Eisenberg: Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures


Wallace, Watson and Weddle sounds like a law firm, but of course, it's actually the free-agent haul the Ravens have lassoed since the NFL's shopping window opened two weeks ago.

Benjamin Watson, the tight end, signed first, then Eric Weddle, the safety, and finally, Mike Wallace, the wide receiver.

Individually, they all fill holes. Collectively, they make the Ravens better than they were when the 2015 season ended.

Now we know why the Ravens were so determined to clear salary-cap space. They had moves in mind and it's hard to argue with them.

Yes, there are caveats. By restructuring several large contracts to clear that space, they've ensured that the cap hits for those players will last longer at a higher rate. It's a "kick the can down the road" maneuver that Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti and GM Ozzie Newsome have said they'd rather avoid.

Also, there's no doubt the Ravens have, ahem, not gotten any younger. Watson is 35, Weddle 31, Wallace 29, and let's face it, they were added in part because the Ravens' younger players at their positions have dealt with injuries and aren't ready to start.

The Ravens also won't reel in their usual haul of compensatory draft picks in 2017 because several of these signings work against them in the comp-pick calculus.

But honestly, who cares?

Yes, Newsome is the comp-pick master, having accrued more than any other GM and turned many into players, but if the alternative is adding a difference-making free agent who gives the team a better chance of winning in 2016, well, that's an easy call. The Ravens went 5-11 last season. It was no fun for anyone.

They obviously believe they can engineer an immediate turnaround, i.e., win now, as opposed to using 5-11 as a signal that it's time to undertake a rebuilding project. You're not going to hear that "R-word" around the halls of the Under Armour Performance Center.

Plenty of work still needs to be done, of course. The Ravens' list of needs (or wants) includes inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback and offensive tackle. The draft needs to go well. Lots of guys need to get healthy. The pieces of a new puzzle need to fit.

But the Ravens' willingness to depart from several operational traditions indicates their urgency. What's the saying? Desperate times call for desperate measures. Newsome usually lets the free-agent market settle down before he shops, but he didn't wait for prices to drop this time.

Obviously, when you start a season as a chic Super Bowl pick and end up 5-11, it stings.

And the best news about the shopping spree might actually be philosophical in nature more than grounded in X's and O's. My two cents, it's a big deal that these players wanted to come, that they had options and picked the Ravens.

Don't roll past that fact without stopping to think about it.

Fairly or not, the disappointing 2015 season damaged the Ravens' stock in some eyes, especially locally. Radio talk shows and Internet boards were full of criticism. Even if some were willing to give the organization a pass on the grounds that occasional losing seasons happen, the general message was the Ravens had lost their touch, fallen far from their Super Bowl high.

But the law firm wasn't influenced. Wallace, Watson and Weddle each submitted to a wider-angle view of the Ravens' prospects, which is much rosier given their record of six playoff appearances, three AFC title-game appearances and a Super Bowl victory in eight years under Head Coach John Harbaugh.

Weddle was downright eloquent on the subject, citing "the passion, the belief, the structure, the toughness" of the Ravens. When he clapped his hands enthusiastically before he sat down at his introductory press conference, it was clear he relished his new football home.

Sure, the Ravens recruited aggressively and offered fair-market contracts, which helped them seal these deals. But I think it's worth noting that the players weren't dissuaded by 5-11, that they're taking the long view of the Ravens rather than the short view.

That guarantees nothing going forward, of course; coming off a season in which their play warranted a 5-11 finish, the Ravens have a lot to clean up and get right before they can reclaim a spot in the AFC's upper crust. Their hard work hasn't even started, really. But the law firm's arrival is a positive start.

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