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If the lockout ends soon, as many are hoping with the recent positive news regarding labor negotiations, it’s important to remember that teams will be caught in a free agency frenzy.
Not only will general managers have to cram months of free-agent work into a matter of weeks, but they also have to be prepared for any number of possible free-agent rules. For example, it’s still unclear if four-, five-, or six-year veterans will be considered restricted or unrestricted.
But John Harbaugh is confident that Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome will be ready to deal under any scenario when the floodgates finally swing open.
“I know Ozzie’s ready. That’s what Ozzie does,” Harbaugh said in an interview with 1090 WBAL Radio. “There are a lot of lists. Which list is right? Is it going to be the six-year list, the five-year list, the four-year list? Ozzie’s got all those lists lined up.
“We know the guys. We’ve got them all ranked, and we’ve got them in order. Then, we’ll just have to see how it shakes out.”
First on the Ravens’ to-do list is taking care of their own locker room.
There are currently six players on the Ravens’ roster who are definitely scheduled to become unrestricted free agents – quarterback Marc Bulger, cornerbacks Chris Carr and Fabian Washington, wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte’ Stallworth, and long snapper Kevin Houser.
Plus, guards Marshal Yanda and Chris Chester, tackles Jared Gaither and Tony Moll, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, corner Josh Wilson, safety Dawan Landry, and fullback Le’Ron McClain all have between four and five years of service and will have their status determined by the new collective bargaining agreement.
Obviously, some tough decisions will have to be made.
“Who we’ll be able to get signed and who we’ll be able to afford and who will fit our team, we don’t know because we don’t know who’s going to be on our team, necessarily,” Harbaugh continued. “We don’t know if our free agents are going to be here. I like our players. To me, the No. 1 priority is our players. I want our players re-signed. That’s Ozzie’s priority. That’s how Ozzie looks at it. He wants our players first.
“That’s what we’ll do first. We’ll go to work on our guys. Everybody knows who those guys are, and we’ll do everything we can to get every one of those guys signed.”
Harbaugh called the process “fluid,” considering all the unknowns regarding free agency. Luckily for the Ravens, being prepared for any situation is one of Newsome’s strengths.
“If we can’t get every one of them signed, then we’ll have to look outside or we’ll go with younger guys depending on who those guys are,” said Harbaugh. “That’s why it’s real fluid, but we’re definitely ready for every scenario and we’ll be ready to move fast.”