Life is full of regrets. Everyone has them. However, the Ravens are a well run machine, led by the Wizard, Ozzie Newsome. The task of deciding which player is 'the one who got away' was surprisingly easy because of that. The Ravens just don't let too many players get away who they want to keep, and many of the players who do leave end up underachieving elsewhere.
After a quick brainstorm, it came down to 2 players for me: Adalius Thomas and Corey Graham. Graham would seem to be a surprising pick, a journeyman cornerback who signed a modest 4 year, $16 million deal with his hometown Buffalo Bills.
Thomas is a more intriguing option. A stud linebacker on the Ravens defenses of the mid-2000's, Thomas was the most versatile player I have ever watched. He could line up in the secondary on one play, and as a defensive tackle the next. Rex Ryan used him effectively, and he was an integral part of arguably the best Ravens defense of all time (with all due respect to the 2000 team). Thomas took his talents to Foxboro in 2007, signing a 5 year deal for $35 million, although he only ended up making about half of that amount.
My problem with selecting Thomas is, what would those teams have done if he hadn't left town? The team finished 5-11 the following year, and thank God for that because the team ended up with its 1st franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco. Not to mention the fact that Jarrett Johnson stepped up opposite stud OLB Terrell Suggs, becoming one of the most beloved Ravens. Thomas was barely effective in New England, and was out of the league within 3 years. While that might have been a product of the Patriot's inability to properly utilize his talents, we will never know. So although when I began this article he was my pick, Graham has to be the choice.
Corey Graham was an incredibly underrated player. A special teams ace and cornerback depth in Chicago, the Ravens lured him away in 2012 with a 2 year $5 million deal and the opportunity to play more on defense. Graham quickly proved his worth, stepping into the starting lineup mid-season after a season ending injury to star CB Lardarius Webb. Graham was steady all season for the Ravens, culminating in his earning the CBS Player of the Game award in the AFC Divisional Playoff game against Denver. He intercepted 2 Peyton Manning passes, returning one for a touchdown, and tallied 8 tackles in the game.
Here is the footage for old times sake:
Graham played one more season for the Ravens, giving them possibly the best cornerback trio in the entire NFL. However, following the 2013 season, Graham decided to return home to Buffalo and play for the Bills, spurning the Ravens offer. The Ravens would try to fill the hole internally, an unmitigated disaster.
So why is Corey Graham the 'one who got away'?
Because the 2014 Ravens beat New England handily with him on the field. Last year's team had a great run despite a porous secondary, and having Graham would have filled the hole. If Graham is in Baltimore last year, the liklihood is we have our 3rd Lombardi trophy in 20 years, and Flacco's 2nd in 3 years. And that is why I believe Corey Graham is our biggest free agent who got away.