The 2014 season will be important to many players on the Ravens' roster.
Fourteen players are entering the final year of their contract (or were signed to a one-year deal) and are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2015. Five will be restricted free agents and 10 will be exclusive rights free agents.
Here is the list of the most important group, the unrestricted guys:
S Darian Stewart
TE Owen Daniels
CB Aaron Ross
WR Torrey Smith
LS Morgan Cox
S Jeromy Miles
LB Austin Spitler
CB Dominique Franks
NT Terrence Cody
RB Justin Forsett
OL Jah Reid
OLB Pernell McPhee
CB Chykie Brown
QB Tyrod Taylor
Of those, Stewart, Daniels, Ross, Spitler and Franks were signed to one-year deals. They'll all have chances to make this year's roster but could be considered one-year loans (Daniels the one with the greatest chance of signing another deal if he puts in a solid season).
If rookie Terrence Brooks winds up taking the starting free safety spot at some point this year, Stewart or Jeromy Miles will probably wind up elsewhere by the start of the 2015 season. Of course, this list also features a couple of players that may not even be on the roster once the 53-man squads are finished.
Of these 14 players, Cody and Reid can be projected as not making the 53-man roster at this time. Things can change, of course, but neither have lived up to their potential thus far in their careers.
From there, there are four players I expect to at least try and find another team via free agency after the season: McPhee, Forsett, Brown and Taylor. The reason for McPhee is the fact that Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil aren't going to relinquish their starting roles anytime soon. Courtney Upshaw and John Simon are also in the position group, making it crowded for playing time.
If McPhee has a solid season in a reserve role, he may find more playing time with another squad. He could benefit one way or the other with a great year. He has the potential, evidenced by his six sacks as a rookie in 2011 when he was still a defensive end. But it's a matter of staying consistent with his craft.
Brown is another interesting case. The Ravens brought in Ross and Franks to add depth at the position, though Brown won't sit down and let either take that third corner spot without a fight. Brown has been in the Ravens' defensive system long enough to know what works best and he's steadily improved since his rookie season. If he can win the job, he could wind up going the Corey Graham route with a solid campaign. The Ravens do have a knack for bringing the most out of players otherwise overlooked.
As for Taylor, Keith Wenning's addition pretty much means there won't be a backup role for him after this season. For Forsett, he may be back on the journeyman route after a stop in Baltimore. And this is assuming he at least opens the year on the 53-man roster (which he should since Ray Rice will be suspended at some point).
It goes without saying that Smith will ultimately receive a contract extension at some point. The Ravens won't let him walk. The same likely applies to Cox, who has rarely drawn attention to himself on the football field — a very, very good thing for a long snapper.
Vote below on which unrestricted free agent stands to benefit the most this season, and discuss your thoughts on this group in the comments section.