Free agency

The Baltimore Sun

1. Why haven't they done anything in free agency?

This is deceiving because the Ravens have made some expensive moves. They just did them before free agency began.

The club used up nearly $9.5 million of salary cap space by keeping linebacker Terrell Suggs (franchise tag) and guard Jason Brown (second-round tender as a restricted free agent).

Suggs would have been one of the top five overall free agents this season, and Brown would have been among the top guards available. If the Ravens would have picked up someone of the caliber of these two players during free agency, it would feel like they made a big splash.

2. Will the Ravens add any veterans this offseason?

Don't expect a big-name acquisition like quarterback Steve McNair in 2006 or running back Willis McGahee in 2007. With a little more than $3 million in cap room, the team is looking for role players rather than starters.

It has made an offer to Ayanbadejo, a Pro Bowl special teams player, and has expressed interest in Tab Perry, a versatile special teams player who wasn't tendered by the Cincinnati Bengals as a restricted free agent.

Another position that could be addressed is cornerback. There are cover men on the market who would be an upgrade over nickel back Corey Ivy and would be better suited for starting in a pinch.

With so many teams using the franchise tag, this year's free-agent market is diluted. It's not a bad year to have limited spending power.

3. Which AFC North team has improved in free agency?

The Cleveland Browns are making a strong push for their first AFC North title with an impressive offseason.

General manager Phil Savage beefed up the league's 27th-ranked run defense by trading for defensive tackles Shaun Rogers (Detroit Lions) and Corey Williams (Green Bay Packers) and then added a weapon to a strong passing attack by signing free-agent receiver Donte Stallworth (New England Patriots).

Like most years, the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't expected to make many significant moves. The defending division champions have lost seven-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca to the New York Jets and seem resigned to part ways with starting outside linebacker Clark Haggans.

The Bengals' defense, ranked 27th in the NFL, has been weakened in free agency, with defensive end Justin Smith (San Francisco 49ers) and safety Madieu Williams (Minnesota Vikings) signing elsewhere. The Bengals are attempting to trade for Jets defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson.

4. Do the Ravens plan to sign any of their own free agents?

There is no sense of urgency in retaining any of their free agents. The list is one of the weakest in recent memory: running back Musa Smith, receiver Devard Darling, linebacker Nick Greisen, return specialist B.J. Sams and safety Gerome Sapp.

The most likely to return would be Smith and Darling. The Ravens re-signed Smith last season and consider him dependable on special teams and on third-down plays.

Darling, a disappointment in his first three seasons, showed some flashes last season. He would provide much-needed size, which is something coordinator Cam Cameron has always used in his offenses.

5. What are the Ravens' plans at quarterback?

The Ravens have not officially committed to McNair as their starting quarterback, but it's likely his job to lose.

It doesn't make sense that the Ravens would hand a veteran team to a rookie quarterback as they did in 2003, and it's not looking as if they are searching for a new starter in free agency or by trade.

By not naming a starter now, the Ravens aren't tipping their hand to their opponents, and they are giving McNair some motivation. If he works hard this offseason and comes into training camp weighing less, it seems the team will be ready to give McNair another shot as the starter.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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