Getting injured in a contract year is the last thing an NFL player wants, and no doubt, that is true for Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, who is expected to miss time after leaving last Thursday night's loss in Cincinnati with a bruised knee.
Not playing as the Ravens try to gain traction early in the 2018 season surely is driving Mosley nuts.
But weirdly, his injury actually helps make the point that he deserves a lucrative new contract that keeps him in Baltimore when his rookie deal expires after this season. Mosley and the team have been trying to reach an agreement, thus far to no avail.
With Mosley sidelined, the Ravens are getting a glimpse of what life would be like without him. They can't like the picture.
The defense had major problems without him in Cincinnati, allowing touchdowns on four straight possessions after he left the field. The unit did gather itself and make a series of stops as the Ravens rallied, but still, it was a rough night overall.
They hope things will improve in the coming weeks now that Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale can at least plan for his absence. The productivity of rookie Kenny Young as Mosley's replacement in Cincinnati is another reason to believe the defense might survive.
But make no mistake, everyone on that side of the ball is looking at himself in the mirror, taking a deep breath and saying, "OK, we can get through this. I swear, we can."
It's not a good feeling. The fact that Mosley doesn't have ligament damage and is coming back as soon as possible helps make it tolerable.
Imagine if he were never coming back.
That would be the case if the Ravens' defensive quarterback doesn't sign and hits free agency next year as a 26-year-old, three-time Pro Bowl selection – a very attractive football commodity, certain to draw interest from many teams. The Ravens have endeavored to sign him long before the situation reaches that point.
The fact that their other defensive leaders are 36-year-old Terrell Suggs and 33-year-old Eric Weddle further emphasizes Mosley's indispensability. Baltimore would really be looking at a major turning of the page defensively, relatively soon, if Mosley is also out of the picture.
By the same token, if he's there, presumably on a long-term deal, the defense has its most fundamentally important piece, a centerpiece to build around.
In my mind, that calculus shouldn't change even if Young plays well and the Ravens win some games without Mosley in the coming weeks, starting this Sunday against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium. Anything can and does happen in today's unpredictable NFL. Formulating an opinion on any issue from the results of a few games is a dangerous idea.
I've heard and seen it argued that a player should be more dominant than Mosley, produce more unforgettable moments, to warrant the mega-contract he wants and is sure to receive. It's a fair point to consider.
But I don't think it's wise to let a young defensive mainstay depart simply because some vague (actually, nonexistent) salary cap theorem intimates that you should only pay the second coming of Ray Lewis, who may never walk through the door.
Mosley has offered plenty of evidence that he is a player to build around, well worth paying. He is smart and dedicated, a level-headed, responsible leader as well as a top player. He calls the defensive signals, a pivotal task. He is durable, having missed just two of 65 NFL games before last week's injury. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 9 inside linebacker in the NFL last year, but only Mosley and Carolina's Luke Kuechly have amassed 450 tackles, 5 five sacks and 5 five interceptions since 2014.
Yes, finding younger, cheaper options often leads to change with a salary cap in play. But if Young does prove to be a fourth-round steal, think how strong the Ravens could be at inside linebacker with Mosley and Young paired together.
Any way you view it, the Ravens' defensive picture is a lot less cloudy going forward with Mosley in it. If they manage to get by without him for a few weeks, it's a triumph to savor, not a cautionary tale.