"I love this game, I love being a part of the National Football League," Chris Canty said. "But obviously there's another side to it, you have to think about your future." (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun Video)
The Ravens cut veteran defensive end Chris Canty on Friday morning, a transaction that saves the team $2.66 million against the salary cap.
Canty, 32, was entering the final year of a three-year, $8 million contract. His release comes two days after the team cut veteran wide receiver-kick returner Jacoby Jones.
Canty had contemplated retirement after the season, but he has been training regularly and had already informed the Ravens that he intends to continue playing. Canty met with general manager Ozzie Newsome on Friday morning at the Ravens' training complex, where his contract was terminated.
"It's the business of the NFL, and we move on," Canty said in a telephone interview. "I loved it here. I thanked Steve Bisciotti, Ozzie Newsome and John Harbaugh for giving me an opportunity to be part of the great tradition of this franchise.
"I had a ball. I rediscovered my passion for football. I had a lot of fun. I'm grateful. I'm just looking forward to the next opportunity to continue my playing career."
The Ravens didn't attempt to restructure Canty's contract, which included a $2 million signing bonus paid in 2013 and a $500,000 roster bonus paid last year. On Wednesday, the Ravens terminated Jones' four-year, $12 million contract in a move that saved them $750,000.
The team is still in a tight salary cap situation and is attempting to restructure the contracts of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($16 million salary cap figure) and cornerback Lardarius Webb ($12 million). The Ravens are $3.889 million under the salary cap after releasing Canty.
"They just got some money back with cutting me, so, hopefully, they give the big fella what he's asking for because Haloti's worth it," Canty said. "It would be tough to imagine both of us not being there."
By cutting Canty now, he immediately becomes a free agent and is eligible to sign with a team in advance of the official start of free agency on March 10.
"I'm a veteran. I understand the value of starting this process before free agency," Canty said. "Right now, all I'm thinking about is getting the opportunity to compete for a championship. I would like to really get another piece of hardware, another ring."
Canty missed five games last season, including four after undergoing surgery for a staph infection in his wrist and thumb. He had 33 tackles, a half-sack and a forced fumble in 11 starts last year.
In 10 NFL seasons, the former Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants defensive lineman has 335 career tackles, 21.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Canty had 63 tackles, 2.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in two seasons with the Ravens.
"I had a conversation with Chris this morning and thanked him for his contributions both on and off the field," Newsome said in a statement. "He represents the best of what a Ravens player is: committed on the field and a shining leader in the community.
"We thank him for everything he did for us the last two seasons. I know that Chris still wants to explore playing again, and he's preparing to do that. We certainly would not close the door to Chris coming back to us."
The Ravens have young defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan, Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore on the roster as potential replacements. Urban is the frontrunner to take over Canty's spot and is making steady progress in his rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
But Canty's leadership in the locker room will be missed.
"We are a better franchise for having Chris Canty with us the last two years," Harbaugh said in a statement. "He added maturity and leadership. Chris played well and played a lot of snaps for us, especially last season. He was an outstanding contributor to our playoff season in 2014.
"When we were handling serious off-the-field issues last season, Chris stood out internally with our team and represented us externally in the only way you expect from Chris – with intelligence and in a first-class manner."
The Ravens dealt with five arrests last year, including running back Ray Rice's domestic violence incident.
"There's no replacement for experience, not only on the field, but with off-field issues," Canty said. "When you've gone through things, you try to learn and apply what you know to those sad situations your team might find yourself in."
Canty is involved in several media opportunities and said he'd like to pursue a career as a full-time analyst when he retires.
"Absolutely, that's the direction I'll go in once I finish playing," Canty said. "I'm excited about that chapter when it happens."