INDIANAPOLIS - The Baltimore Ravens have altered their previous stance on trying to hold onto Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs, deciding now to construct an ambitious bid to prevent him from bolting off the roster via free agency.
Although it's still regarded as something of a long shot considering the serious money Grubbs could command on the open market, not to mention the Ravens' $32.5 million investment in Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda and other financial commitments, the AFC North franchise confirmed it has launched negotiations with Grubbs' agent, Pat Dye.
"Ben is a player that we'd love to have back in Baltimore," general manager Ozzie Newsome said Friday at the NFL scouting combine. "We've had some conversations with Pat Dye already. We will see how things work out between now and the beginning of free agency on March 13."
Re-signing Grubbs might wind up being too expensive to get done. However, the Ravens sound determined to give it an honest try.
"I'm pretty optimistic about it right now," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I hope that's not misplaced. We're in the process of negotiating. We're committed, Steve Bisciotti's committed, to offering him a really great number.
"Ben's had a great number of years here. He's earned the right to take a look for his family. One thing we're not doing: We're not giving him a low number. We're doing everything we can to try to keep him in Baltimore."
The Ravens are currently using about $116.32 million against a projected salary cap of $120 million for next season.
The Ravens are expected to use a $7.7 million franchise tag by an NFL deadline of March 5 to retain Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice as no long-term deal will be struck at this time.
"We've got some pretty good cap room," Harbaugh said. "We're really good in cash. We can do some things in contracts. We're looking at signing some young guys, maybe ahead of time. We've got a lot of plans at the table. It will be fun to see how it shakes out."
The Ravens' financial situation is expected to improve, though.
The Ravens will be making roster cuts in the next few weeks, according to Newsome.
They could part ways with cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth ($8.6 million salary-cap figure) and Chris Carr ($3.45 million salary-cap figure) and wide receiver Lee Evans ($5.6 million salary-cap figure).
"We've had the opportunity to assess our roster," Newsome said. "We will make some moves between now and March 13 to release players. We already have a strategy in place that will allow us to have the ability to sign players that we want to sign and to be able to franchise Ray if we have to if we get to that. Hopefully, we won't get to that. We have a plan in place."
Foxworth's surgically-repaired knee is still bad and he has the option of retiring and pursuing a career in the leadership of the NFL Players Association, where he's already on the executive committee.
"I have a meeting with Foxworth when I get back next Thursday," Newsome said. "I don't know what his intentions are."
Along with a meeting Saturday with the agent for quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens were also meeting with the representative for Rice.
However, this is just the starting point of contract talks. The Ravens are bracing for the possibility of drawn-out negotiations for both of their star players.
"Sometimes in negotiations, it can be done in two days or it can take 12 months," Newsome said of Flacco ."I think there is a willingness with Joe Linta and Joe Flacco's part, and Steve and the organization to try and get the deal done. We're going to push toward that."
Flacco is 44-20 as a starter and is the Ravens' all-time leading passer.
Rice led the NFL with 2,068 total yards from scrimmage last season.
"My thoughts are get these guys under contract for the future," Harbaugh said. "I think we can do it. The reality is they're going to take a little longer. We're going to have a lot of contract conversations and try to get them signed.
"Those guys will kind of overarch that whole process. Ultimately, we all believe those guys will be on the team for a long time."
The Ravens have been linked through speculation to Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace, but it appears to be nothing more than that.
The Ravens would have to surrender their first-round draft pick, the 29th overall selection, to the Steelers as well as spend as much as $50 million sign Wallace. And the Steelers, who have salary-cap issues, would have the right to match an offer sheet.
So, the Ravens are extremely unlikely to go after Wallace.
"I've gone on record of saying that the problem of going after restricted free agents, at that point the player and the agent has the leverage," Newsome said. "You have to do a deal that you don't think the other team is going to match. And then giving up a first-round pick and with the new rules, that first-round pick, the amount of money you have to pay on the first four years is not what it was in the previous collective bargaining agreement.
"So, you have to factor all of those things in before you decide to make that decision. Will some teams do it? There are teams that have two ones this year. Could they do it? Possibly, but they'll be thinking about all of those other ramifications."
It's a deep free agent market of receivers, including Wes Welker, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Lloyd.
The Ravens are unlikely to explore the high-end receivers.
"I don't see us spending high numbers on a wide receiver," Harbaugh said. "We just don't have the cap room. It wouldn't be a smart way to distribute the money. You get the right player for the right price, then you have to look at it."
Referencing the potential of wide receiver Torrey Smith, Newsome didn't sound inclined toward going after another speed receiver.
"Did you watch us play this year?" he said. "Do you think we need a deep threat after this year?"Newsome said the Ravens would like to re-sign free agent inside linebacker Jameel McClain, a starter for the past two seasons.
And the team wants to hold onto veteran outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, provided that the price is right.
"I had a conversation with Jarret at the end of the season and I told him I would maintain communication with him throughout the process," Newsome said. "Jarret is a Raven. He plays like a Raven. We'd love to have him back if things can work itself out."
With running back Ricky Williams retiring, the Ravens aren't going to sign a veteran backup to Rice at this time.
Their current plan is to evaluate Anthony Allen, their seventh-round pick from last year.
"We're going to give him every opportunity to be that guy," Newsome said. "Now that you've had a guy on campus for a full year, it's almost like having those two young tight ends last year and having a good feeling that those guys can play for us."
Newsome indicated that former second-round linebacker Sergio Kindle will be retained this offseason and allowed to come to training camp to compete for a roster spot.
Kindle's career has been derailed by an accident two years ago where he fell down two flights of stairs and fractured his skull.
"We're looking forward to Serg being part of the offseason program," Newsome said. "I think we have a very good handle on what his strengths and weaknesses are, and it's going to be interesting to see how we can integrate him into the defense. We think we have a very good handle on it. I think this offseason is going to be very big for Serg."
Reach staff writer Aaron Wilson at 410-857-7896 or sports@carrollcounty