Just like every offseason in the NFL, this one is not short on big-time storylines. Peyton Manning became the biggest free agent in NFL history, Bountygate rocked the league, and there were a handful of others. For the Baltimore Ravens, this has been a pretty jam-packed offseason as well. While the team continues their contract negotiations with Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, the future of Ed Reed in Baltimore is cloudy, a few other free agents left Baltimore, and their quarterback made a head-scratching comment that sort of flew under the radar. After taking the Ravens to the doorstep of the Super Bowl, Flacco came out and said he was the best quarterback in the NFL. I’m not here to debate the merits of the comment. Anyone who watches the NFL knows that it is ridiculous and Flacco is not even close to that conversation at this point in his career. However, Flacco made some big strides last season, he played big in the playoffs, and if Baltimore wants to take the next step, his right arm is the key to it all and it is an important offseason for the Ravens to try to lock up their signal caller.
John Harbaugh joined 105.7 the Fan in Baltimore to talk about how he feels about this offseason, whether he is concerned about Ed Reed’s future in Baltimore, whether he had ever heard before anything along the lines of what Gregg Williams said in New Orleans, if he would be surprised if a long-term deal didn’t get worked out for Ray Rice, if players need to be reminded that the agent works for them and not vice versa, and what he makes about Joe Flacco saying he is the best quarterback in the NFL.
How he feels about this offseason:
“I was hoping that we would keep one or two more guys probably but that would’ve been contingent on them not getting huge offers somewhere else. You kind of have mixed feelings. I want to keep all our guys and I say that all the time but you don’t want to see a guy not have an opportunity for his family to get life changing money or something like that, especially toward the end of their career like Jarret (Johnson) did so I knew we would be able to take a couple of guys at least and we were able to do that. Getting Lardarius (Webb) re-signed was huge and getting Jameel (McClain) resigned is huge for our linebacking core. The other thing is when you sign a free agent from another team, it costs you compensatory picks two years down the road so sometimes when you sign your own guys it’s kind of a double value there. There’s a lot of reasons. You get guys that you know are good players, that are a part of your system, that you have trained, that you know what you’re getting, and you don’t lose a compensatory pick two years down the road because you lose a pick when you sign a free agent from another team so there’s some pluses there.”
Whether he is concerned about Ed Reed’s future in Baltimore:
“Obviously we have utmost respect for Ed, he and I have a tremendous relationship, we’ve been texting back and forth, it’s been really positive, I know he is working really hard because he always does and last year I thought he was in the best shape of his whole career, at least the career I’ve seen, the last four years let me say that. He was in tremendous shape, he played very, very well, and I agree with him, I think he has plenty of years left to play and the rest of it is part of the business part of it and that’s part of the way it goes. That stuff has a way of working itself out so I’m not worried about it that way.”
Whether he ever heard anything along the lines of what Gregg Williams said prior to the 49ers game:
“No. Never heard anything like what he said, especially after three years or two years or a year or whatever it was, I really don’t know the timeline for sure, but the league making it very clear that that is going to be unacceptable and that bounties or reward systems of any kind in that way is not going to be tolerated and to say that you weren’t doing it and then to go ahead and blatantly do it, to me is just ridiculous. There’s a fine line in motivating your guys. There’s a language to football. There’s a difference between trying to hurt somebody and making him hurt or making him feel the hit. Football is a violent game, it’s a tough, hard-nosed game and there’s a culture, there’s a style, it’s a physical type of sport and that’s what makes it such a great sport because it takes courage. We talk about mighty men; it’s a courageous and tough thing to do in the realm of sport with the most physical game. You have to play that way but you cross the line when you start targeting injuries, targeting body parts, and it goes to into the realm of unsportsmanlike and it’s not acceptable.”
If he would be surprised if a long-term deal doesn’t get worked out with Ray Rice and he doesn’t show up for offseason workouts:
“I’d be surprised, not be surprised and you get to the point where you’re not surprised by anything. It’s the business part of it and you just don’t know which way it’s going to turn. Ray’s got to do and his agents and his representatives have to try to do the best they can for Ray. That’s got to fit within what is smart for us to put the best team together in the end because the team, the team, the team does apply to your salary cap situation. You have to build the strongest team that you possibly can for the resources that they give you. Obviously you have to pay your best players, your most productive guys as well as you possibly can. We want everybody to make as much money as they can, that’s the American way but there are limitations and parameters there and hopefully we can come out to the best possible answer.”
Whether players forget that it is their call in negotiations:
“That’s a good point and I hope they don’t. One of the things that the agents tell them to do is don’t talk to the head coach when you’re in a contract negotiation. I have to laugh at that one. I haven’t really talked to Ray that much. I’ve talked to Joe but I think Ray’s agent has told him not to talk to me. Well gee I’m not going to influence Ray, I’m not negotiating a contract. I’d love to be talking to my running back right now but I get it, I understand it, it’s okay because Ray is a great guy and I couldn’t have a better relationship with a player and I know he is going to be fine. The thing that I do know about Ray is Ray wants to be here, Ray wants to play and there is no benefit to not being here. I hope he comes, I hope he gets himself ready to have a great season because that is in his best interest and our best interest as well and I think he will. If he doesn’t we’re not going to sweat it because I trust him and I know he is going to be in great shape.”
What he makes of Joe Flacco saying he is the best quarterback in the NFL:
“The one thing that you have to love about Joe Flacco is he is honest, he is direct, he’s not really interested in I don’t think in finessing an answer in a way that we all, we know what he was saying but then they parse it and take the part and say ‘Joe Flacco thinks he’s the best quarterback in football.’ Joe Flacco is working to be the best quarterback in football and in his mind he’s capable of being that. That’s what he is saying. I don’t know. Joe is Joe, we do talk to him about that, but you have to love Joe, you have to love his mindset, his attitude, he’s a fierce competitor, I’ve always said that and he’s our quarterback and I love the guy. I will stand behind him and I think I understood what he was saying but sometimes you shrug your shoulders and you just have to laugh and say ‘alright let’s go prove it then.’ If that’s how we feel about it then let’s go prove it. Let’s make them acknowledge that. We have not obviously done that yet and I think that’s what Joe is saying so I’m going to work as hard as I can so that a year or two or three from now the rest of the world can actually say ‘you know what maybe he was right, maybe he is the best quarterback out there.’ That’s our job, that’s Joe’s job and that’s what we need to work on doing.”