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Eisenberg: Ravens Offense Is Overdue for Good News


Honest confession: Watching the Ravens' open-to-the-media OTA practice Thursday was interesting and all, but what was really interesting was watching GM Ozzie Newsome bound around the edges of the session with his cell phone.

It was shortly after noon, and Jeremy Maclin was still on the premises; the suddenly available free agent wide receiver was sitting in the front passenger seat of a truck parked in front of the Under Armour Performance Center. He also had a cell phone. Was Newsome about to lock him up?

I could almost hear the sigh of disappointment from fans around town when Head Coach John Harbaugh told the media after practice that Maclin's visit went well but the newly-married receiver was leaving Baltimore to talk to his wife and consider his options.

The Ravens still might sign him, but his departure from their practice facility Thursday amounted to another disappointment for their offense, which, let's face it, is having a rough offseason.

I think I'm safe in saying the offense is overdue for some welcomed news, as opposed to the kind that sags shoulders. There's been a run of the latter in recent months.

It all started late last year, when Steve Smith Sr. said the 2016 season would be his last and stuck to his story. Then, when free agency began in March, two starters the Ravens had hoped to retain, right tackle Rick Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, received market-busting offers that hastened their departures. Another receiver, Kamar Aiken, also signed elsewhere.

The negative roll continued when running back Kenneth Dixon was hit with a four-game suspension for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and then, worst of all by far, tight end Dennis Pitta suffered another serious hip injury in an OTA practice, leading to his release from the organization this week – a development no one wanted.

Yes, several decisions within the Ravens' control also have made the offense's job potentially that much harder in 2017. They chose to trade their starting center, Jeremy Zuttah. They elected to focus on their defense in the draft, failing to select a skill-position player in any round for the first time in their history.

To be fair, there also have been steps taken in the right direction. Danny Woodhead, a productive veteran back when healthy, was signed in free agency. An expensive option on receiver Mike Wallace's contract was picked up. Breshad Perriman's strong practice performances this spring has the organization excited.

Overall, though, when summing up the offense's offseason, an old blues lyric seems most appropriate: "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all."

The regular season doesn't begin for three months, so there's time for the organization to balance out the setbacks with moves that help the offense.

But by the same token, the start of training camp is little over a month away, so the clock's ticking is getting louder. That's why Maclin's visit had fans on high alert Thursday, checking their Twitter feeds for news of a possible signing.

I heard that sigh.

But remember Assistant GM Eric DeCosta's one-word response when asked earlier this year what he had learned from Newsome after working together all these years?

"Patience," DeCosta said.

Indeed, no one expected Maclin to be available, just like few expected the New York Jets to make Eric Decker, another productive receiver, available. But the Jets are either going to cut or trade Decker, according to media reports. Newsome said months ago that he wanted to add a receiver, and now two good fits are out there.

My two cents, the Ravens need to add one. Wait, let me say that with emphasis: They really need to add one. They have some interesting in-house candidates at receiver, but the offense needs more proven downfield targets, especially now that Pitta is gone. Adding Maclin or Decker would come close to making all the difference.

As always, the salary cap is a factor. The Ravens don't have much room. They have to be careful. And other teams are interested in both players.

But after a long offseason of enduring the wrong kind of news, the offense is due a boost.

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