OWINGS MILLS -- As the clock struck midnight and the annual NFL free agent auction officially launched one minute later, the Baltimore Ravens weren't expected to be haggling over deals and dangling millions of dollars to star football players in the middle of the night.
A torrid pace of expensive signings is expected to commence Friday, mirroring last year's heavy spending.
For the Ravens, though, they're taking a wait-and-see approach triggered by their tight salary-cap situation as well as a market weakened by multiple standouts' unavailability after being secured by their respective teams with the franchise tag.
"We will wait until the market settles," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Then, we'll start to see if there's someone that can help this football team.
"I think it's a fluid market in that a lot of guys have been franchised. Guys will be waived or potentially traded, so I think it will be fluid for the next couple of weeks. I still think there's talent in the market."
After using an $8.065 million franchise tag to hold onto two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, retaining offensive guard Jason Brown with a $1.47 million second-round tender, restructuring offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and tight end Todd Heap's contracts to create $6.7 million in salary-cap room and cutting running back Mike Anderson and center Mike Flynn for $3.3 million in cap savings, the Ravens are believed to be slightly more than $3 million under the NFL's $116 million salary limit.
Over the past few weeks, the Ravens carved out $10 million in cap room while spending nearly that much just to retain Suggs and Brown. It's believed the Ravens also used another $927,000 to retain restricted free agent long snapper Matt Katula.
Newsome reiterated that the Ravens do have the financial capability to be active in free agency on a limited basis.
"Yes, if we feel like there's a player that can come in and help our football team, then we can pursue and sign him," Newsome said. "We can do some things."
The Ravens' most pressing roster needs are at quarterback, cornerback, offensive tackle and defensive end, but they are expected to rely on the draft primarily.
However, it's unlikely they will be able to afford any of the high-end talent that's expected to garner blockbuster deals at those positions.
That includes New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Justin Smith, Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Calvin Pace, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive guard Alan Faneca, Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Flozell Adams and Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs.
Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson, a former Ravens sixth-round draft pick, was given the high restricted tender of a first-round and a third-round pick. The Browns are expected to eventually sign him to a long-term contract extension and the Ravens aren't expected to bid on Anderson.
Meanwhile, the Ravens' unrestricted free agents include running back Musa Smith, safety Gerome Sapp, wide receiver Devard Darling, return specialist B.J. Sams and linebacker Nick Greisen.
Smith's agent, Jack Reale, said he hadn't heard from the Ravens as of Thursday afternoon, but said Smith hoped to re-sign with Baltimore.
In recent years, the Ravens haven't kept many of their own free agents.
"The majority of those guys have been working out here, and I've had a chance to talk to the majority of them," Newsome said. "I just tell them that we understand free agency is starting and that very early in the process we'll alert them as to what our intentions are going to be."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.
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