OWINGS MILLS, Md. — As bad as the optics are as Ryan Grant’s Ravens tenure ended so abruptly, Ozzie Newsome did not hesitate to insist there was nothing shady about Grant failing the team physical the same day Michael Crabtree hit the open market.
“That’s not a football decision,” Newsome, the Ravens president, said Friday morning at the team facility on the same day the free-agent Crabtree visited. “That’s a medical decision that I have no control over.”
So, he was asked, was it fair for the Ravens to be widely criticized for voiding the contract they’d agreed on with Grant on Wednesday as free agency began, coincidentally after Crabtree was released by the Raiders?
“No, no, no,” Newsome said.
NFL FREE AGENCY:
Winners, losers of open market
The timing will never look pure, especially as the Ravens found an out in the wake of the equally skeptical reaction to the reported four-year deal for $14.5 million guaranteed — for a player whose best year out of his four in Washington was last season’s 45 catches for 573 yards, more than double his career totals in both categories.
“We were going to change the faces in our wide receiver room,” Newsome said, echoing what he has said all offseason about the Ravens’ most underwhelming position last season.
Ex-Cardinals receiver John Brown signed this week (and was with Newsome as he spoke to reporters). Jeremy Maclin was cut after one season in Baltimore, and veterans Mike Wallace and Michael Campanaro are free agents who may or may not return. Their need to heavily upgrade the position was no secret.
“If we had signed Ryan we still would’ve pursued Michael Crabtree,” Newsome added.
That is plausible on several levels. No free-agent contract is done until the physicals are completed, and, Newsome said, he did not get the news from the Ravens’ long-time medical personnel until about 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon. It concerned Grant’s ankle, he said; he had been on some late-season injury reports last season but had never missed a game in his career.
And Crabtree is a player who, if the Ravens were shaking up the wide receiver unit as they say, is logically at the top of their list no matter when he came available.
The Ravens and Raiders played in each of the three seasons Crabtree played in Oakland; the Raiders won twice, and Crabtree’s totals were 281 yards and five touchdowns on 22 receptions. Before any of that, of course, Crabtree faced the Ravens in the 2013 Super Bowl game the 49ers nearly came back to win.
“That should give you an idea of why we’re interested in him,” Newsome said, only half-jokingly.
NFL FREE AGENCY:
Grades for notable signings, trades
Newsome, overseeing his last offseason before retiring after the 2018 season, gets why the team looks so unscrupulous from the outside. But, he said, “It would have been interesting if we would have been sitting here a year from now, or two years from now, and those same people that are scrutinizing us for doing it — what they would have been thinking.
“They’d probably be hiding in a hole somewhere.”