Going into the offseason, the Ravens Front Office made it clear they wanted to shake up their backup QB situation, indicating they didn’t want to spend a significant portion of cap space on a veteran backup, even floating the idea of preseason hero Josh Woodrum possibly winning the backup job. This led to a majority of fans believing the Ravens planned to draft a QB and use Woodrum as a “Plan B” if the drafted QB didn’t work out so well for their rookie year. But then, Ozzie decided to spice up the Liars Luncheon with a signing announcement: The Ravens agreed to a one year deal with Robert Griffin III, which he signed this past week.
Quick Recap: Griffin was very famously the 2nd overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, behind Andrew Luck. The Redskins paid a handsome price to pick him, giving up multiple high round picks in multiple years. Griffin was practically setting the league on fire his rookie year, showing all sorts of excitement as a dynamic runner and a strong passer as well. However, that rookie year was brought to an unfortunate end due to injuries, starting with a particularly hard Haloti Ngata tackle that caused him to miss parts of the remainder of the game against the Ravens, and eventually to result in torn knee ligaments against the Seahawks in the playoffs. Griffin eventually returned from the injury, but never recaptured the same rookie excitement and success, and eventually gave way to fellow 2012 draft pick Kirk Cousins as the Redskins starter. Griffin went on to start for the Browns in 2016, but injured his shoulder early on and missed a majority of the season, getting cut after the season ended.
The reactions to the signing have been a bit all over the spectrum, but most regard the move as either a headscratcher, or as not enough of a move. So, is this as crazy as the internet/fan reaction would indicate? Griffin’s signing generated a lot of laughter and curiosity from a few crowds, but is not entirely out of the blue, as he worked out for the Ravens in summer 2017 while Joe Flacco was dealing with some back injury issues. With no veteran option on roster, the Ravens felt like bringing him in now was a better move, but why does the team feel a QB who didn’t even play for a single team in 2017 is a solid veteran option to backup Flacco? Even the most staunch Flacco supporters agree he has gone through a rough patch lately, and as he gets older, it becomes increasingly likely a backup QB will get some snaps during the season. The timing of the move is a bit odd to some as well. While there were reports that Griffin had another visit lined up, he didn’t seem to be a QB in high demand. There is a fairly strong chance the Ravens will take a QB in the draft, who could well be a Day 1 or Day 2 pick, and thus lined up more for the QB2 job than a veteran would be. Why not sign Griffin after the draft, when the QB group will be a little more clear?? There’s also two elephants in the room that need to be acknowledged. First, Griffin’s hoopla from his time with the Redskins does bear some consideration. Several rumors from the end of Griffin’s tenure with the Redskins pointed to him being a bit self-centered and egotistic. While those could simply be rumors, there was certainly a fair amount of attention getting behavior around Griffin that could be that “D word” the Ravens don’t like (distraction). Speaking of distraction, the other elephant in the room is Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick remains unsigned, and the Ravens remained embroiled in his story, as Harbaugh and Newsome gave depositions in early April about their actions in 2017 when they were considering signing him. Kaepernick’s statistics as a QB certainly eclipse Griffin’s in the last few years. With Kaepernick still unsigned and the Ravens choosing a similar style QB over him, the story around Kaepernick immediately roped the team back in. While there are certainly several arguments to explain why the team would go with Griffin over Kaepernick from a football standpoint, the questions of why the Ravens would go with a more often injured, less accomplished in recent years QB would certainly bring the distractions as well.
So, with all that said, I don’t feel like the Ravens are crazy to sign Griffin, even at this point in the offseason. Griffin signed a 1 year, $1 million dollar contract, which is essentially a veteran minimum contract with no guaranteed money. That amount of money gives the Ravens virtually no risk in bringing him in. The timing may seem strange, but with the strength and conditioning program beginning in mid-April, it’s likely the Ravens wanted an agreement in place to allow him to work with their coaches to start getting to optimal playing shape. The comments from Griffin and from the team brass at his introductory press conference show that the team views him as a player ready for a second chance, and ready to rebuild his career. Griffin’s Redskins tenure was complicated to say the least, but the Redskins front office and the coaching staff from the majority of his time there was as much to blame as Griffin was. His time in Cleveland was marked by injury (though a different injury history than he had in Washington), but teammates did vote him as Captain of the team. His comments this past week also made clear he wants to learn and be a team player, and is ready to work hard for his opportunity, whatever it may be. His place on the team won’t change or affect their draft plans, and for all we know, the team could still release him after the draft anyway. There’s also the added bonus or chance that the Ravens take a similar style QB, who can run as well as he throws, in which case Griffin becomes a potential mentor to that player (I won’t mention names, but we’re all thinking of a guy whose name rhymes with Jamar Lackson). It was also good to hear Griffin talking about adapting the way he plays, being more cautious about when he runs and slides, obviously with an eye to the type of hits that injured him in his early years with the Redskins.
So, while the move certainly generated a lot of hoopla and questions, it seems like it could play out as a smart, low risk move to give the Ravens more options at backing up Flacco. Count me as one fan who is content with the move and willing to give it a fair shot to see where it goes. Besides, it might be fun to get a chance to see Griffin light up the Redskins in the 5th Ravens preseason game, which he certainly might have a bit of extra motivation for!