Big picture key as Ravens enter free agency with much uncertainty

March 07, 2014 | Luke Jones

This lesson is important to remember as the 2014 salary cap rises $10 million from last season and the Ravens have more space than in past years.

Many have asked if this would change the Ravens’ minds about someone like Art Jones or wide receiver Jacoby Jones, but Newsome and the front office are stringent in how they value players as fans painfully learned with the decision to trade veteran Anquan Boldin last season. Theoretically, with the cap rising by 8.13 percent, prices for free agents should rise in proportion but not enough to dramatically alter their internal value system.

In other words, if you valued an individual as a $2 million player, you don’t suddenly convince yourself to spend $3.5 million on him simply because you have the cap space to do it. That’s how teams overspend and put themselves in cap trouble down the road.

“We’ve got some options and we’ve got a little bit of room,” Harbaugh said. “You want to be smart and you want to make the most of your resources and put the best team we can together. [The team is] really what every one of these decisions ends up being about. It ends up being about using your resources in a way that’s the very best for your team, to make us as strong [a] team as we can possibly be.”

4. Plan for the future.

The Ravens will use their cap space in an effort to make the 2014 team better, but there’s no sense spending just for the sake of doing it, either.

Cap space carries over from year to year and we already know how Newsome avoids signing unrestricted free agents in an effort to keep the Ravens in position to collect compensatory picks, instead looking for the free agents who have been cut for cap-related purposes like linebacker Elvis Dumervil last offseason. You also don’t want to compromise your cap for future seasons by handing out a bad contract with only a quick fix in mind.

The Ravens have spent the last several weeks evaluating in-house candidates such as second-year offensive linemen Ryan Jensen and Rick Wagner to see if they might be viable starting options. If they are — or are at least talented enough to seriously compete — it changes the overall thinking on what types of free agents to pursue or who they should target in the draft.

Of course, the Ravens aren’t going to broadcast those intentions at any point in the near future as they try to improve the line and upgrade at wide receiver and free safety.

“Those are some areas where we can probably add some [and] we will try to add some,” Newsome said. “But, I also believe in this: You get better by getting yourself better. And, I have no doubt with the work that John and his staff have done in the past, we can have that. The players that we retain on this team will be better players.”

In this modern era of football, rarely will you find a team entering the season without a couple glaring question marks, meaning you have no choice but to depend on some unknown commodities. This year will be no different in that regard as one or more of the needs being discussed now will likely still be a concern when the season begins in early September.

The draft is all about planning for the future and sometimes the best avenue for improvement comes from the players you drafted a year or two earlier.

5. Don’t be afraid to be bold for the right player.

This message appears to contradict some of the previous points, but the Ravens will likely need to take a risk or two if they want to make significant breakthroughs in the coming season.

If they hypothetically feel such conviction over needing a veteran tackle such as Albert or a veteran slot receiver like Julian Edelman to put them over the top, the resources will be there to do so but may come at the expense of another area of need. The same goes for the draft where Newsome and the front office have hit more singles and doubles in recent years — and have traded back more often than they’ve moved up in the first round — than the triples and home runs they seemingly took away every year in the earlier days of the franchise.

“There is a rhyme and reason in how we acquire players — to continue to maintain our ability to stay strong going forward,” Newsome said. “We will do the same [this year]. Even if it means we have to go out and get [an unrestricted free agent] this time, which means we probably lose a compensatory pick, we won’t say no to anything. We look at everything from an individual standpoint, and then we see what’s going to make us better for this year and years going forward.”