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Eisenberg: Mosley Has More Leverage Than Any Raven Since Flacco


If you asked a dozen fans to pinpoint what they believe is the most surprising move of the Ravens' offseason, you might get a dozen different answers.

But identifying the LEAST surprising move? That's easy. The decision to pick up the fifth-year option on inside linebacker C.J. Mosley was a no-brainer.

The move guarantees that Mosley, who has received a Pro Bowl invitation in two of his first three NFL seasons, will man the middle of the Ravens' defense for at least two more years.

It also further delays the day when Mosley could become a free agent. The Ravens certainly want to put that off for as long as possible.

As things stand now, Mosley would have more negotiating leverage with the Ravens that any pending free agent since Joe Flacco.

I'm not suggesting Mosley could match Flacco's bargaining power when the quarterback was poised to hit the open market just weeks after leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory in February 2013. It's possible no player anywhere will ever top that for perfect timing. Flacco wound up signing a $120 million contract.

But while Mosley might not be able to equal the quarterback's leverage, he is on his way to attaining that caliber of stature on his side of the ball. As the Ravens' defensive centerpiece, he calls the signals, makes plays that decide games and seldom, if ever, comes off the field.

The Ravens are fixated on bolstering their defense, as evidenced by their signing of free agents Tony Jefferson and Brandon Carr and their selection of four straight defensive players to begin the 2017 draft last month. But regardless of who else is involved, the blueprint for any future Baltimore defense begins with having Mosley, 24, in place to run it.

The organization has let a handful of quality young players depart in recent years simply because it deemed their price too high, but it made an exception this year when it paid top dollar to re-sign nose tackle Brandon Williams, whose run-plugging talents would be difficult to replicate. Mosley belongs in the same category as Williams, and in fact, would be even harder to replace.

The Ravens have missed on several high draft picks since they won the Super Bowl, but Mosley is their best answer to any criticism – not just a home run, but a grand slam with the No. 17 overall pick in 2014.

Only nine NFL defenders have amassed more tackles than Mosley since he began playing. Only four other defenders have, like Mosley, tallied at least 300 tackles, five sacks and five interceptions.

His talents were so obvious from the outset of his pro career that the Ravens' veterans were already calling him "half man, half amazing" when he was a rookie – a reference to Spiderman, a superhero. The nickname still circulates, and yet the Ravens believe Mosley is still developing, which suggests even better days ahead.

His development was apparent in his pass coverage in 2016. Mosley experienced some difficulties in his first two years, but it became a strength last season when he recorded eight passes defended and four interceptions. Only one NFL linebacker had more picks.

The Ravens are not attempting to hide the fact that they plan to lock up Mosley with a long-term deal, giving him the same treatment accorded previous cornerstones such as Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata.

"I expect C.J. Mosley to be a Raven for many, many, many years," Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters in March.

By picking up his option for 2018, they gave themselves two years to get it done. That's a long time in today's NFL, so there's no urgency yet. The Ravens usually let such situations tick and tock until a deadline looms, spurring action. Some players simply don't want to negotiate or sign, entranced by free agency's possibilities.

But If I'm the Ravens and Mosley is the least bit willing, I would try to sign him sooner rather than later. His price is probably only going up. The Ravens certainly can't afford to let such a valuable player walk.  How nice would it be to get that in writing?

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