Eisenberg: Santonio Holmes Fills Ravens' WR Needs


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But there's another receiver who fits the description and almost surely would give the Ravens exactly what they want.

How about Santonio Holmes?

The Ravens' longtime nemesis and former Super Bowl MVP is fast, stretches fields, makes huge plays and certainly would look good to quarterback **Joe Flacco**. He's also just 26 and on the cusp of free agency.

But the Ravens can't think about adding him until the NFL players and owners agree on a new collective bargaining agreement and the terms of free agency are established.

Remember free agency?

It is one of the cornerstones of the offseason, a rush-to-gold shopping spree of veteran talent. In any other year, it would have started last Friday and we would be right in the thick of it now, debating what the Ravens should do, who they should chase, what positions they should fill with veterans as opposed to draft picks.

But because of the labor situation, it has been postponed indefinitely. Since there's no telling when we'll have football again, there's no telling when we'll have free agency again.

Holmes received one of the highest possible tenders from the New York Jets last week; any other team would have to give up first- and third-round picks to sign him. But the terms of free agency are on the table in the labor talks, and such a tender might be irrelevant under a new CBA, freeing Holmes to test the market.

It's a delicious thought for the Ravens, but there are numerous uncertainties keeping it from even being contemplated at the moment, starting with how any new contracts would fit under a salary cap, provided the new CBA calls for a salary cap. (I assume it will.) And of course, there's the whole business about whether, or how, free agency will unfold at all before another season takes place.

If all that gray area is enough to give you a headache, imagine how NFL front offices feel. Their world has been turned upside down. They're used to filling holes via free agency (or trades) in March and then stocking up in the draft in late April. But it could be that the draft comes first this year.

I'm guessing there will eventually be a period of free agency before the next NFL season, whenever it takes place. And while no one is talking about it now because, well, there's nothing to talk about, it could have huge ramifications for the Ravens.

Instead of stabilizing their secondary by taking a cornerback with their first-round pick, they could try to sign an established star such as Cincinnati's Johnathan Joseph, who is only 26, or Kansas City's Brandon Carr, 24, who led the NFL in passes defended in 2010. (Joseph will be available. Carr, like Holmes, received a tender that could be voided depending on the new CBA.)

All that talk about finding a right tackle to improve the offensive line? Instead of drafting Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, the Ravens could go after Tyson Clabo, 29, who has started every game for the Falcons for the past three seasons and is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. He is a hulking 6-feet-6 and 331 pounds, and will be available. Pretty nice fit.

Instead of using the draft to give them someone other than Terrell Suggs to pressure quarterbacks, the Ravens could go after Charles Johnson, 24, a defensive end who had 12 sacks for the Panthers last season, or Ray Edwards, 26, who piled up 16.5 sacks for the Vikings over the past two seasons.

There is a lot to consider, a lot to talk about, except right now there's only silence. If every NFL team is a house, free agency is one of the prime furniture stores they use to stock their rooms, but the doors to the store are closed, shut tight, padlocked.

They'll open again one of these days, but who knows when?

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