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Pat Moriarty isn’t the one who buys the cars in his household.
He doesn’t like bargaining at flea markets. He doesn’t hunt for deals.
But inside the Ravens’ Owings Mills facility, Moriarty is the man behind the money, the chief negotiator ofcontracts, including that of quarterback Joe Flacco and other prospective free agents.
“When I leave this building, I absolutely hate to negotiate,” Moriarty said. “I hate to negotiate anything for this reason: my whole life that’s all I do is negotiate. When I walk out of here, my wife Lynn does all that.
“I’ll balance the $120 million salary cap, but my wife balances the checkbook.”
Moriarty is a little-known figure to fans outside the Castle walls. And that’s totally fine by him.
But inside them, he’s an insanely busy and massively important cog in the team’s success, especially this time of year with free-agency doors open.
“He is an expert on the salary cap,” Ravens Team President Dick Cass said. “He’s critically important to everything we do.”
Moriarty’s title is Vice President of Football Administration. Consider him half lawyer, half accountant. And he’s one of the very best in the business.
Moriarty used to be on the other side of the desk. A three-year starting running back at Georgia Tech, he was an undrafted free-agent running back for the Cleveland Browns in 1979. He scored two touchdowns that season, but didn’t make the 45-man roster the following year.
After spending training camp with the Miami Dolphins, and then a tryout with the Michigan Panthers of the United States Football League, Moriarty’s playing career was over.
“I promised myself that if I got released I should actually start looking for a job and work for a living,” Moriarty recalls. “The transition was real natural. I sort of thought this was going to be my lot in life.”
Armed with a degree in industrial management (he later got a master’s in business administration from John Carroll and then a law degree from the University of Baltimore), Moriarty went to work for a bank in Cleveland and was assigned to the Browns’ account. The Browns brought him to their side in 1994.
At the time, there was a new collective bargaining agreement with the league’s first salary cap that teams needed to decipher. Then Browns Executive Vice President Jim Bailey tossed the massive document in front of Moriarty and said, “Hey, the salary cap stuff is in there. Good luck.’”
After appendicies and an index, that version of the CBA turned out to be 344 pages. And it’s no picture book.
Moriarty was among the original capologists, learning different ways to finagle salaries and play within the NFL rules.
Now he is on the NFL Management Council’s Working Club Executive Committee for the eighth-straight year, showing the league’s respect.
“We were all learning together and living within the system,” Moriarty said. “That was neat because you’re at the forefront. There aren’t many of us still around. I’m one of the graybeards now.”
Moriarty remained with the team and General Manager Ozzie Newsome upon its move to Baltimore, and over the past 18 years has been part of turning the offseason into a science, which has enabled the Ravens to become one of the league’s most consistent winners.
Here’s how Moriarty’s job generally works:
During the season, the Ravens’ personnel department assigns grades to their own players every single week. Everybody, including Moriarty, is acutely aware of which players are getting better, which are stagnant and which are getting worse.
“You’re constantly always putting dollar values on these players,” Moriarty said.
Almost immediately after the final game, the Ravens’ front office, personnel department and coaches sit down and decide who they want back and where they need to improve. It usually begins with re-signing their own free agents, then wading into the pool.
Moriarty starts plugging players into a formula, trying numerous combinations to see what groups financially fit under the cap.
Cass estimated that he brings charts detailing probably six to 10 different possibilities to the meeting.
It’s a yearly process of making hard decisions and trying to predict the unpredictable.
“You’re going to continue to lose good players eventually, guys like Bart Scott, Jason Brown and Dawan Landry,” Moriarty said. “They’re great guys, great players. You just simply can’t keep them all. You have to pick and choose your battles.”
There are so many different formulas, and they can change at a moment’s notice because there are 31 other teams sometimes bidding for the Ravens’ free agents or targeting the same ones on the market.
“There’s so many different possible scenarios that can happen,” Cass explained. “And the reality is that at the end of the day, the scenario that in fact happens is different than any one we had. You can only control what you’re willing to pay someone, but someone may offer him more. Then the player you really targeted is not available, the second player you targeted is somewhere else, and suddenly someone you didn’t even think would be available has become available and wants to sign with us.
“It’s not possible to know in advance what’s going to happen, so you try to plan for a lot of different scenarios and see what the numbers will look like in those scenarios.”
Newsome sets the course, and Moriarty works very closely with him to navigate it. As Moriarty says, “Ozzie does the big picture and I do the minutia.”
Newsome is meticulous about setting a plan. And while a team must be flexible, the Ravens never deviate from the direction they want to go based on the market.
“When we put a money value on the player, that’s the value,” Moriarty said. “Be true to your grade, true to your system. Get the best players at the best value. My focus has always been on that – a Ravens player at a Ravens price.”
That usually isn’t found at the start of free agency. As Moriarty explained, there’s a first wave. It can last a week, maybe two or three, when it’s a “feeding fest.” Multiple teams aggressively go after certain players, driving up their value exponentially.
Baltimore comes in after that, resembling buzzards more than Ravens.
They stay out of the bidding wars and aim to still find players at a similar production level but at the fraction of the cost.
For example, Moriarty still recalls getting defensive end Michael McCray in 1997. He just came off a 13.5 sack season with the Seahawks, but for some reason couldn’t work out a new deal with them. The Ravens swooped in. After six seasons and 51 sacks in Baltimore, McCrary is in the Ring of Honor.
It happened last year too. The Ravens added safety Bernard Pollard and tackle Bryant McKinnie late in the offseason after other teams took a pass, and both ended up being critical starters.
“After that first wave is over, then really what occurs is a pretty precipitous drop in the market,” Moriarty said. “It’s almost like musical chairs. You got guys who are around and around and maybe they were talking to a couple teams, but for whatever reason they didn’t get a deal done, and now the music stops and they’re looking for a team.”
That’s when Moriarty hits the phone.
He spends so much time on the line that he’s got a jumbo 15-foot long phone cord at his desk so that he can roam around his office while talking. Moriarty does business on his feet. If you see him out of his chair while talking, he’s negotiating.
He talks primarily with a group of 20 to 30 agents that represent the majority of NFL players. They’ve worked together for years, and thus have professional respect for the amount of work each side does.
Even though Moriarty shows scenes from “The Godfather” at negotiating seminars he speaks at, his job isn’t as it’s often portrayed.
“People think negotiators are fast talkers who use sleight of hand,” Moriarty said. “They think you sit down and debate at a table for two hours. That’s not it.”
Most of Moriarty’s job is preparation. It’s looking at other players’ contracts, working the numbers to figure out what will work for both sides. It’s about remaining quiet, not giving the other side any morsel of information that can be used as leverage. It’s about listening.
“There are things that are paramount you get and the other side wants. It’s getting to that common denominator,” he said. “At the end, you want to do a deal that’s best for both parties. You don’t want the player to be unhappy a year or two down the line. Neither wants the team to be unhappy either. A fair deal makes the most sense.”
Moriarty couldn’t put an estimate on the hours on his phone bill this time of year. Stacks of documents cover nearly every inch of his large desk.
It’s crunch time.
“It’s exciting, the beginning of a new year and there are new challenges every year,” Moriarty said. “It’s the process of putting together that new team. That process is really fun. It’s a great opportunity to improve and get better than we were last year.”