While there was plenty of angst among Ravens' fans earlier this month when several of their key players, including left guard Ben Grubbs and linebacker Jarret Johnson, left in free agency, team owner Steve Bisciotti greeted the news with acceptance.
Don't misunderstand: Bisciotti wanted to retain Grubbs, Johnson, starting defensive end Cory Redding and reserve safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski. He liked all five players and valued their contributions to the organization.
However, Bisciotti has been around long enough to know the defections are an annual offseason rite for the Ravens, who simply can't afford to pay everyone.
"You just get used to it," said Bisciotti while at the owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "I think [Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty] came up with 10 or 12 different salary cap scenarios with or without all of those players. When [team executives] came to spend a few days with me in Florida, we went through all of them and every one of the scenarios included losing a lot of guys. Which ones was it going to be, we didn't know. I have a tendency to expect the worst and be more thrilled that we got [Brendon Ayabandejo] back and Jameel McClain. I'm really excited about Jameel. He's young. Most of the guys we lost were done after their second or third contracts. Jameel was the exception in that he was a two-year starter at the end of his first contract."
The Ravens lost eight key contributors from the 2010 team and then came just seconds away from representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. Bisciotti noted that his team's history of player development and front office decision-making makes the player losses easier to accept.
"We lost some guys last year and the one thing that I'll say is, I think we're good at the timing of giving people the opportunity to play," Bisciotti said. "With the salary cap issues that teams face, the old adage is that we might have to get rid of a guy too soon as opposed to a year too late really holds true. We gave guys like [Dennis] Pitta and [Ed] Dickson and Torrey [Smith] opportunities that wouldn't have existed had we not cleared some roster spots for them.
"We're in the same situation now by losing guys like Cory Redding and J.J., and Ricky Williams retiring. Guys like Anthony Allen and [Paul] Kruger and [Pernell] McPhee and Arthur Jones and [Sergio] Kindle. It's time. The only thing that I will say is most of the time when we go into the season wondering whether the young guy will adequately fill that hole, we are vindicated nine out of 10 times. I can't think of an instance. Then, if it's not a young guy, it's bringing in a guy like [Bernard] Pollard for Dewan Landry and Vonta Leach to step in for Le'Ron McClain. We can fill those holes. As long as the core stays there, then I think we are capable of dealing with this inevitability."
Bisciotti also reiterated what head coach John Harbaugh said last week that second-year offensive lineman Jah Reid will get every opportunity to secure the left guard spot, vacated by Grubbs.
"Right now, you can plug [Jah Reid] in at guard, but it doesn't mean that he won't have competition from the draft or free agency, or the guys that we have," Bisciotti said. "And it doesn't mean that he can't beat out somebody else from the line for a different spot or God forbid, we have an injury. We're going to have some good young talent that's going to get a chance. [Tackle] Ramon Harewood is a forgotten man, but he's a hard worker and we've liked what we've seen from him the last two years. He's going to be given an opportunity to compete."