Rumors emerged in the weeks leading up to free agency that Bozeman was preparing for a sizable market and that he had priced himself out of a return. At just 27-years-old and coming off a career year, this made plenty of sense.
However, when the dust of free agency settled, that market simply never developed. Instead, Bozeman signed what has to be considered the steal of the offseason inking a one-year, $2.8 million contract with the Carolina Panthers.
Bozeman signed for backup money. Yet, despite this, the Ravens weren’t interested and they pivoted to, well, at the time of writing, nothing.
Something went wrong here, and it’s safe to say the Ravens probably could have handled the situation better.
The Ravens should have re-signed Bradley Bozeman if possible
Now, it should be noted that the Ravens aren’t the only ones who made a mistake here. It seems very clear that Bozeman and his agent grossly overestimated what his market value would be.
What we do know is that the Ravens offered Bozeman a contract extension back in December. He declined that extension with the hope that he would receive more on the open market.
Evidently, that never came to be. The fact that Bozeman turned down an extension for more money and likely more years only to take a lesser deal in free agency has to be considered a mistake on the part of his agent. They overplayed their hand.
As Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic reports, the Ravens essentially “moved on” after those extension talks fell through. That was it for them. They decided they weren’t re-signing him.
That would have been fine had Bozeman received his expected big deal and the Ravens had a Plan B. Neither of those things has happened, however.
Bozeman’s market was sluggish and the Ravens should have checked back in and re-signed their standout center if this was all it took. Now, there are a few caveats here.
We don’t know if the Ravens reached out. Perhaps Bozeman was dead set on not returning. Maybe those failed extension talks soured their relationship and a reunion was never going to happen anyway.
If that’s the case, then it’s hard to fault the Ravens. If a player doesn’t want to play for a team, there’s no forcing him.
However, there’s no indication that happened, and Bozeman’s interviews late in the season sure suggested he was more than open to returning, even if it seemed unlikely at the time.
What are the Ravens’ options with Bradley Bozeman gone?
The reason that losing Bozeman for that amount of money is especially painful is that the options to upgrade and all but gone. The only true upgrade remaining on the open market is former Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter.
If the Ravens actually do sign Tretter, this entire article would be meaningless. Tretter is easily a top-10 center in football and would absolutely be an upgrade over Bozeman. But he won’t come cheap and there are 31 other teams out there.
Banking on one free agent is rarely a good strategy. The same goes for the draft.
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is seen as a slam-dunk prospect and one of the best centers we’ve seen come out of college in years. If the Ravens were to use their first-round pick on him, most would agree that would be an upgrade.
But again, it’s impossible to imagine a scenario where the Ravens’ draft plans hinge on one player being there at one spot. The Ravens are all about draft and roster flexibility — there’s just no way they’d bank on that.
So that leaves the Ravens with what they already have on their roster. Patrick Mekari is probably the favorite to be the team’s Week 1 starting center.
Mekari is a good player who proved his worth last season, but his best role is as a super versatile sixth offensive lineman who can play all five spots. When he’s asked to be a full-time starting center, his value diminishes.
Yet, what’s even wilder is that Mekari is making more money than Bozeman only to be a downgrade at the position. The Ravens got worse at center and still paid more for their starter.
There’s really no way to look at that as anything other than a failure.
Again, there are ways the Ravens aren’t in the wrong here. If Bozeman didn’t want to return under any circumstances, there’s nothing they could’ve done. If they go out and sign Tretter, then that’s great and they still managed to upgrade.
But both of those things seem unlikely. And if so, the Ravens messed this one up. I’m not the only one who thinks this either, Zrebiec seems to agree.
It’s one thing to “move on” after extension talks fizzle out. But it’s malpractice to ignore a starting-caliber player at a position of need while he signs for backup money elsewhere.
If that’s indeed what happened, the Ravens made a grave mistake.