I don’t think there would be much dispute in saying that the biggest oddity of the new league year so far has been the case of free agent wide receiver Ryan Grant, who just two days ago was not supposed to be a free agent after signing a four-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens that included $14.5 million in ‘guaranteed’ money that proved to be anything but.
Grant, a fifth-year wide receiver who has recorded 84 receptions for 985 yards and six touchdowns in 64 games played, has spent his career up to this point primarily serving as a fourth wide receiver, but injuries and opportunity saw him have a ‘career’ year in 2017, catching 65 passes for 573 yards and four touchdowns.
While that was a nice little boost in production for him, by no means did it seem congruous with the four-year $29 million contract that the Ravens slapped down for him early in free agency. It immediately raised eyebrows among the fans in Baltimore and all across the league that such a relatively unproven player could earn such a windfall, making Markus Wheaton’ deal with the Bears last year look like a pittance.
But the raised eyebrows turned into even more quizzical expressions when Grant was not cleared in his team physical with the Ravens. After stewing over the deal before he was actually brought in for the physical, it’s easy to question the circumstances in which it happened and wonder if there is something more.
After Grant was signed, Jordy Nelson signed with the Oakland Raiders, who then released Michael Crabtree. Crabtree visited the Ravens yesterday and signed.
It’s hard to fathom a player who hasn’t missed a game in his four-year career not passing a physical, even if it is true that all teams have different procedures and could come to different results. After all, the other receiver they signed, John Brown, has far more serious medical concerns. The Pittsburgh Steelers medically cleared Ladarius Green.
At the very least, the whole thing is suspicious and raises red flags. That is the charitable approach. At worst, the Ravens deliberately backed out of a signed contract and avoided $14.5 million in guaranteed money, while also harming the free-agent standing of a player.
I can’t help but wonder if the NFLPA will have something to say about how Grant’s signing played out, given the circumstances. I can’t help but wonder if the league will consider requiring a physical taking place before a contract is officially signed.
More likely, there will be no further inquiry into the whole proceeding, even if there should be. But it seems to me a big enough issue to take seriously from a league-wide perspective. At a bare minimum, there should be an evaluation of the Ravens’ physical. The wide receiver subsequently passed a second-opinion physical and maintained that he could play in a game tomorrow.
While Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome contended that it was a medical decision that was out of his hands, and that the team wanted both Grant and Crabtree (in addition to Brown), the optics of the situation make it a tough sell on a good day. The court of public opinion certainly seems to side against them, but will that be as far as it goes?
The unfortunate answer is most likely, yes.
Update: Grant visited with the Indianapolis Colts and while he did not leave with a contract, he did pass their physical. He is now headed for a visit with the Oakland Raiders.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 17, 2018