The Ravens’ recent addition of free agent receiver Drew Bennett may appear to be a compensatory move, an effort to replace the void left by Derrick Mason should his recent retirement announcement hold true.
But a quick look at the Ravens’ history, specifically general manager Ozzie Newsome’s moves, may suggest otherwise.
The Ravens signed full back Lorenzo Neal halfway through training camp last year. They brought in tackle Willie Anderson three days before the season opener. Newsome is constantly evaluating his team, and if he believes there’s someone available who can make Baltimore a better football team, he’s shown he’s prepared to pull the trigger on such a move.
“You know my track record,” Newsome said shortly after this year’s draft. “The job is never done as far as I’m concerned.”
That strategy is consistent with head coach John Harbaugh’s way of thinking. He has insisted all offseason that the Ravens are constantly searching to improve all positions, not just wide receiver, as fans and media have speculated upon.
“We’re interested in anybody that can help our team,” noted Harbaugh during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) this past spring.
But Bennett isn’t the sort of improvement fans were looking for. The eight-year veteran only played one game last season for the St. Louis Rams, and ended the season on Injured Reserve.
Many in Baltimore were clamoring the the Ravens to make a deal for Anquan Boldin out of Arizona or Brandon Marshall out of Denver. Both are explosive receivers wanting new contracts with new teams.
Yet Newsome wasn’t willing to part with the first- and third-round draft picks either move would likely require.
After Mason announced his intention to walk away from the game after 13 seasons, trade rumors began swirling again. The Ravens have not publicly accepted Masons’ retirement, instead emphasizing their hope that he returns in 2009. After speaking with Mason, Harbaugh noted he was “optimistic and hopeful” that Mason would do just that.
Though Bennett’s arrival in Baltimore may appear to contradict that hope, it stands to reason that Newsome, Harbaugh and the Ravens are just sticking to their methods.
If Mason does return, then Bennett adds quality depth. If he does not, then a healthy Bennett could emerge as one of the candidates to take his place on the starters’ rotation. Either way, the move is consistent with Newsome’s strategy of the past. And heading into 2009, consistency is one of the things Baltimore hopes to achieve.