I think the Ravens made a mistake by negotiating a contract extension with
Heap without knowing exactly how he will recover from off-season surgery to his
ankle and shoulder.
I know Ozzie Newsome and Brian Billick have made it loud and clear that Todd Heap was first in line with regards to his contract situation, but why?
Heap has been prone to injury throughout his career with the Ravens and is coming off a season in which he missed ten games because of the severely sprained ankle. He still has not recovered from the surgery on his shoulder and ankle, yet the Ravens decide to make him the highest paid tight end in the history of the NFL.
Without a doubt, Heap is a fantastic football player. There are few, if any, tight ends like him, with the athletic ability and speed to give linebackers fits and the height and vertical leap to frustrate defensive backs.
He can make the acrobatic catch on the deep ball, settle in the middle of the field for a moderate gain or make that key possession catch on third and short to move the chains.
His football ability is doubted by no one. His health, that's another story.
Heap continues to rehab both injuries, beginning to lift and run only a little more than a week ago. He did not participate in any of the minicamps, and it is likely he will be limited at the start of training camp, pushing his return to action well into the preseason schedule. And that's if everything goes to plan.
There is no doubt Kyle Boller has a certain comfort with Heap. A tight end who can make plays is a great safety net for Boller, who is still young and trying to assert himself as a solid NFL quarterback.
Maybe the return of Jamal Lewis to full-time action and the addition of Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton will open up the field and make Heap even more effective. Maybe the new offensive weapons will keep Heap healthier and he will take fewer hard shots from safeties who don't respect any of the team's receivers. Or maybe none of that will matter, and Heap will find himself injured again.
I am not saying the Ravens shouldn't have resigned Heap, but why now? The Ravens would have been smart to see how Heap progressed at least through training camp. They would have been even smarter to wait and see how he played during the upcoming season.
If he had a great season and showed no ill-effects from his two surgeries, great, sign him up. But now what happens if Heap struggles to run crisp routes on his surgically repaired ankle or his shoulder becomes a chronic problem? Of course the Ravens could always cut him, but they would still lose a sizeable chunk of money.
The Ravens have done remarkably well with player personnel issues. They have been almost flawless in the draft and nearly as skillfull in free agency and resigning players.
Let's just hope Heap is the latest example.
Steve DeClue is a big Ravens' fan and Journalism Major at the University of Maryland. He contributes regularly to our fan commentary section. Ravens Insider welcomes fan commentaries which, if accepted, will be published here and syndicated everywhere. We're huge!