As you all know by now, the Ravens have released four fan favorite, veteran players that will free up about $18.6 million in cap room.  The news saddened both teammates and fans of Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Kelly Gregg and Willis McGahee, but in the salary cap era it’s clear that personal relationships don’t factor in when it comes to taking care of business.  I know that for some of you this is tough to hear.  But you need to have faith in Ozzie Newsome and the organization that while these aren’t the most popular moves, they are in the best interest of the team.  Nobody likes getting rid of quality players and leaders like they’ve done here.  It’s tough for everyone affected by the moves, but the organization is looking at the bigger picture here, believe me.

Many Ravens have already made their outlook on the situation clear.  They don’t necessarily agree with or like the decisions that have been made over the past few days, but they do understand the business aspect of the game.  Some guys, such as Ray Rice and Terrence Cody, feel like they are losing their mentors.  But I think it’s about time for the young core of Ravens, guys like Rice, Cody, Joe Flacco, Michael Oher and Lardarius Webb, to step up and become the new leaders of this team.  Ray Lewis only has a couple years left at best and who knows how much longer Ed Reed’s health is going to hold up.  So judging from this recent departure of leaders like Heap, Mason, McGahee and Gregg, I think it is clear the Ravens are putting the fate of this team’s future in the hands of their younger players.

I don’t mind these moves for a few reasons.  Mason and Heap only have a couple years left at best and for the amount of money the Ravens are saving by releasing them, it only made sense to release them.  Plus, the Ravens drafted two tight ends, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, in last year’s draft with the intention of replacing Heap.  They also drafted wide receiver Jimmy Smith with the 27th overall pick this year with the intention of him coming in and making an immediate impact.  So, it’s not like Newsome thought of this plan overnight.  He drafted with a purpose and he knew exactly what moves he was going to make when the lockout ended.  Now it’s time to see if those moves will work in the Ravens’ favor, and judging from Newsome’s track record, they’ll be just fine.

The release of McGahee wasn’t that big of a surprise considering the success of Rice and the $11 million McGahee was set to get paid in 2011.  He was a good player and had some great moments, but he wasn’t worth what the Ravens were going to pay him.  Gregg was released to clear $3.5 million in salary, but could end up back with the team for a one- or two-year deal worth anywhere from $1-2 million.  The release of Gregg gives Cody a chance to step in and become the starting nose tackle.  According to a few sources, Cody has looked to have lost around 40 pounds and is in top shape.  Even Newsome has said he thinks Cody is primed to have a breakout season in 2011, which is good news for the Ravens even if Gregg gets re-signed because a position battle is never a bad thing.

Even with the release of these four players, there’s a possibility the Ravens could sign Mason and/or Gregg back for a cheaper price.  Who knows if that will happen, but I still like the direction the Ravens are going.  I’m not sure if they’ve made these moves in order to sign a top free agent this off-season or just to free up some room when it comes to re-signing Haloti Ngata, Rice and Flacco.  The only splash I see the Ravens possibly making is for Nnamdi Asomugha or a top pass-rusher.  But even then, I don’t see them doing anything that’s going to jeopardize re-signing Ngata, Flacco and Rice.  We’ll find out soon what their plan is, but like I said earlier, as a Ravens’ fan you have to trust what the organization is doing even if you don’t fully agree with it.  The Ravens have put a playoff contender on the field for four of the past five seasons, so they must be doing something right.

Submitted by Steve Giles