How Important is Character to the Ravens?
Sometime ago during the fallout from the Ray Rice saga in early 2014, ESPN Senior Writer and friend of BSL, Kevin Van Valkenburg, posed this question here on our message board.
Simply put, would you rather have a team full of good guys and lose. Or a team with a few guys with character flaws you have to answer for, but win?
Discuss your thoughts on this topic on our message board.
At the time the Ravens were a winning franchise having just suffered their first missed playoffs in the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era. Without Rice in 2014, they went back to the playoffs with Justin Forsett taking his spot. So the Ravens chose a different option than the two presented. Field a team full of good guys AND one that wins. It’s nice in theory. It’s a goal worth aiming for. But for the last two years, the Ravens haven’t been able to execute the latter.
Now that the Ravens have been losing more than winning, does it change their priorities at all? Do you roll the dice on facing backlash for signing some guys with a rap sheet if it improves the team? Keeping in mind the backlash is temporary, as long as you win, because winning cures all as you’ll see later in this article.
It’s not just the Ravens lately either. I think a lot of teams are willing to avoid headaches and save face when it comes to who they add to their rosters. A lot of teams, but not all. For some teams, improving the roster isn’t worth the headache. All along, you can have a roster full of good guys, but it never is guaranteed to stay that way. Ray Rice was the best of guys. The last guy you might expect to end up in the situation he did.
Michael Floyd, former Arizona Cardinals wideout, was arrested back in December for DUI with a BAC of .217. For Floyd it was his second DUI arrest, as he received his first back in his college days on campus at Notre Dame in 2011. Shortly after his arrest, the Cardinals released him. A 27-year-old, 6’3”, 220 lb. wideout who had only missed one game in his first four years in the league. Once a 1,000-yard receiver. The Cardinals released him and he made his way onto waivers where the team with the worst record that claims him, earns the rights to him.
Floyd was passed up by 31 teams. One team put in a waiver claim on Floyd. The New England Patriots with the best record in the game.
Here is Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick on claiming Floyd:
“Yeah, we were aware of his situation when we claimed him. He’s in an ongoing legal situation I’m not going to comment on.”
Belichick on if the Patriots have a system in place for players who find themselves in these situations:
“We have a lot of things on our team to handle a multitude of things that players, coaches, anybody in our organization, really, that come up. There are a lot of things outside of football that we all deal with. It’s a long, long list, and we provide a lot of resources for everybody on that.”
Read into that what you will.
Now, it’s not a big deal because Floyd hardly helped the Patriots win. He played in three games, did score a TD in a runaway win against the Dolphins, and was inactive for the AFC title game and Super Bowl. But let’s look at Floyd’s acquisition from the Patriots point of view.
A few weeks before Floyd was claimed, the games best TE and it’s not even close, Rob Gronkowski, had his season come to an end. The third receiver on the team is Chris Hogan. A guy that was a lacrosse player in college. Played one season of Football at Monmouth and caught 12 balls. He was cut by three teams, stuck with the Bills for three years as nothing more than a role player. He ended up flashing big in two games for the Pats in 2016. The New England receiving group hardly resembled Randy Moss and Wes Welker out there creating havoc. Looking back, it clearly doesn’t matter who you are when Josh McDaniel and Tom Brady are at the helm.
Regardless, the Patriots felt they had a need at the position and that Michael Floyd could be a possible answer. You look at the answers to the character questions aimed at Bill Belichick, and he shrugs them off. Legal situation, I’m not going to comment. Deflection at it’s best. They have things in place to handle any evils that anyone deals with outside of football. Great. Like what? Fact is, the Patriots faced backlash for claiming Michael Floyd and his baggage for all of about 15 minutes before there was a game coming up to talk about.
