In a perfect world, the Ravens would get a quick resolution in their effort to sign soon-to-be free agent Ben Grubbs before the Pro Bowl left guard hits the open market and undoubtedly receives some big offers.
But that might be wishful thinking. Grubbs' agent, Pat Dye, said today that he had a very "positive" meeting with Ravens' officials at the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis last week, but he stopped well short of saying that a deal with the team is imminent.
"Ben is extremely highly regarded in this league. He's in the prime of his career and may or may not have another opportunity to sign another significant contract," Dye said. "He needs to be sure that he explores all his options. He loves it there and would welcome being back there, but anything that the Ravens present him, we would have to evaluate it in the context of what the market might bear to him. Is that to say something might not happen before free agency starts? No, that's not to say that at all. I would expect that we would be talking in the near future, but I don't think a [deal] is imminent at this point."
The Ravens have clearly made re-signing Grubbs one of their top offseason priorities. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last Friday that the team and owner Steve Bisciotti was committed to offering Grubbs a "great number" and "we're doing everything we can to try to keep him in Baltimore."
Dye acknowledged that the Ravens made their intentions pretty clear in the meeting.
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"They expressed a very strong interest in having him back," he said. "They gave us some definitive parameters that would reflect that they have a very strong interest."
The reality, however, is that the closer Grubbs gets to hitting the open market on March 13, the harder it's going to be to keep him in Baltimore.
The Ravens obviously have a limit to what they could offer Grubbs and couldn't survive a bidding war with a team with a lot more cap space. They also gave their starting right guard Marshal Yanda a five-year, $32.5 million deal last July and they can only tie up so much money in their guard spots with no long-term answers on their roster at center and left tackle.
If Grubbs is determined to hit the open market and see what's out there – something that Dye didn't say definitively but it certainly is fair to read between the lines – that obviously doesn't bode well.
If he is not and willing to accept what appears to be a pretty nice offer by all accounts, the Ravens will be set up well for the rest of the offseason. Sure, a lucrative deal with Grubbs would cut into their salary cap space and probably limit what they could offer a couple of their other primary free agents, like Jameel McClain and Jarret Johnson.
But the return of Grubbs and center Matt Birk would also lessen the urgency slightly to pour money and draft picks into the offensive line this offseason. Don't misunderstand: They'd still have to plan for the future on the offensive line, but the situation wouldn't be as dire this offseason.
Either way, it doesn't appear that we'll get the answers to these question any time soon.