"We have a history of retaining our players, especially players that have been productive," Ozzie Newsome said. "But also, we have a history of allowing our players to go out and maximize themselves in the market." (Kevin Richardson)
As expected, the Ravens didn't use the franchise tag before today's 4 p.m. deadline. They didn't have any logical candidates for the tag and their tight salary cap situation would have made such a move prohibitive.
That figures to change next year when the Ravens group of unrestricted free agents could include starting guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele, cornerback Jimmy Smith and kicker Justin Tucker.
A lot could happen before the Ravens have to worry about such matters.
Meanwhile, wide receivers Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys) and Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos) outside linebackers/defensive ends Justin Houston (Kansas City Chiefs) and Jason Pierre-Paul (New York Giants), and kicker Stephen Gostkowski (New England Patriots) were all tagged.
Tight end Charles Clay also got a transition tag, which could potentially keep him off the free agent market.
Those moves might not mean a lot directly for the Ravens, but they certainly could affect the markets for two of the Ravens' primary unrestricted free agents: wide receiver Torrey Smith (Maryland) and outside linebacker/defensive end Pernell McPhee.
If they hadn't been tagged, Bryant and Thomas would have been the top two unrestricted free agent wide receivers on the market. With them not available, Smith might become an even more attractive option for teams looking for a big and fast receiver.
Right now, Smith, who caught 11 touchdowns last season but tied a career low with 767 receiving yards, fits right near the top of the pending unrestricted free agent wide receiver class. He's in the group with the Green Bay Packers' Randall Cobb, the Philadelphia Eagles' Jeremy Maclin and the San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree.
An argument can be made that none of the four have proven themselves to be bona fide No.1 receivers. Maclin certainly played the part this past season, but he's also had some significant injury issues, as had Crabtree. As dynamic as he is, Cobb often played second fiddle to Jordy Nelson.
Still, the reality – one that Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is acutely aware of – is that all the players will probably get huge contract offers in a league that craves speed.
"Let's be frank: Do you hope that Torrey doesn't break the bank out in the open market so that we can get him for our number? That's a hard thing to say. I care about the kid. I want him to maximize his earnings," Bisciotti said last week at the "State of the Ravens" address. "At the same time, the more successful he is at doing that, the less success we have in retaining him. I don't like to stand up here and say I'm rooting against the guy, but we've got to find a number. And some of the numbers that are thrown out there, quite frankly, we can't match. We don't have that kind of space."
Smith, though, will still have plenty of competition for free agent wide receiver dollars. Beyond the top options, there will be several other proven commodities available. And that list could grow significantly in the coming days if guys like Dwayne Bowe, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Mike Wallace and Andre Johnson are released by their current teams or made available in trades.
As far as McPhee, there's little ambiguity about his situation. With Houston and Pierre-Paul staying with their current teams, McPhee is considered one of the top free agent pass rushers available, and he'll be paid accordingly. It won't be by the Ravens as they are not in position to break the bank on another pass rusher.
McPhee has 17 sacks (7½ of them coming last season) in four seasons, and he's made just six career starts. But nearly every team is looking to add a pass rusher and McPhee will pretty much be able to name his price.
Clay getting the transition tag, which was somewhat of a surprise, also could help open a little bigger market for Ravens pending free agent tight end Owen Daniels. The Ravens want to re-sign Daniels but they'll have some competition for his services.