Tiki Barber’s Take — ‘Super Bowl Champion Ravens are Already in Trouble’
It's been less than two months since the Baltimore Ravens were crowned Super Bowl Champions and we're already clamoring for football! One of the great strengths of the NFL is its ability to make you pay attention all winter long, and the latest boost comes in the form of free agency, which kicked off last week.
It's almost impossible to really know who wins or loses in the free agent shuffle until the pads are strapped on and chemistry, game planning and injuries are factored. However, you can start to get a feel of who's on the right path for success.
Champs Already in Trouble?
The aforementioned Super Bowl Champs are in trouble. Ray Lewis has retired, Ed Reed is pounding the pavement in other cities, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger went to greener pastures, and most importantly, clutch WR Anquan Boldin, who caught all of Joe Flacco's 50/50 balls (toss ups that could either be INTs or big completions) is playing for the NFC Champions across the country.
Speaking of Mr. Highest Paid Player in the NFL - when someone gets paid in the League, the first statement out of people's mouths is "he'd better play up to all that cash.” No one will hear that more than Joe Flacco, who now, with Ray Lewis gone and his wallet hefty, will be Baltimore's top dog - the alpha in the locker room with more responsibility than he's ever had before. This opportunity will give him his chance to prove whether he is in the same league as the elite quarterbacks or not!
Patriots Win With Welker Departure
The Wes Welker departure from New England, and the ensuing brouhaha reminds me that no matter how much you identify a player with a team, there is no loyalty in the NFL - from either side of the aisle. In a $9+ billion dollar industry, you better get or keep your piece of the pie when you can.
Wes Walker aside though, both the Broncos and the Patriots win here. Peyton Manning just got a WR that will fit seamlessly into his scheme because he has a high football IQ, and is a mismatch for most linebackers or safeties that will have to cover him in the slot. The Pats don't need him. As much as we want to talk about the chemistry that he had with Tom Brady and the prolific seasons that he continuously had, the Pats are a plug and play/if one piece breaks, another replaces type team. There is a Patriot Way, one player doesn't make it or break it.
The Beasts of the West
I'm going to love the watching the NFC West next season! Not only am I obsessed with the 49ers zone read schemes and Colin Kaepernick at the helm, I also think that there is a significant rivalry developing for years to come with their Pacific coast rival, the Seattle Seahawks, who have strengthened their already stout defense - first in scoring, 4th in yards - by adding former Lion Cliff Avril and former Buccaneer Michael Bennett. Coupled with the trade for former Viking Percy Harvin, that will add more firepower to Russell Wilson's armory, I think the Seahawks are a 12-win team.
Missing Piece in Motor City
I don't love Reggie Bush as a top flight NFL running back, but I do love him in Detroit. If there is one organization that needed a runner with his skill set, it was the Lions. For the last 3 years, the Lions have been that team ready for its coming out party...but after four years of mostly mediocrity (they teased us in 2011 with a 10-6 record), Jim Schwartz squad needs to sh*% or get off the pot! Reggie Bush helps them do that.
While not an elite between the tackles runner, he’s learned to be willing, and in an offense that can attack the defensive 2nd and 3rd levels with Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson, respectively, there should be ample opportunity for spread runs, screens and out-of-the backfield big plays. I'm (again) expecting big things out of Motown.
A Giant Mistake?
Lastly, I never knew that Jerry Reese was a gambling man, but the 1st round tender on Victor Cruz is a huge gamble! So many good teams feel they are "a player away", and bad teams know that there is little by way of draft this year, that they'd gladly give up their #1 for a proven commodity. I'm sure my friend, Mr. Reese, knows more than I about Cruz's market value; however, given the long term questions at RB, having a steady like TeamVic is big.
In a little over a month, we'll be talking draft, not too soon after that mini-camp and before you know it, September and opening day of the NFL season. It's hard to get football out of your blood, even if you're just playing with paper teams.
Tiki Barber is the all-time leading rusher in New York Giants history and a 3x Pro Bowler. He is the co-founder and chairman of Thuzio, an online marketplace to connect the public with professional athletes for appearances, coaching, speaking and unique fan experiences. He was a correspondent for NBC and currently co-hosts CBS Sports radio’s weekday morning show. Tiki graduated from the University of Virginia with a concentration in Management Information Systems.