Free agency could be an especially busy time for Ravens

Posted July 02, 2011 @ 10:56 a.m.
Posted By Mike Wilkening

The Ravens would be left with some interesting decisions should players need only four years of NFL service to be unrestricted free agents in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. In this scenario, OT Jared Gaither, FB Le'Ron McClain, CB Josh Wilson and OT-OG Marshal Yanda all would be free to sign elsewhere without the Ravens receiving compensation.

No other AFC North team might be more affected by this potential free-agent rule, which wasn't in place in 2010, the final year of the last CBA, than Baltimore. The Bengals also could be seriously affected, as CB Johnathan Joseph would be able to test unrestricted free agency, and the Steelers would have four players (CB William Gay, OT Jonathan Scott, P Daniel Sepulveda and TE Matt Spaeth) potentially hitting the market. (Steelers LOLB LaMarr Woodley, who is entering his fifth NFL season, signed his franchise tender before the lockout.) However, Gaither, McClain, Wilson and Yanda all have played important roles for Baltimore in recent seasons.

A daily team observer suggests Yanda is the priority re-signing of this group. Yanda can play right tackle or right guard. On a conference call with season-ticket holders in May, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said that the club "(realizes) that when Michael Oher was at right tackle and Marshal Yanda was at right guard (in 2009), it provided a very strong right side for us," but he didn't commit to any particular alignment the Ravens would use this season.

Gaither is a starter-caliber left tackle not short on talent, but he missed last season because of a back injury. Newsome said Gaither could be retained if 2010 free-agent rules were in place — which would allow Baltimore to tender him as a restricted free agent — and if he were healthy. However, a daily team observer suggests a change of scenery might be best for both sides.

Wilson plays a highly valued position, but the free-agent CB market is deep. Chris Carr, the Ravens' other starting cornerback a season ago, also is a free agent.

McClain made an impact earlier in his career as a ballcarrier but has had fewer touches the past two seasons with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee getting most of the touches and Baltimore usually having no other fullback on the roster. However, McGahee could be a salary-cap cut.