Enough Pats talk. Let’s get back to the Ravens. 31 teams including the Ravens took a hard line against claiming a guy with a DUI history. Easy to do in week 15. In week 2, maybe some teams are singing a different tune. Claiming Michael Floyd at least gives you, the team, the first chance at re-signing the unrestricted free agent if you wish to for 2017. The Ravens brass has to at that time be looking ahead to 2017, even if you don’t want your players and coaches doing so. Steve Smith retiring. Not sure if you’ll pick up Mike Wallace’s option. Unsure about the type of player you have in Breshad Perriman. Not your style to make a splash free agent signing like Alshon Jeffery. Kamar Aiken a non factor and likely leaving with a sour taste in his mouth. Chirs Moore couldn’t catch a cold in Alaska and oft injured Michael Campanaro’s big contribution in the end of the season was a couple of end around runs.
As it stands today, Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore are the top two WRs on the chart. Wallace option or extension pending, free agency pending. With all the teams but one…the best one…taking a hard line against Floyd, his market value is poor. He’ll be worth pennies on the dollar.
The Ravens could have had that advantage. Floyd, Perriman, Moore, and the cap space to keep your key players (Mike Wallace, Brandon Williams, Ricky Wagner) looks better than Veteran WR X with an inflated salary, Perriman, Moore, and not the cap space needed to keep the three guys mentioned. Or Perriman, Moore, and draft pick X.
But it comes back to the question at the top. Do you want a team full of good guys that lose, or a team with some guys with character flaws that wins? When the Ravens let Ray Rice go, it was one year removed from winning a Lombardi Trophy. Their first missed playoffs in 5 years. Low and behold, Justin Forsett would come in and lead the league in yards per carry for the Ravens, and Baltimore found itself right back in the playoffs the next year. That team didn’t exactly sacrifice winning for saving face. The cap hit from Ray Rice’s dead money did them no favors though.
Now that the Ravens have missed the playoffs two years running, and draft picks like John Urschel and Keenan Reynolds are nice human interest stories but leave you scratching your head, do you look at bringing in players with a checkered past if it potentially makes the roster better? You don’t have to go out of your way to sign bad guys. You don’t have to go out of your way not to either. Just judge each case individually.
On that note, from the department of redundancy department, Josh Gordon filed for reinstatement a couple days ago. If the NFL does reinstate him, the Browns could cut ties with the troubled restricted free agent. Gordon led the league in receiving yards in 2013 despite missing two games. But it’s going to take a lot of convincing to the league office that the 26-year-old Gordon has cleaned up his act after being suspended for at least part of each of the last four seasons for repeated violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.
Brandon Marshall is another name that the Ravens would have to think about. The Jets are going to release the 33-year-old. He’s got a rap sheet a mile long from his younger years including assault on a law enforcement officer, DUI which pled down to a lesser charge, numerous domestic incidents where charges were ultimately dropped. Maybe some of that is due to his then undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder, which he’s been receiving treatment for since 2011 and has remained out of trouble since being diagnosed and treated…except for one incident in 2012 where he allegedly hit a woman in the face during a brawl he was in the middle of at a night club he and his wife attended. The investigation was dropped after a lack of evidence of Marshall’s involvement in the situation. Marshall is the most likely to get signed without hesitation due to the length of time he’s stayed clean, the changes he’s made to his personal life to stay that way, and the awareness he’s been trying to bring to those suffering from mental illnesses.
If the Patriots don’t retain Michael Floyd, he’s another option. If you can deflect the DUI questions and maybe help the guy get the help he needs through the offseason rather than cast him off as a terrible person. DUI shouldn’t be taken lightly. But if he pays the price for his actions….hell, Michael Vick came back to the league.
Squeaky clean options at the wide receiver position could include DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Cordarrelle Patterson. All of which will probably get paid more than they will end up being worth when all is said and done.
If the Patriots claim of Floyd back in December is any indication, they will sign one of Gordon or Floyd well below market value, maybe Marshall as well, and potentially somehow improve a roster that went 14-2 and won a 5th Lombardi in sickening historic fashion. Meanwhile other teams can pay market value or more for average talent and then play golf in January without the headache of having to answer to the media for signing a guy that has flaws.
So how important is character to the Ravens? I guess we’ll find out has free agency opens up and the draft unfolds.
Would I sign Josh Gordon if he becomes available? If the price is right, as in no guaranteed money, earns a paycheck for each game he plays, in a heartbeat I would sign Josh Gordon.