick will eventually work out, maybe it won't.  Either way, there will be other options in this year's draft as well.  Finding somebody who could at least be a serviceable replacement should have been quite manageable, since there was no direction to go but up.  Even a mediocre center would have been fine.  A competent or average player is a surprisingly underrated commodity.

All I know is that continuing to pursue these kinds of acquisitions will generally end up hurting you down the road.  I just feel as if many of the moves that the Ravens have made in recent years have had the faint aroma of panic and desperation about them.  It's a scent I normally associate with the Jets.  Then again, victory supposedly smells like "napalm in the morning", so knowing which direction your franchise is headed could be tricky.


  1. You do realize these guys are most likely going to be way more talented than those picks ever would've been Quality lineman usually don;'t come out of nowhere in the draft..... I mean c'mon zuttah is cheap,expierenced,a decent blocker. That's an insane upgrade over Gino"I can't block a sandbag"Gradkowski. Gino sucks zuttah is decent..... Upgrade and for a 5th round pick why NOT? He's better than any center you've pointed out in this draft.,..... at the very worst he's a slight upgrade over gradkowski..... or he tears his ACl. Whatever he's an upgrade sure we lost a 5th round pick but we'll get comepnsatory selections..... (most likely a 4th rounder will replace the 5th round pick)

    1. They may end up being better than the players that the Ravens would have selected with those picks, but they will also be older and more expensive. NFL teams have two resources, which are in limited supply, draft picks and dollars. When you make these sorts of acquisitions, you use up both resources at a faster rate.

      As I said, I have a fair bit of respect for Zuttah. I just think that the team has gotten away from the idea of actually scouting players, and building through the draft, which will eventually start to hurt the team. I can't say that the team would have been able to get a comparable center in the 5th round, but I do suspect they could have gotten a player at some other position, who would have a reasonable chance to be just as good (but younger and cheaper).

      Still, I realize that most people don't place much value in late round draft picks. I just disagree with that view. Of course, when teams insist on drafting players like Gradkowski (a 4th round pick) despite there being no apparent reason for thinking he could perform well, it sort of makes mid-to-late round draft picks appear worthless, even if they aren't.

    2. It's also probably worth considering that about half of the league's starting centers did come from the 6th round or later in the draft, many of whom end up performing at quite a high level. So, while quality linemen might not appear to "come out of nowhere", as you say, they can frequently be attained with the sort of late round picks that the Ravens are currently trading away to other teams.

  2. Yes but they did obtain a quality lineman with a late round pick by trading for zutaah.. As for monroe and shipley the odds of this suceeding so far are 66% (I like zuttah and according to PFF he had a solid 2013 campaign) I''m a big fan of turning 5th,6th,7th round picks into starters who fell from the graces with there former team just as long as there relativeley cheap and younger (no older than 30) and as you say they can be found in the later rounds.....but chances are they'll be busts. (80+% chance) i'd rather go for the somewhat sure thing compared to the very unlikely draft pick that will usually amount to nothing. Don't get me wrong.... I'm a big fan of building through the draft but very rarely do you find talented enough players that fall to the 7th round or go undrafted...... maybe one or two players happen per draft.... Most franchise players are found in the `1st,2nd,3rd round. There's many reasons these guys go there Great Athletes,Prouduction,Name,Hype.... if you can find a center prospect in this years draft that you deem worthy of a 5th round pick (or lower) I'll change my mind.... I agree that players are overlooked such as vincent rey....,vontaze burflict,priest holmes,tony romo,kurt warner the list goes on and on..... But these players are far and few between....... The ravens have had a very good offseason...... They basically rebuilt the offense in one offseason..... (Though they still need one starter on the line,a young WR,No.2 TE,3rd RB,BackUp QB) All those can be found in the draft..... Unless ozzie suddenly gets dementia and drafts johnny manizel in the 1st round to be the backup QB/Slot WR