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Free Agency: A Look Towards 2009

BS SP RAVENS 15 A ASSAF

The winds of change continue to sweep through the Ravens franchise as they move slowly towards the 2009 season.

Already they’ve lost Rex Ryan, as Ray Lewis and company has earned yet another Defensive Coordinator a Head Coaching job. George Kokinis heads to Cleveland to sort out the Browns mess as the GM and Hue Jackson looks close to heading up Samurai Mike’s offensive unit in San Fran.

Coaching changes are expected whenever you come off a good season. It happened after the championship year and say what you will about Brian Billick but his coaching tree was extensive as assistants have gone on to bigger jobs elsewhere.

As we have seen already Harbaugh will stick with who he knows as Greg Mattison fills the ample shoes of Ryan and there was plenty of internal shuffling of the current staff to new areas.

What I really want to examine are the possible free agents that need to be resigned or maybe let go. The understanding of free agency can be tricky so just know this.

Baltimore has 39 players under contract for 2009. There are 13 players that are Unrestricted Free Agents and unless franchised could sign with any team after February 27th. Let’s look at each of these players first, before we decipher the RFA’s or EFA’s another time.

KYLE BOLLER– If healthy he would have been number two or number three on the depth chart this season. He represents the old regime and will forever be linked with Coach Billick. On the one hand Kyle was always a stand up guy, never whined and had a strong arm. On the other, he was never able to live up to First round expectations because he simply wasn’t first round material. His happy feet and laid back demeanor never won over the right people. It didn’t help that he was handed the job as rookie and never truly competed for his position. But, you can’t help but wish him well. He should land as a backup somewhere and that’s probably where he fits best in the NFL.
OUT

TODD BOUMAN – That was the goateed guy with the headset on. Journeyman was insurance at the #3 spot. With Flacco and Smith above him it will be interesting to see if they give him a short contract or just let him walk.
OUT

LORENZO NEAL – The bulldozer can still get the job done. I loved just watching him plow defenders especially with McClain behind him. The Dallas breakaway run comes to mind. He shouldn’t be too expensive and seemed to fit in with the team. He looks to still be effective and helped revitalize the run game.
IN

TERRENCE COPPER – Former Saint was injured during most of his tenure. Receiver is still a big priority for this team. I’m sure they will look in the draft but it seems to be a position where Ozzie is stumped.
OUT

DANIEL WILCOX – Injured too often. A decent pass catcher in the double TE set. With Quinn Sypniewski returning from injury I can’t see him staying, Quinn is a better blocker, has good size and decent hands.
OUT

CHAD SLAUGHTER – Signed as OL depth, was cut and then resigned. As long as all are healthy, can’t see him back.
OUT

JASON BROWN– MUST be resigned. A key cog to this young, athletic line. In another year or so he could be All-Pro worthy. Made the transition fairly well to Center from Guard. By the way, ask Peyton Manning if the center is important and if Jeff Saturday has contributed to his success.
IN

RAY LEWIS– The face of the franchise. Rumors swirl and will continue to do so until the ink is on the page. This is the first time that the team has waited until his current contract was up to re-sign him. Answered durability issues with sparkling play this season. He will finish his career here. Don’t ask me how. Maybe franchised, bonus money, whatever. He has reached icon status among Baltimore’s Sports Legends. I don’t see any other team coming in to snatch him up.
IN

TERRELL SUGGS – Stepped up his game in a huge way this season and is only 26. Maybe now the other blogs and papers can put to rest the made up deal that would send a signed Suggs to Arizona for Anquan “Gimmie the Damn Ball or I will leave while my team celebrates going to the Super Bowl” Boldin. It was pure fantasy. Suggs is a more complete player now, picking off passes and yes, getting to the QB. In the post-season four sacks, two with ONE arm.
IN

BART SCOTT – A very good season for the solid linebacker. Very happy to see him tone down the chatter and focus on football. Heard more rumor this week about Scott, Suggs and Lewis dropping money to all play together. That’s the only way Scott stays. I don’t see it. Scott is a great story as he rose from special teams to grab the OLB spot. But the team is rich in backers and let’s not forget Ed Hartwell and Adalius Thomas left and weren’t quite as good once they didn’t play next to #52.
OUT

COREY IVY – Tough but undersized corner. Decent in the nickel. Always loved his heart but he was often a player that teams would target on third down. I’m split on his return because there is no way in my mind that Chris McAlister will be back. I have more of my thoughts on that later. Also with Rolle’s status in doubt he may be back due to necessity.
IN

JIM LEONHARD– What a season! Stepped in for the injured Dawan Landry and didn’t miss a beat. Solid hitter and a good return man. There is worry that he played too well for the Ravens’ own good. If he gets offered a big deal, he’s out. I’d love to see him back. But something tells me he getting a payday somewhere else.
OUT

MATT STOVER– Stover-matic. Bounced back from earlier slumps. Can still hit from 40 in. Hardly ever handles kickoffs with the baby faced understudy taking over. Does he want to come back? I think if they would have gotten to the Super Bowl he would have retired. But, he’s been quite so far. The last link to the Browns stands at the brink. I’ll flip for it.
OUT

At least that’s my opinion. We’ll let the coming weeks see if I’m right.


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