This had been a topic of debate since the 2008 season ended with the Baltimore Ravens loss to eventual Super Bowl Champ Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. It escalated after the Ravens passed over every wide receiver in April's NFL Draft. It's now reached a crescendo after the reported, yet not official, retirement of leading receiver Derrick Mason.
But it's just not going to happen.
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Both Anquan Boldin and Brandon Marshall are legitimate #1 receivers and would obviously raise the quality of any teams' passing attack. However, both would demand new contracts and without receiving their just due, they would become disgruntled teammates, taking the attention off the game and into the Front Office. No team needs these types of headaches, as we all witnessed the "cancer" that is widely known to be Terrell Owens. As good as he has been in his career, there have been a lot of happier teammates in locker rooms around the NFL on teams that he has left.
Boldin and Marshall would command huge contracts with massive signing bonuses that would paralyze our team's ability to sign other free agents, much less the soon-to-be ones that are already on this team and too valuable to lose. Depending on future status of the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement, they may or may not be become free agents based on the Union's and owners ability to get a new one in place before the 2010 season. The Ravens still have their top two draft picks to sign to lucrative contracts and even with Derrick Mason's retirement, they would be around $10 million under the NFL Salary Cap. Would that be enough to sign both picks AND one or the other in the event of a trade? Perhaps, but it would certainly end any opportunity to sign anyone else or renegotiate any other player's contracts.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has valued #1 draft picks for a reason. He has put a ton of faith in developing the best athletes in the draft that have become Ravens and grown to All-Pro status over the years. While a wide receiver the likes of Boldin or Marshall would be an instant upgrade regardless of Mason's status, don't expect any major signings this summer. Of course the possibility of bringing in one of the remaining free agent wide receivers is still on everyone's minds. However the thought of bringing in a 36 year old Marvin Harrison would be great if it was the 30 year old one, but the current one will spend more time injured on the sideline than between the white lines and how would that benefit this offense and specifically QB Joe Flacco? The purpose of bringing in a WR is not for depth, it is to replace Mason's production or possibly to add to it. Flacco needs to develop a chemistry with his new wide receiver if he gets one and a 36 year old guy is not going to be here long enough to build that bond. A younger guy would be the smarter move and while there is not much out there on the free agent market, there is one guy, a former first round pick that teams have stayed away from based on his off the field troubles. That name is former Jacksonville Jaguars first round pick, Matt Jones. I've previously stated here on The Beatdown that I'm not in his corner to be brought here, but have greatly warmed to the idea lately. He is young and has put up pretty decent stats in an offense similar to ours in that Jacksonville puts their offensive emphasis on the run game as well. Jones poses an intriguing matchup for the opponents defense and would only make players like Mark Clayton and Todd Heap more effective as secondaries would be scurrying to cover two large targets (Jones, Heap) that can run with many DB's, much less a Clayton as the team's possession receiver, filling Mason's former "role."
However, the thought of having a top notch defense AND a top notch offense just won't be happening in Baltimore anytime soon, much less in any NFL city. Based on the salary cap restrictions, it is a rarity to have both. So Baltimore, which do you want- a dominant defense like the one we have or a great offense like the Colts, Saints or Cardinals have had? Pick one because as I wrote in a May 30, 2009 story (click here to read), you can't have both!