There are two distinct types of coveted free agents. Some players take their services to the highest bidder regardless of the team’s situation, while others agree to fair market contracts with respected teams who offer a chance to win the Super Bowl. Fortunately after a couple consecutive down seasons, the Baltimore Ravens organization still interests the latter group of desirable free agents.
The franchise has always been able to lure top quality free agents who prioritize an opportunity to earn a championship above maximizing their earnings. From Rod Woodson, Michael McCrary, Shannon Sharpe and Deion Sanders to Derrick Mason, Trevor Pryce, Samari Rolle and Matt Birk, adding respected veterans to their locker room has been a crucial element of the Ravens success through the years. Maintaining this pipeline of valuable contributors is vital in the age of mega contracts.
Following the departure of a couple all-time greats in 2013, the Ravens front office has continued wooing sought after veterans with the organization’s top-to-bottom commitment to excellence. Recently, former multi-season Pro Bowlers Elvis Dumervil, Steve Smith Sr. and Eric Weddle all chose to spend time near the end of their careers chasing a ring in Baltimore.
The tradition of attracting top level players while offering fair market salaries has continued into 2017. It has been widely reported that Tony Jefferson elected to sign with the Ravens over more lucrative offers from the Browns and Jets (worthwhile read about Jefferson here). Weddle apparently helped sell Jefferson on the organization’s merit. Twelve teams were allegedly pursuing Brandon Williams, but he eventually came to terms to stay with the team that drafted him. Williams is likely leaving some money on the table to remain in Baltimore.
In a parity driven league as competitive and cut-throat as the NFL, every small advantage important. Signing useful veterans to fair deals not only gives the Ravens a small financial advantage, it provides a strategic advantage since this type of player is the most motivated to win.
The perception of a franchise among the players in the league is what truly separates the contenders from the pretenders. Despite their five win 2015, .500 record in 2016 and the national media’s narrative that they are declining, the first two days of free agency this offseason has proven the Ravens are still contenders.