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April 14, 2024

The Baltimore Ravens dumpster fire

By TIMOTHY MCSHEA | March 30, 2023



With the firing of Steve Saunders and ongoing reports of the Lamar Jackson contract situation, the media is uncovering the Baltimore Ravens' dirty laundry. 

The Lamar Jackson contract discussion has recently stooped down to the level of gossip at the high school lunch table. It’s never a pretty sight when your franchise quarterback is put on an exclusive tag — which the Baltimore Ravens enacted on March 7 — but it’s an even worse look when your franchise quarterback has to get on Twitter to dispel falsely reported contract numbers.  

Personally, I have mixed feelings on Lamar’s actions. In doing this, he has broken the level of silence that General Manager Eric DeCosta has maintained, to an extent, throughout the many press conferences of this tumultuous offseason. On the other hand, Adam Schefter and various other reporters have given such ridiculous reports, capitalizing on rumor and speculation while simultaneously painting Lamar as an ungrateful, unloyal person, so it is reasonable that he wants to respond.

On top of all this — perhaps the worse news for Ravens fans — is that Lamar, as he informed his fans on Twitter, requested a trade back on March 2. 

“[The Ravens have] not been interested in meeting my value,” he wrote. 

His statements were ironically — and, perhaps, purposely — posted on Twitter during coach Jim Harbaugh’s press conference at the NFL annual league meeting. When he was asked about the Lamar contract situation, his words were the starkest contrast possible when compared to Lamar’s.

“I’m excited. Thinking about Lamar all the time. Thinking about him as our quarterback,” he said. 

The rumored numbers of the contract offer have been all over the place since the general consensus before the 2022 season, which, according to ESPN, was worth $250 million, with $133 million guaranteed. This number was below the amount guaranteed to Deshaun Watson following the bidding war of the 2022 offseason, so many were resolutely on Lamar Jackson’s side (including me). Lamar Jackson has just recently confirmed this number in the aforementioned tweet.

Since then, the reported numbers have skyrocketed, with Schefter reporting the deal was $200 million guaranteed, which would make him the second highest paid quarterback of all time. As the war went on, many fans switched sides. What once was a one-sided battle between the Ravens’ front office and the entire city of Baltimore is now much more complicated.

It’s been trouble for the Ravens’ public relations team, as this isn’t even the first Twitter fiasco in the past month. During the NFL combine, DeCosta was questioned by a reporter on the Ravens’ struggle drafting for the wide receiver position. 

"If I had an answer, that would probably mean I would have some better receivers,” DeCosta responded

Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman took issue with these comments.

“How bout you play to your player's strength and & stop pointing the finger at us and #8 ...blame the one you let do this.... we take heat 24/7 . & keep us healthy ... care about US & see what happen..ain't no promises tho ... tired of y'all lyin and capn on players for no reason,” he said. 

To be fair, DeCosta had managed this topic relatively well in past seasons, avoiding the implications that the wide receiver position was lacking by insisting that he and the coaching staff were “excited” about their players. And, all things considered, there isn’t any indication he doesn’t still hold this faith. 

Within the fanbase, DeCosta perhaps gets less blame than he deserves, but there is no denying that the Ravens’ recent struggles to get the ball to their wide receivers has largely been an issue of offensive scheme. With Greg Roman gone, there is hope that the current Ravens wide receivers can produce far more yards. 

These premonitions of success are not far-fetched though they are speculative, and DeCosta was probably better off keeping these comments to himself. Undoubtedly he is feeling immense pressure to draft a star for Lamar and was attempting to get ahead of the criticism. This is understandable yet ill-advised in hindsight.

These two separate issues on Twitter illustrate the mood of both Ravens players and fans. After the firing of head strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders this past month, an onslaught of former Ravens players replied to the announcement on Twitter, simultaneously sharing their approval of the firing and their frustration that Saunders had retained his role for so long.

In the past two seasons, injuries have stifled the Ravens’ momentum. The 2021 offseason saw star players J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Marcus Peters all go down with season-ending injuries, which set bad premonitions since the start of the season. Though the team persevered to lead the AFC for a short period of time, any manufactured momentum was completely stifled when Lamar suffered an ankle sprain in Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns.

This past season wasn’t as bad, although frequent injuries in the second and eventual season-ending injury of Lamar had a similarly deflating effect. Regardless of fans’ reservations about Saunders’ regiments, the most important perspective comes from the players, who reacted to the firing of Saunders in an overwhelmingly positive light.

Former Ravens player Matthew Judon, Carl Davis Jr. and Bam Bradley all sounded off in a chain of tweets, with Davis Jr. originally reacting to the NFLPA’s Team Report Card score for the Ravens’ strength and conditioning staff. Only two teams in the entire NFL had below a B for this category: the Atlanta Falcons received a D- and the Ravens received an F-, the worst possible score. 

Davis Jr. agreed with this result. “I was def a victim of the strength coaches. Two Labrums and multiple pec strains,” he wrote.

“5 months post ACL. Unsuccessfully doing the same leg workouts as people with healthy knees never sits right with me.! Ruined me,” Bradley wrote on Twitter. 

Judon, who has had other issues with the Ravens’ front office in the past, responded succinctly. “Been told them to fire him,” he wrote.

Saunders has been the Ravens' head strength and conditioning coach for five years, and the damage he has done is well-documented. His firing represents a victory, but the positive feelings are short-lived, as we are left to wonder why he stood in the position for so long. 

Harbaugh has been adamant about keeping widely disliked staff members, as can also be seen in his support of Roman. His reluctance to embrace change and actually listen to players' opinions on the coaching staff has led many to question if Harbaugh should be the next coach to go. His position seems safer now that he has finally succumbed to these coaching decisions, but his future remains shaky at best.

All of these stories have made the Ravens’ front office seem more brittle and corrupt than ever before, and, if the results of the past few seasons are any indication, great change needs to come in order for their reputation to be healed.

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