Well, we can now speculate what team probably won’t be making a return trip back to the Super Bowl anytime soon. The reigning Super Bowl champions Baltimore Ravens (outside of quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice) won’t be identifiable when the team open their 2013 NFL season.
Unless you hold up a roster chart in front of your face, about the only thing you might be able to recognize about the Ravens is the logo on their helmets.
That’s because of the mass exodus certified by the open market of free agency, have left the Ravens devoid of the talent that took them down victory lane over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. That’s just the way it goes when the NFL’s open market bidding process becomes a one-stop shop of supply and demand.
You talk about man down; the Ravens have had at least six key members from that Super Bowl-winning team depart barley over a month after winning the world’s biggest one-day sporting event. Losing the services of safety Ed Reed, one of the game’s all-time greats, would certainly signal the end of an era of defensive greatness for which the Ravens have been known for. If that were to happen, it would be a shame.
When people frivolously talk about the business side of professional sports, fans can now see this taking place live on HD TV. To some extent, it stinks. But in reality, it’s life. People change lines of employment all the time. People get fired from their jobs. In the NFL, the NBA, NHL and other professional sports, it is no different.
There’s an old saying that says the more things change the more things stay the same. That old adage doesn’t hold water during professional sports’ free agency period. If you check in with the Ravens you’ll discover a team in almost complete dismantling. Linebacker and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, the heart and soul leader of the Ravens throughout his storied NFL career, has called it quits. Sack specialist Paul Kruger got out town to sign a multi-year deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Linebacker Brian Ellerbee decided to hop on the Miami Dolphins bandwagon. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin came out on the short end of the free agency stick when the team shipped him out via trade to the very team they conquered in the Super Bowl. Longtime center Matt Birk retired. Hard-hitting defensive back Bernard Pollard was handed his walking papers by the Ravens. And so it goes.
If you have a favorite player in the National Football League, you might want to check out the transaction page in the sports section of the newspaper or blog you read or catch the latest update on the NFL channel. It’s a good bet that if that player is a free agent (restricted or otherwise) they may have already left the building and moved on to their next suitor for their talents. This is what happens every year.
NFL free agency is becoming more and more like a flea market or a last-minute rummage sale where the highest bidder picks up the merchandise he or she covets. In this case, it’s NFL players that are being fawned over with delirious anticipation by owners and general managers hoping to land the right personnel that will fit into their strategic formula of building a successful franchise. Jobs are lost by these decisions. Championships are sometimes won by the right pick up.
As the NFL officially marks the beginning of its calendar year, fans can expect players to come and go. Hopefully, it is not their favorite wide receiver or the quarterback they drool over. But this is the side of the NFL that epitomizes the business side of the game. Loyalty is nothing but a number. And with the average career span of an NFL career limited to a very short window, and the sport being as violent as it is, this is the one time where players are looking to cash in.
It is also a time where NFL GMs and owners look to part ways with dead weight personnel-either because of financial liability or unproductively on the field-or both. Free agency is pretty much like going to the supermarket, where basically you have your choice of the items you want. Teams don’t waste time getting rid of the aged and the least productive. They’re just as quick to upgrade their franchises with a product better suited for their entertainment shelves.
Gladys Knight’s hit signature song,” Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Good-Bye)” has no partial impact of the frenzied market called free agency. Teams and players alike ravenously seek options that can best benefit themselves. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the green machine. Whether it is teams trying to get under cap space to dole out huge amounts of cash to the right player(s) or NFL guys trying to upgrade their paychecks, free agency has now ballooned out of proportion.
According to lyrics in a hip-hop song that Hall of Fame defensive back Deion Sanders put out during his heyday, it ‘must be the money.’