At 1-4, The Ravens Stink. But There Is Good News..

Sports and Bets — October 13, 2015 at 11:04 pm by

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Any Raven fan with eyesight and/or the ability to hear, has come to the stark and obvious realization that the 2015 version of their beloved NFL team sucks.  The Black and Purple are sitting at 1-4 with another two game West Coast swing on the horizon and an injury report a mile long.  Many experts and NFL pundits had the Ravens taking a trip to Super Bowl 50, but now this team is realistically staring 1-6 in the face.

Needless to say, the Baltimore fan base is apoplectic.  Fans are calling for coach’s heads and even the great Ozzie Newsome has come under fire from angry season ticket holders and Sunday coach potatoes, alike.   After two Super Bowl victories in twelve years and playoff appearances six of the last seven seasons, the Baltimore fan base expects winning; and a 1-4 Ravens team is going to feel heat.  The NFL is a here and now business and in this here and now, the Ravens and their record just ain’t cutting the proverbial mustard.

But 1-4 is not a time for rash decisions and silly talk.  Hell, one season of 3-13 wouldn’t warrant a house cleaning in Owings Mills, either.  With the aforementioned two Super Bowls and the playoff consistency that the Ravens have enjoyed, the brass and powers that be are easily afforded a pass for one season gone afoul.  Eventually, drafting players at the end of every round effects successful teams in the NFL. It’s the way the system is set up.  The talent at pick 28 ain’t usually the talent at pick 5 and the risk of drafting a non-contributor becomes greater as the draft winds on. Crappy teams get first run in every round at the best players available.  Some teams, the Ravens included, manage to avoid the inevitable collapse by drafting well and by maintaining a well balanced roster.   Making the playoffs six of seven seasons and winning two Super Bowls twelve years apart show that the Ravens have been able to do just that. But it looks as if 2015 has become the year for Baltimore to pay the NFL system piper.  A few swings and misses in the draft, coupled with an incredibly bad injury bug, have placed the Ravens in the position they are now.  It’s an ugly position to be in, but these things happen.  And these things are supposed to happen.  But the fans are the fans, and the bitching and moaning can be heard round the Inner Harbor and up 83.  (Myself included). Us fans in Baltimore are like Henry Hill in the beginning of Good Fellas. Henry’s a lucky kid, living in a gangster fantasy, but even Henry catches a beating every now and again from his father for constantly ditching school.  Meanwhile, we’ve enjoyed a lot of football victories here and the Ravens have put us in our own football fantasy.  But not this season.  Unfortunately folks, in 2015 it’s just like Henry said, “…everybody takes a beating sometimes….”

And now it’s our time to take our beating.  But all is not lost, Baltimore faithful.  Sure, we could go into the why the Ravens are where they are right now; and we could get into the, “we shoulda drafted this guy instead of our guy game”, but that’s pointless, nilly-willy bullshit.  The past is exactly that, the past.  There’s no reason to look back. Forward and onward, babes.  And with a top-notch organization that is a PROVEN winner, I’ll gladly watch them work from the top of the draft, for once. It will also be nice to see the Ravens work with some real salary cap room this off-season – Baltimore will have some cash at the end of  2015  (More on that in just a second.)

What I’m saying is this: an abysmal 2015 could set up a very special 2016 and 2017.  For the sake of sake, let’s pretend the Ravens finish in the 3-13 to 6-10 range.  (I’m actually kinda hoping this happens.)  The worse now, the better for the future; but 6-10 more than likely puts the Ravens in a top 10 draft position.   With that draft position, a restructuring of Joe Flacco’s contract, and the release of over $21 million in dead contracts, the Ravens will be in great shape for the 2016 and beyond.

Flacco’s Contract

Joe Cool is scheduled to make over $28 million in 2016.  That ain’t happening.  The Ravens and Flacco knew that wasn’t happening when they signed the deal at the end of the 2012 Super Bowl run.  Flacco is a franchise QB, a Super Bowl MVP, and a hell of a quarterback, but he isn’t worth that money.  That means that Joe’s contract will have to be restructured.  NFL contracts are complicated and ridiculous, but my guess is that Joe will count about $15-20 million against the cap in 2016.  That’s the pay range that he should be in.  $28 million would be a team crippling cap figure, and it’s unrealistic.  My guess is that this contract meeting takes place the day after the 2015 season ends.

