Within hours after the new labor deal was struck, the Baltimore Ravens issued a statement from G.M. Ozzie Newsome.
“With this agreement comes a new salary cap, unlike last season when there was no cap,” Newsome said at the time. “We will be making a number of roster moves in the next 48 hours that will free up salary cap space. This will give us the ability to make offers to our players we want to re-sign, plus put us in a position to sign free agents from other teams.”
Though no moves could officially be made for another 72 hours, words quickly began to surface that the Ravens would dump a quartet of proven veterans: running back Willis McGahee, receiver Derrick Mason, tight end Todd Heap, and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg.
The initial thinking was that the Ravens wanted to give the players a chance to get to the market quickly, so that they could realize that the Ravens ultimately would be offering a reduced salary that was at least as competitive as the offers the players could finagle elsewhere.
If that was the plan, it didn’t work.
With Mason picking the Jets over the Ravens and Titans (even though quarterback Joe Flacco and receiver Anquan Boldin wanted Mason to return), all four players have found new teams. Gregg signed with the Chiefs, McGahee signed with the Broncos, and Heap signed with the Cardinals.
So now the theory possibly will be that, like the Patriots, the Ravens decided to move on one year too early instead of one year too late. The only question is whether it’ll be too late for the Ravens to adequately replace the contributions of the four key former veteran who will be making contributions elsewhere.