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Top five players the Baltimore Ravens missed out on

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An interesting (and often painful) look back

NFL: Super Bowl LI-Radio Row John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It's the NFL offseason, and those that follow their teams closely are all too familiar with the platitudinous retrospective pieces describing their teams past successes that come with the territory (unless you're a Cleveland Browns fan).

Rather than take the self congratulatory trip down memory lane, the disappointing 8-8 season that was 2016 has me feeling some type of way, so I've decided to revel in the unfortunate misses that our beloved purple and black have suffered in their 20 years in the league.

Instead of discussing draft and free agent busts that haunt our collective fan consciousness, I'd rather take a look at a group of players who at some point or another were linked to the Ravens in some fashion, or were even on their team.

The only ground rules here are that there needs to have been some concrete connection, with an exception or two being made for the partnerships that would have made just too much sense. So with all that said, let's get into it shall we?

5. Matt Ryan, quarterback, Atlanta Falcons

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I often pride myself on my ability to not be a prisoner of the moment as a sports fan. But after what transpired in the 2016 season, and thanks to some recent reports that came out, I’m almost obligated to include Matty Ice on this list.

I know, I know, we all love us some Joe Flacco here in Charm City, and in fact, he’s the only reason Ryan isn't higher on this list. However, that doesnt change the fact that his stock is at perhaps an all time low after eight years in the league, while an MVP award and Super Bowl appearance has Ryan’s soaring.

The connection here comes from NFL Media insider Ian Rapaport, who reported on Super Bowl Sunday that the Ravens were very close to trading their entire 2008 draft class as well as a 2009 second round pick to move up to the number one spot and select the former Boston College standout. They ultimately shied away and opted to select the small school Flacco after some trade trickery, but it certainly is interesting to think about what might be different had they gone through with the blockbuster deal.

They would have missed out on Flacco, Ray Rice, Tom Zbikowski, and Haruki Nakamura in that draft alone, as well as Paul Kruger in the second round a year later. While Zbikowski and Nakamura were role players, they certainly made their contributions, while the other three players listed were crucial to their improbable 2012 Super Bowl run.

Maybe Ryan would have been able to take our team all the way, especially with the stalwart defense already in place, but now we’ll only be able to speculate. To quote the great PFTCommenter, “it really makes u think.”

4. Dez Bryant, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys

NFL: NFC Divisional-Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I could sit down and pen a list of wide receiver busts and misses that the Ravens have had and made over the years that would likely run the length of a Shakespeare epic (and arguably be even more tragic). But I don't have the time or the wherewithal to do so, so instead I'll just mention Bryant and a few others down the list (teaser).

This one especially stings because of how dominant Bryant has been, and how close he came to falling into the Ravens’ theoretical laps. Leading up to draft day in 2010, the Ravens had a hard time keeping it a secret that they coveted Bryant, and would certainly select him if he fell to their 25th overall selection spot.

Looking back, a smokescreen or two may have been in order, because the Dallas Cowboys caught wind of their plans, and decided throw a Texas sized wrench into them. They traded up to 24 and selected Bryant right in front of Baltimore, prompting them to trade out of the round entirely.

Want me to rub salt in the wound? Their next three consecutive picks were Sergio Kindle, Terrence Cody, and Ed Dickson. The only player of note from this class was Dennis Pitta, who has had his fair share of injury issues, to say the very least.

In two games against the Ravens in his career, Bryant has caught four touchdowns. If he and Joe Flacco had linked up back in 2010 as was the plan, he likely would have a lot more for the team, as opposed to the other way around.

3. Jeff Saturday, center, Indianapolis Colts

NFL: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This one might be a bit out of left field for some, but looking back on Saturday’s illustrious career it makes it almost a no brainer to have him on here. While he didn’t play the most glamorous position, six pro bowls and three all pro nods speak for themselves.

