In a recent item on Pro Football Talk, Mike Florio wrote that the Ravens' free-agency gamble -- releasing veterans Willis McGahee, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason and Kelly Gregg -- blew up on them. Each player opted to sign elsewhere instead of staying here at a reduced rate, leaving the Ravens looking for replacements.
The Ravens signed running back Ricky Williams on Monday to take over for McGahee as the team’s No. 2 running back, but the Ravens appear to be moving forward with internal replacements at the other positions.
Recent draft picks Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta and Davon Drew are battling for playing time at the tight end spot that Heap manned for the better part of 10 seasons. And the team has a bunch of young players -- most notably former second-round pick Terrence Cody -- pushing for bigger roles in the defensive line rotation.
But the wide receiver spot vacated by Mason is another story.
The Ravens drafted Torrey Smith in the second round of April’s draft and Tandon Doss in the fourth. But they can’t feel comfortable entering the season, one that was preceded by a four-month lockout, with two rookies in the team’s three-wide sets -- even if coach John Harbaugh recently said otherwise.
We have seen rookie wide receivers be effective in recent seasons -- like Mike Wallace in 2009 and Mike Williams in 2010 -- but there is typically a steep learning curve at the position. The curve is expected to be steeper without offseason workouts and two-a-days in training camp. It isn’t unreasonable to count on contributions from rookies later in the season. But in Week 1 against the Steelers? That’s asking a lot.
So at that position, Florio is right in saying that the plan blew up. The Ravens were counting on Malcom Floyd to leave the Chargers and sign with them, but when the price wasn’t right, the best option left was Mason. And there was no way he wasn’t signing with the Jets once Rex Ryan got in his ear, especially since the Jets play in the media capital of world and Mason hopes to get into broadcasting after he retires from the NFL.
The Ravens had a chance to upgrade when they Mason go. Now it looks like they will be worse without him.
I’m not ready to panic, though. Not yet. Some good players will be released between now and Week 1 -- or someone like Lee Evans could be had via trade -- and the Ravens should still have cap room remaining.
But if the Ravens start the season with this current crop of wideouts, expect the passing game to struggle while Smith and Doss -- and the young, inexperienced tight ends -- try to get up to speed in the regular season.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times