There is a reason why the NFL captures its fans like no other sport. It has become a year-round spectacle with excitement that never ends.
It comes as no surprise that the first week of the 2015 season was as explosive as ever.
The opening week of free agency was playing Madden in real life. LeSean McCoy was traded for Kiko Alonso. Jimmy Graham was dealt for Max Unger and a first-round pick. Nick Foles and Sam Bradford are swapping teams. Brandon Marshall is going from catching passes from Jay Cutler to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Actually, that might be an upgrade.
Ndamukong Suh broke the bank with an NFL-record $60 million guaranteed from the Miami Dolphins. Darrelle Revis did well for himself by getting $39 million in guaranteed money. DeMarco Murray is joining one of the Dallas Cowboys biggest rivals. Jeremy Maclin is reuniting with Andy Reid.
The Baltimore Ravens have not been left out of the frenzy.
The Ravens tried their best to get Haloti Ngata to agree to an extension, but Ngata would not budge. You cannot blame the guy. He was maximizing his value. He signed a contract the Ravens agreed to. If he was cut, he would command equal or better money in the free agent market.
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As the deadline to free agency approached, it seemed as though it was a foregone conclusion that Ngata was going to be released.
Then he got traded.
WHAT!? Did not see that coming.
To sweeten the deal, the move makes sense for everyone involved. The Lions get another destructive force along the defensive line with Suh’s departure. The Ravens get a few draft picks for player they would have otherwise been forced to release.
Ozzie Newsome worked his magic again. Just do not think all is well in Birdland.
The total of losses are mounting up. Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee signed lucrative deals elsewhere. Owen Daniels is following Gary Kubiak to Denver. The team has no backup quarterback with Tyrod Taylor headed to the Buffalo Bills.
The loss of Ngata and Chris Canty will be a huge blow to the defensive line. They provided tons of experience in addition to their terrific play. The remaining roster mostly consists of younger, inexperienced guys.
Their top offseason priority was getting Justin Forsett to re-sign and doing so on a very cap-friendly deal. The team also added safety Kendrick Lewis from the Houston Texans and expect him to start alongside restricted free agent Will Hill.
The Ravens saved themselves from a bidding war by never entering it. They knew they could not compete with what the San Francisco 49ers would offer Smith (five-year, $40 million) and the Chicago Bears gave McPhee (five-year, $38.75 million). Too much money for guys who are not top guys at their respected positions. They accepted that before free agency began and moved on.
Allowing Owen Daniels to leave was questionably the biggest loss this offseason. With Dennis Pitta’s future uncertain and inexperience remaining at the tight end position, Daniels was expected back. The Ravens made little attempt to re-sign him, and the market for tight ends is not exactly booming.
However, you have to give Ozzie credit for making do with little resources they have. For a team with $20.66 million in dead cap space, he has done a solid job.
After a week into the free agency, the Ravens offseason can be described as average.
There is no denying they have needs. The Ravens lack options in the passing game. They need someone on the defensive line to replace the losses of Ngata and Canty. The addition of Lewis is a solid signing, but they should not stop there in their efforts to fix their secondary woes.
They also surprised us when Terrell Suggs cleared $2.25 million in cap space by restructuring his deal. They earned draft picks in return for a player who would have otherwise been released. They did not overpay for Smith and McPhee and will gain compensatory picks because of their departure.
It is always difficult to see a fan favorite go. Seeing Ngata in Royal Farms commercials is going to hurt a little. Torrey’s relationship with Maryland will always be special. Ozzie was right to let them go. The Ravens will reload in the draft.
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