Ed Reed in driver’s seat with Ravens

As one of last year’s Sunday Night Football games went to break, producer extraordinaire Fred Gaudelli played the song Driver’s Seat.  Peter King and I quickly tried to recall the name of the band.

I guessed Foghat, primarily because I like saying the word “Foghat.”  It was actually the one hit from one-hit wonder Sniff ‘n’ the Tears.

And then I couldn’t get the song out of my head for like 10 days.

It’s now clanging around in my relatively hollow noggin again, after typing the headline to this story.  But it was the only way to describe the current situation in Baltimore.

With Ray Lewis gone and Anquan Boldin gone and Paul Kruger gone and Dannell Ellerbe gone, the Ravens have to keep Ed Reed.  Which means that they may be paying more for Reed than they wanted to pay.

It all started, in our view, with the gamble the Ravens made in 2012 regarding Joe Flacco’s contract.  They didn’t give him what he wanted at the time, knowing that if he led the team to the Super Bowl they’d have to pay the piper at the appropriate time.

The problem is that, when the Super Bowl MVP gets a new contract only a few weeks after the game and becomes the highest-paid player in league history in the process, it becomes very difficult to persuade anyone else on the team to take anything less than top dollar.

It was already a foregone conclusion that the Ravens couldn’t/wouldn’t give Kruger what he could get elsewhere.  But the Ravens misplayed their hand with receiver Anquan Boldin, taking advantage of his “I’ll retire if I’m cut” comments to Pro Football Talk and trying to squeeze him into taking less money.

Why should he take less money when the Super Bowl MVP is getting $20.1 million per year?  The fact that at least two other teams were willing to absorb Boldin’s $6 million salary proves that, for a player of his caliber, $6 million for one year isn’t too much.

The Ravens may have similarly underestimated Ellerbe, who said last month, “My heart is in Baltimore, I love Baltimore, I love the fans, I love talking to y’all guys and I know I’m not going to talk to y’all somewhere else.”

It all changes once a $29 million check gets written to Flacco.  If winning the Super Bowl means getting paid if you can and there’s a team willing to pay more than the Ravens, then you chase the cash.

That’s why the Patriots apparently tried, subtly, to create the impression that Tom Brady’s new contract results in less money in the future and less money now.  When guys like Wes Welker are considering the possibility of making more elsewhere, the “take less and win” vibe can make a difference.

In Baltimore, the Ravens’ gamble resulted in Flacco getting the more not less — and it has created an atmosphere where everyone else justifiably wants that, too.

Advantage Ed Reed.

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