What will happen with Willis?

Over the last couple of years, the Ravens have been able to bring Willis McGahee off the bench in red zone or short-yardage situations, or when starting running back Ray Rice needed a breather.

That's a luxury not many teams can afford - having a Pro Bowl running back waiting in the wings - ready to give the offense a boost when he's called upon.

Going forward, the Ravens probably won't be able to afford that luxury, either.

McGahee is set to make $6 million this upcoming season, which is simply too large a number for a back who got just 100 carries last season, and only topped 50 yards rushing in a game three times.

That's not to say that McGahee hasn't been valuable the last few years. The former Bills first-round pick has been a big red zone presence, rushing for 12 touchdowns in 2009 and five more this last season, and he's ripped off a handful of huge runs in the last three playoff runs.

willis_mcgahee.jpg(Remember the 77-yard postseason-clincher in Dallas two years ago? Remember the 77-yarder in Oakland that featured the stiff-arm/slap/punch heard 'round the world?)

McGahee has also been a complete pro in Baltimore despite seeing his opportunities dwindle.

Since rushing for 1,207 yards and seven touchdowns in his first year with the Ravens in 2007, McGahee has seen his rushing yardage and carries drop every season since.

How many players in this day and age would be cool with that, at least publicly? The eight-year veteran has lost playing time to Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain, but instead of venting through the media, he's taken the two younger backs under his wing and created a family atmosphere in which each back seems legitimately happy when another succeeds.

Unfortunately, despite all the positives he's brought to the team the last few seasons, the Ravens can't keep McGahee around with his current contract.

That leaves two options: McGahee could choose to take a drastic pay-cut to return to the team, or the Ravens would almost certainly release him.

The former option seems unlikely, both because of money and playing time. McGahee - a Pro Bowler in 2007 who has twice rushed for over 1,200 yards in his career - could probably find a bigger role and more carries elsewhere (the Dolphins might be a nice fit), and such a situation would provide him a nice salary.

It's possible McGahee is truly happy with his current role and the team dynamic here in Baltimore, and would be interested in staying around and making another push at a Super Bowl.

But while he's avoided any off-field conflicts recently because of a lack of playing time, it would be a surprise to see McGahee stick around Charm City next season.

Players aren't often excited about forking over the majority of their salary, and McGahee still appears to have a good bit left in the tank. If he wants a shot to prove himself elsewhere, he deserves that, and I'll be rooting for him regardless of what uniform he ends up in next season.

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