General managers and front offices around the NFL all have their own tendencies and style.
Teams like Green Bay do the draft-and-develop thing really well. They rarely play in free agency, and not because of an organizational philosophy against it, but by Ted Thompson's own admission, he isn't comfortable in the dollars and cents thing.
Teams like Washington love to play in free agency and often have to due to their mistakes in the draft. But in general, such teams are not afraid to get big ticket players because they get attention.
Other teams show a preference for offense, preferring always to acquire skill position players, either due to the talent they have (say, a top QB like Brees) or defense because of the coach's background (like the Jets under Rex Ryan).
In Baltimore, the only thing you can say about the front office is that it has no tendency overall.
They draft and develop well, preferring "solid doubles" in the first round as former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah termed it.
They find big time value players in the later rounds like Dennis Pitta, Adalius Thomas etc.
They pick up special teams contributors late in the draft. They aggressively pursue UDFAs and routinely unearth gems like Priest Holmes and Dannell Ellerbe.
They make midseason trades to shore up a very critical position like left tackle with Eugene Monroe.
And they are never afraid to play in free agency, although rarely participating during the frenzy of the first week, preferring the value deals later on.
As one writer put it, who studied the Ravens front office against NFL peers, Ozzie Newsome's defining characteristic is the number of different ways he and the brain trust try to improve their team.
The Will Hill signing is a classic example of that. Often troubled, talented, but routinely failing drug tests, there were a number of articles written asking about the optics of signing Hill during an offseason where it already had a half dozen arrests or so.
The only optics that Baltimore cares about is their ability to find players who can help them, who fit into their style of football, who are good teammates and will contribute to the big picture that Harbaugh has established, which is a team that wins often.
That's where the director of pro personnel comes in. Vince Newsome has occupied that job for a while, after a successful career playing safety for the Rams.
He has the unenviable task of scouring the 1,800 players in the NFL for opportunity. Who is coming up on a contract year? Who is available now that can help us? Who will be available a year or two from now to keep an eye on? If we lose one of our best players tomorrow, how do we get depth for him?
In many ways it's a harder job than drafting. Only 150 players are realistically draftable a year. Far more than that play in the NFL or are otherwise looking for a job. Then throw in the cost of a free agent compared to a draft pick and it's a difficult and risky task.
But Vince Newsome and the Ravens do it exceptionally well. They unearthed Corey Graham — a special teams player in Chicago that was given the opportunity to play cornerback in Baltimore, who then ranked in the top 10 in two key pass defense metrics in 2012. They found Daryl Smith, one of the most underrated ILBs in football, on a crazy good deal less than a few months after Ray Lewis retired and Dannell Ellerbe left for Miami.
They discovered Jacoby Jones, railroaded out of Houston, who only went on to dominate the NFL in return efficiency and touchdowns.
Despite whatever shrill talk about the optics, Hill is a talented player and comes with virtually no risk (veteran minimum salary), frankly because few teams were apparently willing to take a chance on him, or perhaps had even forgotten about him. The Ravens are confident a player like that can succeed here just as they were with other troubled players like Rolando McClain. No, it doesn't always work out, such as with McClain, but then again, the team loses nothing and has a strong enough foundation to have it work often as not.
This is the sort of signing that could absolutely not work out and then you'll hear a predictable cacophony of criticism from lazy media types, just like they were prepared to when McClain, and even Bernard Pollard, showed up.
This team does not care about that.
And that's because there is a great chance that, for chump change and no risk, Hill can become the starting free safety, or at least back up the injury-prone Darian Stewart. He could seemingly become a major contributor at a position the Ravens long had the luxury of a legend at. He gives the team options and an extra shot on goal to find an answer.
It's a very high upside, negligible downside move that flies under the radar today, and maybe becomes a big deal tomorrow.
And that is pretty much the hallmark of the Ravens front office.