If the players succeed in lifting the NFL lockout, last year's system of no salary cap would likely take effect, which presents benefits and challenges for the Ravens.
In an uncapped year, players with expired contracts would need six years of NFL service time to be eligible for unrestricted free agency, rather than the four seasons required when the salary cap system was in effect.
Under this system, the Ravens would only have seven unrestricted free agents: cornerbacks Chris Carr (the only starter in the group) and Fabian Washington; wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth; backup quarterback Marc Bulger; linebacker Prescott Burgess (he wasn't tendered as a restricted free agent); and long snapper Kevin Houser.
That would mean eight players who would typically be unrestricted would become restricted: guards Marshal Yanda and Chris Chester; offensive tackles Jared Gaither and Tony Moll; fullback Le'Ron McClain; cornerback Josh Wilson; safety Dawan Landry and defensive tackle Brandon McKinney.
While the Ravens wouldn't have as many unrestricted free agents in another uncapped year, they would be limited in pursuing other teams' free agents this offseason. The Ravens would once again face the challenge of operating under the "Final Eight" rule, which places restrictions on the eight teams who made the divisional playoffs (New England, Pittsburgh, N.Y. Jets, Green Bay, Atlanta, Chicago and Seattle are the others).
For the four clubs that lost in the divisional playoffs (the Ravens, Patriots, Falcons and Seahawks), in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases.
Players are seeking an injunction in federal court in Minneapolis to try to lift the lockout, which began midnight Saturday after labor talks broke down between the players' union and the league. If that injunction request by the players is granted, the NFL's offseason would begin likely under the uncapped system that was agreed upon in the final year of the latest collective bargaining agreement.
Many expected the ruling on the injunction to lift the lockout would occur in a week. According to ESPN, that ruling is more likely a month away.
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