For those that don't know the connection here or maybe hadn't even heard of Saturday before, he went unselected in the 1998 NFL draft, and got his start in the league by signing as an udrafted free agent with... your Baltimore Ravens.

Apparently they didn’t see enough out of him (which was strange because the Ravens were NFL cellar dwellers at the time) but regardless, they moved on from Saturday that offseason. He was managing an electrical supply store when he got the call from Indianapolis, and as they say, the rest was history.

He went on to block for Peyton Manning until 2011, when he joined the Green Bay Packers for a brief one year stint in 2012 before his retirement. That is a long career, and if Baltimore had kept him, he would've anchored a line that included Jonathan Ogden for about half of it, and blocked well into Joe Flacco’s career for the other.

2. James Harrison, linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For some of our younger readers who maybe know who James Harrison is, but are unaware of how he got his start, let me take on a little trip down memory lane (or memory pain, depending on how you look at it).

The big scary dude who at age 38 is still terrorizing Joe Flacco, and probably will be for another ten years? He was once a Baltimore Raven back in the day. But the defensive player of the year, five time pro bowler, four time all pro, and two time Super Bowl champion never made the team.

After being cut by the Ravens and reuniting with the Steelers (who originally signed him as an undrafted free agent back in 2002) he went on to become public enemy number one in Baltimore due to his tough guy personality that he backed up (and still, inexplicably, backs up) with his stellar play on the field.

I’m sure the Ravens had their reasons for moving on from the player who was described as incredibly raw early in his career, but the prospect of him and Terrell Suggs teaming up (not to mention a few other hall of fame players on some of those defenses) is painful to think about when it was that close to being a reality.

1. Terrell Owens, wide receiver, just about every team in the league except for the Ravens

NFL: Super Bowl LI-Radio Row John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

This is arguably the most painful what-could-have-been in the short history of the Ravens franchise. In 2004, Owens was seeking a move away from the team that had drafted him (the San Francisco 49ers) and they seemed ready to oblige him.

How? By trading him to the playmaker needy Baltimore Ravens for a second round pick. The trade was all set to go through until Owens said not so fast.

He argued that he wanted to hit free agency in order to achieve or exceed his market value in a new contract. In a laborious, drawn out, and complicated process, the work of a third (or in this case fourth) party arbritrator facilitated that a three way trade would be worked out between the 49ers, Ravens, and Philadelphia Eagles that sent T.O. to the city of brotherly love.

It might not even crack the top five of the most controversial moments in Owens career, as the ridiculous hall of fame voting process is again reminding us that he is arguably he most polarizing player in the history of the sport.

With that said, he is also one of the best players in the game’s decorated history, and him in purple and black would have been a beautiful sight because of it.

There is no guarantee (and in fact the odds were against) T.O. staying with the Ravens for an extended period of time. But if they had managed to keep him in the fold for long enough, him going downfield to catch passes from Joe Flacco’s strong arm would be enough to deal with any potential baggage he would have brought as a player and personality.

Speaking of personality, could you imagine Owens tearing up at a press conference in reference to Joe freaking Flacco, or better yet, Kyle Boller? That alone would have made this union a successful one in my eyes.

There you guys have it. My list of some of the biggest names and best players that our beloved birds have missed out on over the years. What do you guys think of my list? Did I miss anyone? Am I overrating certain players? Check out the honorable mentions on the way down to the comments section, and then let me know.

Honorable Mentions

Julian Edelman, wide receiver, New England Patriots

The Ravens considered signing him over Steve Smith in 2014. Bad call? You tell me.

Jalen Ramsey, cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars

This would've happened last year if the Ravens could've just ironed out a few details on a trade with the Cowboys. Their pick ended up being Ronnie Stanley, so I'm sure they're fine with the way things ended up.

Tom Brady, quarterback, New England Patriots

In all honesty, I’m just throwing this one on here for fun. You could make a pretty obvious argument that he should be number one on this list, but that's true for 31 other teams in the NFL as well. Besides, Chris Redman really had some upside am I right?