On day of return to football, Ravens getting back to business making tough decisions

July 25, 2011 | Ryan Chell

On a day where the NFL players executive committee, along with player reps from all 32 teams voted unanimously to approve the CBA and get back to the business of football, so too were the Ravens personnel staff when it came to getting back to the business of making tough roster decisions.

“We are excited to be back in the business of football and looking forward to having our players back,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said in a statement Monday afternoon officially kicking off the Ravens off-season agenda.

However with a new CBA tentatively in place pending re-certification of the players union and a new salary cap of 120 million set, the Ravens didn’t take long to make decisions regarding the trying to free up necessary cap space to sign their draftees, eligible free agents, and upgrades, as the Ravens cut four big name players on Monday-three of them integral parts of the offense.

Much like the bell kicking off the day at the New York Stock Exchange, the Ravens said right off the bat that moves-including the tough ones-would be coming, and they followed up on their promises.

The Ravens cut ties Monday afternoon with RB Willis McGahee, DT Kelly Gregg, TE Todd Heap, and WR Derrick Mason, saving roughly close to 20 million dollars in cap space.

All this occurs on the eve of welcoming in their veteran players tomorrow at 10AM in Owings Mills to get the 2011 season underway.

Newsome said in the same statement that things are different now playing under new rules as opposed to the anarchy of no-CBA in 2010.

In a sense, returning to football came with a price.

“With this agreement comes a new salary cap, unlike last season when there was no cap,” Newsome said. “We will be making a number of roster moves in the next 48 hours that will free up salary cap space.”

Newsome justified the future moves-the four Ravens veterans cannot officially be cut until Thursday and are expected to travel to Owings Mills for exit physicals-by saying that it puts the team in better position to make off-season deals as opposed to handcuffing them for years to come.

“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,” he said.

And indeed it did.

By those four moves alone-the Ravens-a team already roughly five million under the cap, saved themselves roughly 18.5 million dollars in salary cap room with the departures of Heap, Mason, Gregg, and McGahee.

This will also go a long ways toward agreeing to terms with draft picks Jimmy Smith, Torrey Smith, Jah Reid, and others.

But even with that money eventually being freed up to use on the Ravens of the future, it certainly is tough for Raven Nation to watch four veterans who put in a combined 30-years in a Baltimore uniform go maybe for good.

Heap, the team’s first-round pick in 2001, put together 10 quality seasons catching 467 balls for 5,492 and 41 touchdowns.

Heap declined to comment until the move became official on Thursday, and given that stance, it could mean that he could be quickly back in a Ravens uniform after negotiating a new deal.

Mason, the team’s all-time leading receiver with 5,777 yards in six seasons after coming over as a free agent from Tennessee in 2005, was only expected to be released had the team made another veteran move.

And while that move could be days away from being official, it appears Mason may have wore out his welcome in Baltimore with retirement talk, criticism of Roger Goodell, “vows of silence” to the media, and complaining about his role on the team. (continued)