Throughout much of 2009, it seemed like a near certainty that veteran defensive end Trevor Pryce and running back Willis McGahee would part ways with the Ravens at the end of the season.
Pryce's age (34) and contract situation (he would earn $4.5 million in 2010) would make him tough to keep on the roster, while McGahee's 2010 salary ($3.6 million) and lack of playing time with the emergence of Ray Rice seemingly made him a prime target to get released as well.
But now that the upcoming season will be uncapped (barring a shocking turn of events), it's looking more and more like one or both high-priced veterans could be hanging around for another year.
Confused? Here's why keeping Pryce and/or McGahee might make sense:
- First of all, there won't be many other options out there. Because players now need six years of service time to become unrestricted free agents instead of the previous four, there will be fewer potential replacements on the market. Also, the limits on how many UFAs the Ravens can sign will make it tough to bring in someone with experience who can fill Pryce and McGahee's roles.
- The Ravens won't have a salary cap to limit their spending this year, meaning Pryce and McGahee's hefty price tags aren't going to be as much of an issue. Sure, owner Steve Bisciotti doesn't want to go tossing money around frivolously, but the Ravens will have more financial flexibility than in years past.
- Both guys were still fairly productive in 2009. Despite losing some playing time to fellow defensive end Dwan Edwards, Pryce still led the team with 6.5 sacks and forced a fumble. Meanwhile, while McGahee's 109 carries on the season were the fewest of his seven-year career, he was a big threat in the red zone, posting 14 total touchdowns, and served as a nice compliment to Rice.
Still, despite being under contract, there's a chance the two veterans will not want to return to Baltimore for 2010.
At times over the course of last season, McGahee expressed a desire to play for a team where he could be the feature back, and there has been some talk that Pryce would consider retirement this offseason.
We'll have to see how those situations play out over the next few months.
Asked recently for his take on where Pryce and McGahee will fit into the team's plans this offseason, head coach John Harbaugh said he'd love to have both guys back in 2010.
"I can't read the future, so I don't know how that's going to shake out," Harbaugh said. "I think those are conversations we're going to have over the next months, and specifically, next week when we have our personnel meetings.
"But, from a football coach's standpoint, I know one thing: They make our team better, and that's a pretty good place to be with those two guys on your team."