The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

Potentially cursed?


Every team seems to have a position it never quite fills. Thus the Ravens, almost always stout on defense during their 15 seasons in Baltimore, have rarely had a wide receiver who was better than average, in part because before Joe Flacco, the team's quarterbacks were also a rag-tag bunch. Derrick Mason has been the best, he's only good, not great and he's a 36-year-old free agent who is contemplating retirement.

Enter Donte' Stallworth.

The Ravens will settle for good, not great. In fact, they'll be very happy if he even approaches Mason.

It was supposed to be better.

Stallworth came out of Tennessee pegged as a potential Pro Bowler or close to it -- that's what you're supposed to be when you're the 13th overall pick in the draft, as he was in 2002, when he was chosen by New Orleans. But he was bothered there by injuries and started just 32 of the 56 games in four season in which he was healthy, damned in part by that awful word "potential'' and damned also by drops or mis-run routes or all the problems that can beset receivers whose talent alone isn't enough to get them by in the NFL. His best season, naturally, was his fourth, his contract year, when he caught 70 passes for 945 yards and seven touchdowns.

That got him a nice contract with Philadelphia, where he lasted one year. Then on to New England and Cleveland -- he was with the Patriots the year they went 18-0, then lost the Super Bowl to the Giants. He began the season as a starter and caught 46 passes but was eminently forgettable, ending not only behind Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but journeyman Jabar Gaffney, who lacks anything close to Stallworth's talent but works a lot harder.

Then to Cleveland for a year before he struck and killed a pedestrian while driving, pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and served 24 days in jail. Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him for the season.

The Ravens signed him with minimal financial risk -- $900,000 for the season with $300,000 in incentives. In other words, they don't expect much.

But they'll take the chance that most other NFL teams won't because they still see the "P'' word -- potential. Stallworth is still only 29 -- not ancient for a receiver. He faced up to the tragedy, served his time and had a year out of football to reflect on what might have been. Maybe now that he's getting another chance, he'll be what he hasn't been.

The word is "maybe.''

By Dave Goldberg  |  February 18, 2010; 12:05 AM ET  | Category:  Baltimore Ravens , Cleveland Browns , Donte Stallworth Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Does Stallworth help or hurt? | Next: Baltimore a perfect fit

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