Dead Money

This year the Ravens have $21 million dollars in dead money counting against their salary cap.  Most of it is attributed to Ray Rice and Haloti Ngata, but regardless of to whom it was meant for, that dead cash cost the Ravens big time in 2015.  It’s the prime reason Pernell McPhee is in Chicago and it’s definitely the reason this team lacks depth.  Dead money is a crappy reality for every franchise in the salary cap era, but 21 large is downright devastating.  You can easily see the effects of not having this money available to spend. A guy with three sacks, an interception and a blocked kick this season is in the Windy City, and there just isn’t a lot of depth on the roster.  The injury bug has been more like a swarm, and the replacement talent hasn’t been up to snuff, babes.  (Not that every starter has been playing of their mind either, but you know what I’m saying.)  That’s why in Sunday’s game, with two cornerbacks injured, Josh Mccown throws for a gazillion yards.  It’s been a carousel of corners here in Baltimore over the last two seasons, and most haven’t been able to stay healthy or even stay on the roster.  (Rashaan Melvin got the axe today.)

But that will change this offseason. In 2016 the Ravens will have a paltry $201,000 in dead dough.  That frees up a lot of money for the Ravens to spend.  Other money will come off the books in the form of retirement and release.  Sure, the Ravens will have to sign Marshall Yanda, but they will still be left with roster and depth building cash.  The Ravens definitely aren’t afraid to go get veteran talent (Daryl Smith, Dumervil and Senior immediately come to mind.) and they’ll be players in the free agent market this offseason.

Even better news is that the 2016 free agent class is absolutely loaded.

Draft Position, Draft Picks, and “Two” Number One Picks Next Season

Brashad Perriman is most likely out for the season with a knee injury that he suffered on the first day of training camp.  It doesn’t get more unlucky than that and to make things worse, it looks like the injury was initially mis-diagnosed.  But now that Perriman has been scoped, he’ll have time to heal and come back good as new.  Personally, if his time table for a return involves him coming back in December, I’d rather the Ravens just shut him down for the season.  Let him recover fully and be fresh for 2016.

In essence, this would give the Ravens two first round picks going into next season.  Perriman, on an injury red-shirt, and whomever they decide to draft with their, hopefully, top 10 pick.  Two first rounders is an influx of talent to any team and it will be huge for this Ravens squad.

More good news is that the Ravens, with their expected compensatory picks, should have at least 10 draft selections.  Ten players that will be drafted in the beginning third of every round.  That’s huge and it’s another youth infusion into this club.  (Football is a young man’s game, folks.)

Just think of all the talent in the top ten of the 2016 NFL Draft.  DE Joey Bosa, DT Robert Nkemdiche, S/CB Jalen Ramsey, WR Laquan Treadwell, LB Jaylon Smith, and CB Vernon Hargreaves would all look good in purple and contribute immediately.  This draft looks deep right now and 2015 is the perfect time to suck for one season.

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Jimmy Smith

Jimmy Smith just signed a real healthy contract extension this offseason and so far he has responded with a resounding thud.  But I think people need to realize that Smith is coming back from a major injury and that it may take some more time for him to truly get back to being himself.  He showed big time talent in 2014 before his injury.  His Lisfranc injury and subsequent surgery involves the middle of the foot and it is essential to weight bearing, cutting, running, and every other damn thing a pro football player needs to do. I have a feeling he’ll be like Geno Atkins of the Bengals.  Atkins tore his ACL in 2013, was distinctly average in 2014, and is now, in 2015, back to terrorizing centers and guards across the league – it took Atkins a full year to really recover. Atkins’ injury was obviously different than Smith’s, but Smith’s foot injury is just as serious as Atkins’ ACL.  Foot injuries are extremely tough to deal with (ask Jonathan Ogden and Dion Sanders.), and it may take Smith some extra time to be truly 100%.  Look for a rebound in the second half of this season and in 2016.

Steve Smith

If he comes back and plays at the level he was playing at before his back injury, then I have a feeling he may not retire.  But if he does leave, that will be over $4 million off the books.  Either way, it’s a positive.  (Though having him back at a high level in 2016 would be great for this team.)

The Now

The now already sucks and it may get worse.   The Ravens are going to struggle.  Guys are hurting and team depth is, well, it’s shallow, babes. But that won’t stop me being a fan and it certainly won’t stop me from losing faith in this franchise leadership as it is currently constructed.  The Ravens are proven winners and a bad season has the very real possibility of putting them in a very advantageous position for 2016 and beyond.

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