By Jeff Zrebiec
8:00 AM EDT, March 15, 2012
We’re about 40 hours into the NFL free agent period and the Ravens have lost two starters on defense (Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding), learned that two of their other free agents are visiting other cities (Ben Grubbs and Haruki Nakamura) and have failed to make any roster additions.
And if you are surprised or angered by those facts, you probably shouldn’t be. This – as everyone has written repeatedly over the past week – is how the Ravens do their business in free agency. They don’t throw a ton of money at the biggest names on the market. They don’t overreact to market trends or what other teams are doing. They do their shopping when the prices come down. They like to retain their own top talent, but they repeatedly show that they’re not afraid to let guys go elsewhere and give younger players an opportunity.
That’s not to say that everything that they have done or have planned has been predictable over the past couple of days. There has been a few interesting developments, probably none bigger than the news that former Houston Texans right tackle Eric Winston is planning to visit team facilities in the next couple of days.
Winston is a really good player, one of the better right tackles in football over the past couple of years. But he is a right tackle and the Ravens have Michael Oher at that position. Come to whatever conclusion you want, but I don’t take their interest in Winston as a sign that they are in any way disenchanted with Oher. It, however, would seem to suggest that Bryant McKinnie isn’t exactly a lock to return as the starting left tackle. If they sign Winston, the logical move would appear to be moving Oher back to left tackle even if he has proven that he’s better on the right side. McKinnie fared OK protecting Joe Flacco’s blind side this past season, but he struggled a little in run blocking and his condition has always been an issue. There is also the matter that he is scheduled to make a base salary of $3.2 million next season and he is due a $500,000 roster bonus by the end of this week. That could make the timing of Winston’s visit pretty interesting.
While were on the subject of offensive linemen, I keep expecting to hear or read any minute now that Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs has agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Saints, who are looking for a replacement for Carl Nicks. But I am slightly surprised that it hasn’t happened yet, and I can’t help but wonder if the news that Evan Mathis, a very good guard in his own right, is due at The Castle today will accelerate Grubbs’ decision one way or the other. Wide receiver Robert Meachem agreed to a free agent deal with the San Diego Chargers while he was in a Buffalo hotel (presumably paid for by the Bills) after a meeting with Bills’ officials so I guess it’s probably best to not count the Ravens completely out on Grubbs. That being said, Mathis would be a solid pickup.And one more thing that struck me – and perhaps I’m reading far too much into a couple of quotes – but it does appear that the Ravens didn’t pursue returns by Johnson or Redding too vigorously. I found it interesting that Redding said in his conference call with reporters upon joining the Colts, “It’s always a great opportunity, man, when somebody wants you.” And then there was this one by Johnson in a radio interview last night with WBAL’s Brett Hollander: “I’m not going to say how it all went down. It was just clear that it was my time to go, and they were very respectful about it. A lot of teams will give you an offer that is insulting, but the Ravens didn’t do that. But they did make it clear my time is up.” Please don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying that Johnson and Redding are bitter at the Ravens because nothing either of them said publicly would lead me to that conclusion. I am saying that I think both players would have been more than happy to return, but the Ravens probably made their decisions easier by not heavily pursuing them to come back.
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