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Eisenberg: Ravens Won't Regret Signing Benjamin Watson


The Ravens have experienced their share of a form of buyer's remorse in recent years. Several players who signed big-money deals haven't contributed as much as hoped, usually because of injuries, with one very ugly scandal mixed in.

I'll spare you a list of names. You know it. All told, it's enough to make you wonder whether the Ravens should adopt a philosophy of not investing big money in ANYONE.

OK, I'm just venting there. The Ravens have no choice but to pay up from time to time, as every team does; otherwise you lose your best players and have to start from scratch. But it does seem the Ravens have ended up looking back with at least a degree of regret more than they want, often because of the size and length of some deals.

But their signing of veteran tight end Benjamin Watson should be an exception. I don't expect they'll regret it for a minute.

If you watched Watson's introductory press conference Thursday, you surely saw what impressed the Ravens, that he's a first-class act. He's also still a productive receiver, having caught 74 passes for the New Orleans Saints in 2015.

Given Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's well-known fondness for throwing to tight ends, the odds are good that Watson will pile up similar stats in 2016.

Tight end wasn't a position of need when the offseason began, but that changed, GM Ozzie Newsome said, when Nick Boyle was suspended and Crockett Gillmore underwent two shoulder surgeries. Ravens Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman couldn't use two-tight end sets nearly as much as he wanted in 2015 because of injuries at the position, and now there was more uncertainty.

Signing Watson was an attempt to stabilize a position that is a crucial part of Trestman's blueprint.

"We're a tight end-friendly offense," Newsome said. "Joe likes having a tight end he can count on."

That wasn't always the case in 2015 when the Ravens went with young guys and injuries intervened. Meanwhile, Watson, according to Newsome, was on the field for close to 90 percent of the Saints' snaps, contributing as a blocker as well as a receiver.

And even if Watson, 35, can't maintain the high performance thresholds he reached in 2015, he can still influence the young guys the Ravens have stockpiled at his position – Gillmore, Boyle, Maxx Williams, etc. They're the future of the position in Baltimore, and Watson is about the best possible mentor the Ravens could have brought in.

And here's what's really positive about the signing from the Ravens' perspective: they got Watson on just a two-year deal, a relatively short commitment. He's making decent money, as he should, but no matter what happens, his deal won't gum up the Ravens' salary cap situation for years to come, as some of their other deals have.


The Ravens were right not to get into a bidding war over Kelechi Osemele, who ended up signing a massive deal with the Oakland Raiders.

If they had gone over-the-top aggressive, matched Oakland's offer and somehow kept Osemele, he would have been paid a lot more than Marshal Yanda, the Ravens' All-Pro guard. That wouldn't have been right.

Yanda, 31, is not only one of pro football's most effective blockers, but his commitment to the franchise is off-the-charts admirable. It takes a major injury to keep him from suiting up and playing.

He should be the Ravens' highest-paid offensive lineman. Period.

That's the case right now after Yanda signed a reported four-year, $35.8 million contract extension last October. Tackle Eugene Monroe has a higher salary cap hit in 2016, but Yanda reportedly averages $8.95 million per year over the span of his deal, and Monroe averages $7.5 million.

Osemele will earn $11.7 million over the span of his deal, according to Sportrac.

Yes, Osemele is talented and will be missed, and yes, last year's big deals often get surpassed by this year's, at every position; that's how salaries work in the NFL … in all sports, for that matter.

But Yanda sets the bar for how offensive linemen should prepare and perform in Baltimore, and he sets that bar high. It's only right that he also set the salary bar.

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