While you were sleeping - or enjoying a beverage or two - the Ravens made a couple minor roster moves last night.
Baltimore released defensive tackle Lamar Divens and running back Curtis Steele after both failed their physicals. The Ravens also withdrew restricted free agent tenders to wide receiver Marcus Smith and running back Jalen Parmele, moves which opened up around $1 million in additional cap room after both players re-signed for the veteran minimum.
Since I’m discussing cap room and the financial aspect of the current free agent period, let’s tackle a big-picture concern which is looming over the city of Baltimore right now.
It seems like Ravens fans are beginning to reach panic mode.
Tune in to sports talk radio or check the online message boards and you’ll hear or see a familiar refrain: The Ravens have cut key contributors, but they haven’t signed anyone. They’re missing out on all the free agents. They haven’t been talked about on ESPN or NFL Network all week, while teams like the Redskins, Patriots and Eagles are getting all the headlines.
Let’s take a breath here, folks.
Yes, the Ravens made a couple substantial shakeups to the roster by releasing tight end Todd Heap and wide receiver Derrick Mason. They’ve yet to bring in a pass rusher, are still sifting through the available cornerback and fullback options, and haven’t made a move on a veteran wide receiver, offensive lineman or quarterback.
All of this is true. What’s also true is that it’s only been four days. The free agent market is bloated as all heck right now, and teams are tossing around money to anyone that can read a playbook.
Would you rather GM Ozzie Newsome have topped the five-year, $28 million deal the Eagles gave defensive end Jason Babin, a guy who had just 17.5 sacks in his first six seasons prior to last year? Do you really wish the Ravens had given $20 million to offensive lineman Chris Chester, who had lost his starting job here in Baltimore prior to injuries to other linemen? What about the $50 million the Panthers handed over to linebacker Jon Beason? New Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb got $64 million, and he’s only thrown 11 touchdown passes in his career.
Or how about the $60 million that Nnamdi Asomugha received from the Eagles yesterday? You honestly think the Ravens could have forked that over when they still need to work out long-term contracts with Haloti Ngata, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice over the next year?
That’s just not possible. The Ravens are short on cap room, and while they might be able to clear some additional space this season by inking Ngata to a multi-year deal, they have to be smart and pick their spots.
It might not seem like it now, but there are quality players still out there on the free agent market, and more will soon become available. Teams are not finished making cuts (yes, other organizations release their high-priced veterans from time to time, as well), and it’s very possible that the Ravens are able to sign a proven talent at a discount rate because they were patient and the organization is known as a winner and one that treats its players properly.
As far as the familiar faces, Heap and Mason could still return at less than their original 2011 salaries, and cornerback Chris Carr still seems like a good bet to come back. His presence would give the Ravens a legitimately strong top-four at cornerback.
Looking at things in another light, and one that will catch the attention of Ravens fans, what have the Steelers done this week?
The black and yellow haven’t made any big splashes in free agency, they cut two of their top offensive tackles, and have yet to get major airtime on the cable sports networks that we all love so much. Not every team is handing over truckloads of cash and hoping they don’t regret it later.
One of Newsome’s favorite sayings is, “Right player, right price.”
It might be boring, and fans might be frustrated watching big names get scooped up during the early stages of free agency, but once the market comes back down to earth, the Ravens will be there with a bit of money to spend and a chance to offer players a shot at a title. And that’s not a bad spot to be in.