Once I heard John Harbaugh used the words “asterisk,” “stained” and “New England” in the same sentence during a radio interview with 98 Rock yesterday morning, I knew what the reaction was going to be. Any NFL player or coach that says something even semi-interesting about Spygate or the New Orleans Saints’ bounty situation becomes a headline. Anybody who is perceived to challenge the success of Patriots coach Bill Belichick is going to be greatly scrutinized. I get it, as my old friend Buck Showalter likes to say. But did Harbaugh honestly say something that was especially revealing or untrue? Did he mount a personal attack on Belichick? No, what he did do was capture the reality of the post-Spygate world for the Patriots. Whether they like or not, there are going to be some people in the NFL – and plenty of fans – who believe that their three Super Bowls are in some way tainted. After listening to Harbaugh praise Belichick at every opportunity over the years and knowing that they have a solid relationship, I don’t believe the Ravens coach to be one of those people. I also don’t blame him for acknowledging the obvious: that Spygate – whether New Englanders like it or not, whether it is fair or not – is going to be part of the legacy of those Super Bowl-winning Patriots’ teams. It may turn out to be a very small part, but when all is said and done and Belichick calls it quits on his Hall of Fame career, his role in that scandal will undoubtedly be included in stories in his career postscript. As for Harbaugh, he probably could have chosen his words a little more carefully, but let’s be honest here: those remarks were rather benign.
The Ravens will sign kicker/punter and undrafted free agent Justin Tucker, who hit 40 of 48 field goals during his last two seasons at Texas. Nothing against Tucker, but I’d still expect them to bring in a little more formidable and veteran competition for Billy Cundiff. The New York Jets signed Josh Brown yesterday to push the inconsistent Nick Folk for the kicking job. I would be surprised if the Ravens didn’t do something similar. Maybe, that means signing Shayne Graham again. Either way, you not only want to push Cundiff, you want to have some insurance if the problems that he had last year persist into the preseason.
Speaking of undrafted free agents, two potential signings definitely worth keeping an eye on are defensive tackles Nicolas Jean-Baptiste out of Baylor, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen of Kent State. Both are 335-pound guys who can clog the middle and be factors in the run game. After losing Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney to free agency, the Ravens will have some opportunities available to crack their defensive line rotation.
In case you missed this little bit of news about a former Ravens’ executive, Phil Savage has been named executive director of the Senior Bowl. Savage worked in the Ravens’ front office for nine seasons, serving as director of college scouting and then director of player personnel before becoming the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Most recently, Savage has served as a player personnel executive for the Philadelphia Eagles.