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Free-agent disappointment leaves Ravens with big hole on defensive line | COMMENTARY

One morning in early April of 1997 former Ravens owner Art Modell slowly walked into the media room of the team’s old training facility. It took him seemingly forever to move about 20 yards as if he had just heard terrible news about his best friend.

Modell’s face was red with embarrassment and anger. Without looking up, he explained that there would be no news conference because former Dallas Cowboys safety Brock Marion had failed his physical.

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One day later, Marion re-signed with his old team.

Current Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta had one of those moments Friday morning, but he should have learned from the Modell moment.

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The Ravens had an agreement in principle with former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers for three years worth $30 million but the two sides couldn’t finalize the deal because of a left ankle injury Brockers suffered in the final game of the 2019 season.

So Brockers is now back with the Rams leaving DeCosta, the Ravens second-year general manager, with the first black mark on his record.

DeCosta can’t be totally blamed because this is the sign of the times created by the coronavirus pandemic where team doctors can’t immediately examine free agents because players can’t come to the facility for physicals.

But DeCosta can’t be totally exonerated, either, for the big hole left in the Ravens defensive line.

Along with recently signed defensive end Calais Campbell, Brockers, 29, had seemed to turn a weakness into a major strength and given the Ravens one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

With Brockers and Campbell they had versatility, two players who were both strong against the pass and run, and could collapse a pocket in the middle. Both were durable and Brockers had played in 57 straight games.

Now, the Ravens’ three starters on the line are nose guard Brandon Williams, Campbell and second-year player Daylon Mack as Brockers’ replacement. The Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs won’t fear this group as much, especially without a proven middle linebacker.

Mack, inactive for eight of the first nine games, played in only one game last season and had no tackles.

So, where did the depth go?

That’s where DeCosta comes in. Brockers was brought in to replace Michael Pierce, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings. After the Brockers agreement, the Ravens traded another starting end, Chris Wormley, to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The question is why the Ravens were in such a rush to do that deal. They knew Brockers had the ankle injury. So why didn’t they hold onto Wormley a little longer? It’s not as if Wormley was the next J.J. Watt but he was better than Mack.

There are some questions that DeCosta needs to answer but he can’t at this time because there is a team or league imposed “gag” rule. Shhh, no questions please.

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But you’d figure DeCosta would have learned from the Marion episode. He was an area scout with the team then. And then there was the time in March of 2018 when wide receiver Ryan Grant failed a physical due to an ankle injury and his four-year, $29 million agreement was terminated.

Back then, DeCosta was with the Ravens as an assistant general manager working under then general manager Ozzie Newsome.

This makes you wonder if Brockers played the Ravens. While he was waiting to be cleared by an independent doctor or waiting for new terms of a deal from the Ravens, the Rams were in his ear offering more money. Brockers reportedly signed with the Rams for three years and $31.5 million.

Now, he is probably somewhere in California while the Ravens are left in Baltimore cleaning up the mess. They now have another need to address in the draft. Besides finding an inside linebacker, receiver, edge rusher, interior offensive linemen and a return specialist, add defensive end to the list.

A team that had filled some holes now has another big one.

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