Following the Ravens’ disappointing loss in the AFC championship game to close the 2011 season, it had been considered all but a foregone conclusion that Pro Bowl left guard Ben Grubbs had played his last game in Baltimore.
However, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh provided a more positive spin on Friday regarding negotiations with the 2007 first-round pick. At the Ravens’ end-of-season press conference a few weeks ago, Newsome did not speak confidently about the team’s ability to sign Grubbs but offered more optimism at the NFL rookie combine in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon.
The Ravens must still decide whether they want to allocate so much money to the guard position after signing fellow Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda to a long-term deal last August, but Newsome doesn’t appear ready to throw in the towel on the former Auburn product.
“Ben is a player that we would love to have back in Baltimore,” Newsome said. “I think we’ve had some conversation with Pat Dye, his agent, already. We will see how things work out between now and the beginning of free agency on March 13.”
In order to clear enough room with the salary cap to offer enough money to entice Grubbs to stay, the Ravens will need to make several cuts, which Newsome acknowledged on Friday. The most likely candidates to be released include cornerback Domonique Foxworth, wide receiver Lee Evans, and cornerback Chris Carr.
“We’ve had the opportunity to assess our roster, and we will make some moves between now and March 13 to release some players,” Newsome said. “We’ve already got one player (running back Ricky Williams) who has decided that he was going to retire. So, we have a strategy in place that will allow us to have the ability to sign players that we want to sign.”
Evans’ cap number is scheduled to be just under $6 million in 2012, and the Ravens owe him a $1 million roster bonus a few days after the start of free agency if he is retained. With a cap number of $8.6 million in 2012, Foxworth is all but certain to be cut, which would save Baltimore roughly $5.6 million from the 2012 cap.
“I have a meeting with Foxworth when we get back next Thursday, and I don’t know what his intentions are,” Newsome said.
Though not expected to be overly active in the free-agent market, both Newsome and Harbaugh painted a promising picture of the Ravens’ salary cap situation compared to last season when they had to release key veterans Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee, and Kelly Gregg prior to the start of training camp.
“You can have a lot of salary-cap room, but if you don’t have good players that doesn’t help you,” Newsome said. “We feel very good about the makeup of our roster. We have good veteran players and good young players coming along and learning from those guys. When you have good players you are in a good cap situation.”