1. Peyton Manning, QB
At least a dozen QB-needy teams have reportedly inquired about Manning, who did not play in 2011. If his neck checks out OK, he could turn a pretender into a legit contender. Update: Peyton has picked the Broncos. (Andy Lyons, Getty Images /December 27, 2009)
The Ravens said they wanted to upgrade the offensive line in the offseason, but so far they haven't. It's still early, but it looks like the team has pretty much committed to the same bunch of characters from a year ago. The Ravens didn't re-sign left guard Ben Grubbs, their best offensive lineman. Instead, they re-signed veteran center Matt Birk to a three-year contract and allowed left tackle Bryant McKinnie to collect a $500,000 roster bonus -- a clear indication he'll return next season.
I assume that once Grubbs signed with New Orleans, the Ravens had to bring back Birk because coach John Harbaugh wanted some continuity from a year ago. I think Harbaugh and his offensive line coach, Andy Moeller, wanted Birk to return, but Birk wasn't as high on general manager Ozzie Newsome's list. For the past two seasons, the Ravens have struggled in short-yardage situations and they haven't gotten much push from Birk, whose best days are behind him.
If the Ravens had agreed to terms with Birk and Grubbs, they probably would have waived McKinnie. He struggled run blocking last season and never got into good playing shape. He was too stiff for a left tackle. Hopefully, the Ravens made it mandatory for him to attend offseason workouts and required him to report at certain playing weights during various times of the season. If not, they are back to where they were last season with McKinnie.
As far as free agent guard Evan Mathis is concerned, once he left town Friday afternoon it was over. When free agents come to town, you want to sign them before they get back on the plane. He liked Baltimore, but probably used the Ravens as leverage to work a deal with the Eagles. You really don't think he needed a day to decide, do you? If you do, then you probably think his decision came down to choosing a Philly cheese steak over a crab cake.
As far as free agent returner Ted Ginn Jr. is concerned, I'd play him as a return specialist, but not as a solid all-around receiver who just happens to be a good returner as well. There is a difference, especially when it comes to contract negotiations.