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Eisenberg: Buyer Beware of WR Divas


There are more and more veteran receivers for the Ravens to contemplate as potential caffeine for their passing game. Denver's Brandon Marshall and Arizona's Anquan Boldin are under contract but often named in trade rumors. Buffalo has released Terrell Owens. Tampa Bay has said goodbye to Antonio Bryant.

They're all talented guys who have caught a lot of balls and made some big plays. If the conversation on this and other web sites is any barometer, a whole lot of fans want the Ravens to go after (fill in your choice, they're all mentioned). It could easily happen, and given the relatively tepid state of the Ravens' downfield passing game in 2009, it probably should happen.

But here's my two cents on the issue: Buyer beware. If the Ravens make a deal to bring in one of those guys, they had also better budget for a crate of earmuffs to hand out to the players and coaches.

When you group all those guys together, it becomes abundantly clear what they all have in common – and why they're available. Yes, they're good players. But they're always unhappy about something, always in the middle of some "situation." They're divas. They're drama queens. People get tired of having them around, no matter how talented they are.

If one lands in Baltimore, he isn't just going to take a pill and be magically transformed. Are the Ravens willing to take on such a headache? That may be the biggest question they need to ask themselves during this offseason.

Marshall is the most attractive of the bunch from a football standpoint, just 25 (more than a decade younger than Owens) and coming off three straight seasons of 100-plus receptions. But he was suspended and benched at different times during the 2009 season, and off the field, well, let's be nice and just say he keeps his lawyer busy.

Bryant, who turns 30 next week, caught 83 passes in 2008, but he missed time because of knee and groin injuries last season and complained both privately and publicly about the offense not coming to him enough. Now he has talked his way off four teams in eight years as a pro.

Owens, the grand diva, is somewhat misunderstood. Yes, really. He is an upstanding citizen who doesn't have off-field problems. He just likes attention. He might be the best example anywhere of what basketball coach Pat Riley famously called "the disease of me." It can be harmless enough at times -- it wasn't in Philadelphia, where his selfishness ripped the Eagles apart -- but it is increasingly unattractive and potentially divisive as his skills decline. And he was just an average receiver in Buffalo last season.

Boldin is just 29 and caught 84 passes last season, giving him 586 career receptions. But he also has "the disease of me." He has been upset about his contract for so long that we're counting the years in roman numerals now. And he is such a team guy that he fought with his offensive coordinator on the sidelines of the 2008 NFC title game.

The fans clamoring for the Ravens to add one of them should have to sign a waiver stating they promise not to complain when (veteran diva receiver) becomes a distraction because (fill in the situation, probably involving either not getting the ball enough or not being paid enough). OK, so they can stretch the field and make plays. But they're also headaches.

Of all the veteran offensive players available, I like Brian Westbrook, the runner/receiver released by the Eagles after eight superb seasons. He is a Pro Bowl-caliber player who doesn't cause problems or become a distraction. He's an adult. A team-first guy, he just plays. But he suffered two concussions and had a down year for the first time in 2009, so there are questions about how much good football he has left. And of course, he isn't the field-stretching pure receiver the Ravens need.

They may well take the plunge and acquire one of these guys to bolster their receiving corps, but they should do so carefully, without locking themselves into an expensive, long term marriage they might soon regret. Diva receivers can help, but their act gets old.

John Eisenberg worked in the newspaper business for 28 years as a sports columnist, with much of that time coming at the Baltimore Sun. While working for the Sun, Eisenberg spent time covering the Ravens, among other teams and events, including the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series and Olympics. Eisenberg is also the author of seven sports-themed books.

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