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The quiet buzz before the NFL free agency storm

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Today’s start of the NFL’s free agency period will bring hype, hope and anticipation to many football cities across the country. But in Baltimore, fans will start to hold their breath at 4 p.m. as they wait to see if Ben Grubbs finds a better deal elsewhere than the one the Ravens have offered him to remain here, and they will be crossing their fingers that their pricy, purple Jarret Johnson jersey won’t become obsolete by day’s end.

We expect to chase some Ravens news today, but it’s more like to be about one or more of the team’s 12 unrestricted free agents bolting Baltimore than it will be the Ravens signing a big-name free agent. If you read our sports section this morning while chugging down coffee, it probably felt as if you have read the same free agency story the past five years or so, but I’d hard to argue with the team’s patient approach in free agency. They like most of their players and their first priority is keeping them around. And then they'll go from there.

That’s why there is very little chatter about the Ravens making a play for someone like Vincent Jackson or Mario Williams even though both would be welcome additions. The Ravens have enough salary cap space to make a splash if they wish, but they say their focus is on keeping Grubbs and other key free agents and reaching long-term contract extensions for Ray Rice, Joe Flacco and possibly Lardarius Webb.

So with T-minus four hours and counting until free agency, what’s the buzz out in the blogosphere in regards to the Ravens?

When it comes to the Ravens retaining their own free agents, the conversation starts in Indianapolis, where the Colts are amidst a roster overhaul under new coach Chuck Pagano (remember him?). And with the Colts having oodles of cap room, The Indianapolis Star has indicated that the Colts may pursue Johnson, defensive linemen Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney, and safety Haruki Nakamura. The Indianapolis Star also mentioned cornerback Chris Carr, who was recently released by the Ravens.

There has also been media speculation linking Johnson and inside linebacker Jameel McClain -- both were starters for the Ravens in 2011 -- to the New York Jets. Might Redding, another starter, be heading to Cleveland to play for the Browns? And Nakamura, a backup during his four-year tenure in Baltimore, could garner interest from the Tennessee Titans and Cincinnati Bengals in addition to Pagano’s Colts.

Meanwhile, Grubbs is expected to have a number of suitors in addition to the Ravens, who have put a strong offer on the table for the Pro Bowl guard. The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, who were hit by cap penalties from the NFL, could be in the market for guards, and according to The Dallas Morning News and The Washington Post, respectively, those teams still plan to spend in free agency. The Bengals, the Titans and the Chicago Bears seem like logical fits for Grubbs given their needs and salary cap space, though The Chicago Tribune writes that the Bears might not want to spend for a guard.

Will Grubbs be back? Who will stay and who will go? You’ll get some answers today -- some welcome, some not. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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