Over the last few weeks, we've talked at length about the high likelihood of the 2010 season being uncapped and the complex rules that will be put in place should the owners and players fail to reach a new CBA.
If a deal can't be reached by the March 5 deadline, the lack of unrestricted free agents on the market and the limits placed on the Ravens in the Final Eight Plan (it might be annoying, but I'm going to keep linking to this entry to limit confusion on that topic) will make it tough for the members of the Ravens' front office to make significant improvements to the current roster.
To fans, those offseason restrictions might seem a little daunting. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti seems to be taking the whole process in stride, however.
"I'm not worried at all," Bisciotti said at yesterday's "State of the Ravens" press conference. "I don't see a correlation there, because I think we've got the best cap guys and the best guys to draft, the scouts and everything. So, I'm on an even playing field with the rest of my partners. I may not have as much experience as some of the other owners, but this guy I've got next to me here [GM Ozzie Newsome], and Eric [DeCosta, director of player personnel] and all those guys have just put me in a position where we can still spend. So I'm still putting my team up against the other teams in the league. And I think we're as strong as anybody out there.
"So I don't think the problems with the CBA are going to impact me in any way, shape or form, more. If anything, I think it will be less because of the talent that we have in this building. I'm looking forward to the constraints, because if there are any constraints, then to me, it makes your decisions that much more important. And I'm going to rely on the guys that I have."
Because players will now need six years of service time to become unrestricted free agents instead of the previous four, the UFA market has shrunk significantly. 212 players who would have been unrestricted this offseason under the terms previous CBA will be restricted free agents instead.
But the way Bisciotti sees it, every team in the NFL will be picking through the same crop of unrestricted free agents, so it will be a level playing field in that regard. And while the Ravens will have to work under the additional constraints of the Final Eight Plan, Bisciotti views this situation as an opportunity for the guys in his front office to show their stuff, in a sense.
"I think when those restrictions are put there, that challenges my staff and John's staff to be better," Bisciotti said. "We've got to be better than the other 31 clubs in order to make our football team better under these circumstances. So, I look at it as a challenge.
"We came back from the Labor Seminar, and the first thing John heard was, 'We're going to get into the final eight, and we're not going to be able to get a UFA.' And we all kind of looked at each other [and said], 'How nice would that be?' No. 1, getting into the final eight, that's what we wanted to do, but it puts the pressure on us to be able to dig down deep and still be able to improve that football team.
"I think that's why Eric, and [director of college scouting] Joe [Hortiz], and [east area scout] Joe [Douglas] and all of the other scouts, I think that's why they come to work every day; because you know what, 'I can be better than the norm, and we can dig deep.'"