It was apparent at yesterday's "State of the Baltimore Ravens" press conference, that the team's brain-trust will be facing a bunch of tough personnel decisions over the next few months of the off season, which began two weeks too early for the team and its fan-base. The front office will be sequestering themselves away shortly to look at the roster from a business point of view to determine which players will be able to return to the team in 2012 and what free agents will not be targeted to retain.
The NFL salary cap keeps the league's 32 teams on a level playing field, which means that players who are still in the prime of their careers might still be allowed to walk away and seek employment and greener pastures with other teams. The Ravens are no different than any other team and will end up coming to a meeting of the minds over a few key players and unfortunately be unable to retain others who have contributed greatly to their success.
The players who are at the top of the list are obviously QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice. Near them is guard Ben Grubbs, as well as a bunch of other players whose contract status is either tenuous due to having a high cap number or about to become free agents and find out their value on the open market, which could very well end up beyond the Ravens financial means.
Those players include LB Jarret Johnson, RB Ricky Williams, WR Lee Evans, LB Jameel McClain, safeties Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura. Some players are restricted free agents, which give the Ravens the chance to match any offer while others will be free to bargain and sign with any team they please.
The chips will fall where they may, but only after the team determines how they will get themselves settled for at least the 2012 season with Flacco and Rice. When asked about the progression of improvement that Flacco has made in his fourth year in the league, GM Ozzie Newsome said he absolutely improved despite having two main weapons taken away from him (WE Derrick Mason, TE Todd Heap).
"The thing you cannot knock about Joe: He's a winner."