A perfect fit

Ravens' general manager Ozzie Newsome announced that he wouldn't make a big splash signing on the first day of free agency. Well, Newsome held true to his word, and waited until the second day of free agency to make a headline grabbing move, acquiring four-time Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens from San Francisco for a 2004 second-round pick.

The addition of Owens means a couple of things. One, you will hear more references to sharpies and pom-poms over the next few months than you've ever heard before. 

Two, with Owens in the lineup, the Ravens' offense should finally gain some semblance of balance. 

A year ago, teams stacked the box with eight, and even nine defenders to stop the Ravens' rush attack, knowing that the Ravens receivers couldn't beat any secondary-- Owens alone had five more catches, and scored the same amount of touchdowns that the entire Ravens receiving corps scored last season. 

Now, the Ravens have three viable receiving threats in Owens, Travis Taylor and Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap

With Heap's versatility as a receiving tight end who can line up on the outside, and Owens' and Taylor's excellent blocking skills, the Ravens' preferred two-tight end alignment will be tougher to defend because defenses will have a tougher time determining whether to stop the run or pass. 

If defensive backs try to double team Owens, a 6'3, 230-pound receiver who can make plays all over the field, then Heap, No.2 tight end Terry Jones, and Taylor will get the chances to exploit single coverage.

If a defensive coordinator wants to play more of a zone scheme to stop the pass, Pro Bowl tailback Jamal Lewis (assuming he is able to play in 2004 and beyond) will run all over a seven-man front. 

The offense will still be geared around Lewis and the running game, but Lewis will no longer have to carry the offense on his shoulders as he did a year ago, when he rushed for over 2,000 yards. 

For that matter, Lewis and the running game has carried the offense for the past four years. Without the 4,700 odd yards that Lewis has gained in three out of the past four seasons, the Ravens' offense would have had no dimension, because the pass offense has been a nightmare.

Since Brian Billick took over as the head coach of the Ravens in 1999, the pass offense has ranked in the bottom third of the league three times. Last year, the passing game was at an all-time low, ranking dead last in the NFL. The Ravens were the only team in the NFL to gain more rushing yardage than passing yardage. 

The Ravens know these stats better than anyone, which is why Newsome made the bold and risky move to acquire Owens. And make no mistake, there is risk involved bringing in the boisterous Owens. 

As great a fit as Owens should be on the field, he may not fit in as well in the locker room. T.O. is an emotional player that has had a lot of arguments with the 49ers' front office, coaches and certain players, which is one of the key reasons for why the 49ers were willing to part with him.

However, the Ravens' organization is confident in its ability to control strong personalities. Players like Shannon Sharpe, Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa all had conflicting personalities but managed to keep their egos in check while in Baltimore. 

If T.O. can make the same attitude adjustment that those players made, this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.


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