In case you missed it, the Baltimore Ravens have undergone a lot of turnover lately. The vast majority of the cuts make sense, no matter how much Ravens fans want to hear it. The salary cap is a cruel mistress; she will hurt you and break your heart, but you will come back for more every time.
The trade for Boldin had to happen, no matter how sorely he will be missed in the passing game. The same goes for the pending departure of Ed Reed, no matter how much it may break your heart.
But Bernard Pollard? Hard-hitting, playmaking, $1 million against the cap strong safety Bernard Pollard?
When news of his release broke, I felt like I was in a scene from the classic 1980's movie Big. In case you were not a child of the 80's, allow me to enlighten you.
The movie centers around a kid named Josh who wishes upon the almighty Zoltar arcade game to be "big." It is granted, as he becomes an adult, still a child in an adult's body, played by Tom Hanks.
Josh, now an important employee at a toy company, finds himself in an important board meeting with actual adults, discussing the merits of a new product. There's lots of smart adult talk going on that Josh doesn't exactly understand. He does the elementary/middle school thing and raises his hand. His perplexed boss "calls on" Josh, who responds "I don't get it."
Well, ladies and gentleman, like many Ravens fans...I don't get it. I guess that makes me Josh and Ozzie Newsome the big, smart boss man. No matter how much I think I know about football and the Ravens, there are many things that I do not get and Newsome of course does. Perhaps we will never get it.
Which departure could potentially hurt the Ravens most?
Most of the departures, unfortunately, had to happen. As mentioned, as productive as Anquan Boldin has been during his tenure in Baltimore, his age (32) and salary made him expendable. Few thought Paul Kruger would return to Baltimore because it was an inevitable another team with a greater priority on the defensive line would make him an offer he could not refuse. The Cleveland Browns made him that offer and the Ravens could not match it.
Dannell Ellerbe's departure was a mild surprise. Ellerbe was deemed to be the Raven's number one priority this offseason after signing quarterback Joe Flacco to a long term deal. But the Miami Dolphins opened up the bank vault, making his return nearly impossible.
There are some loose ends that still remain. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie is still a free agent and future Hall-of-Famer Ed Reed was last seen flying to Houston in Bob McNair's private jet. Who knows what will happen with them? If they go, it could be explained and hopefully accepted by an understanding fan base.
Both players are old, drafted back in 2002. Reed, in particular, could be overpriced. No doubt, Reed will go down as one of the all-time greatest safeties ever and he has meant a lot to Baltimore. But the Ravens may not be able to afford to play a fading star for his past greatness. They would certainly like to have Reed ride off into the sunset while wearing the purple and black, but maybe it is time; maybe it is not. Either decision could be justified.
McKinnie can be great...when he wants to be. His insertion into the starting lineup last season was a big reason for the Ravens Super Bowl run. But which McKinnie will show up? Will the overweight, unmotivated McKinnie sign on the dotted line or will the Ravens hope that he has turned the corner for at least a few more seasons? Who knows but, again, there is logic in a decision either way here.
But it is the "big" decision to cut ties with the enforcer known as Bernard Pollard the right move? Is he as great as Reed? Does he make the impact that Ellerbe or Kruger makes? That is debatable. Regardless of your stance on that debate, the decision is hard to understand.
At times, Pollard was the best player on the Ravens defense. Who could forget the jarring hit on Steven Ridley during the AFC Championship Game? The hit knocked the ball out of Ridley's hands and Ridley out of the game. Many considered it the nail in the Patriots coffin. The Ravens moved on to the Super Bowl and the rest is history.
Pollard is still fairly young (29 years old) and inexpensive in the grand scheme of things. The Ravens only save $1 million on the salary cap. He was a solid player who fit the Ravens defensive scheme, so why was he sent out to pasture?
Some say that it is a personality issue and there is more to this personnel decision than meets the eye. Maybe Pollard's attitude and aggressive, even out-of-control play did not mesh well with John Harbaugh and the coaching staff. That would make sense, but there are some holes in this theory.
Pollard was brought on during Harbaugh's tenure. He molded many "loud" personalities, who were a key to the Ravens success. The Ravens still have one of the biggest trash talkers on the roster in Terrell Suggs and they are talking with James Harrison, the poster child for helmet-to-helmet hits.
So now they are concerned with having a hard hitter with a brash personality? Maybe they wanted a strong safety that had more speed and better coverage skills. That's a little easier to understand, but it doesn't really add up either. Strong safeties are usually the thumpers of the team.
Some moves just do not make a lot of sense no matter how much we try. Ozzie is one of the smartest general managers in football.
He's big and I don't get it.