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Question: Aaron, are the Ravens intent on keeping Gaither and Terry at LT this year? Does that mean that Cousins and Yanda will be the prime competitors for RT?

Answer: At this juncture, it looks like the Ravens are committed to leaving Jared Gaither strictly at left tackle with some consideration being given to potentially trying Adam Terry at right tackle when he fully recovers from ankle surgery. Their primary objective is to determine who's the best left tackle, Terry or Gaither. If Gaither wins the job, then Terry would likely be considered on the right side. I don't think the team believes Gaither is at all suited for right tackle. As far as the main candidates to play right tackle, Marshal Yanda could wind up staying there if he doesn't play right guard with Ben Grubbs pretty much switched to the left side at this point. It all depends on whether they think Oniel Cousins is ready to start at right tackle and if they want to move Jason Brown in as the center and keep Chris Chester second-string. The goal is to get the best five guys on the field. In my opinion, the best five are Gaither, Brown, Grubbs, Yanda and Terry. That's why I wouldn't rule out Terry on the right side next to Yanda potentially. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the season opener. So, keep your eye on the offensive line. The first-string alignment at the last passing camp from left to right was: Gaither, Grubbs, Brown, Yanda and Cousins.

Question: Do the Ravens view this year as a rebuilding year? Given the youth on the Oline and the drafting of Flacco, I would assume so. Also Aaron, you have mentioned that the Ravens want to see if Harbaugh can win with BB's players this year. If he can, will they forego the purging of the vets? Or will the purge go down regardless of the W-L record? Thanks Aaron.

Answer: I think the general idea for the Ravens is to see if John Harbaugh can win with Brian Billick's players behind a revamped attitude and tougher regimen. I think they realize even if they aren't going to publicly acknowledge that it's pretty much a rebuilding year. That said, they're going to try to make a legitimate run. I don't think anything will stop them from cutting some veterans after the season who are up in years and high in salaries. It's not going to be as dramatic as some people think, but this team will be getting younger definitely.

Question: Although you have stated that a new CBA will be in place before any uncapped years or lockouts occur, I do have a question. If there were no draft, what would be the system for getting those college prospects? Open bids?

Answer: According to the NFL, there will be a draft in 2011.

Here's a set of questions and answers about the collective bargaining agreement:

Q. When does the CBA expire should there be no extension to the agreement?

A. After the 2010 NFL season.

Q. Will there be a college draft in 2011?

A. Yes.

Q. What is the "Final League Year" in the current agreement?

A. The "Final League Year" is the term used in the CBA to refer to the last year of the agreement. Without a further extension of the CBA, the "Final League Year" would be the 2010 League Year.

Q. What are the differences between the "Final League Year" and any other "League Year?"

A. The principal differences are that in the "Final League Year," there is no salary cap and there are substantial additional restrictions on player free agency.

Q. Now that 2009 is the last capped year, are there rules that impact player contract negotiations and a club's salary cap planning?

A. Yes. Here are the key differences:

§ After the last game of the 2008 regular season, signing bonus proration is reduced from a maximum of six years to a maximum of five years.

§ In 2009, there is no June 1 rule for Signing Bonus acceleration. If a player is removed from the roster or his contract is assigned via waivers or trade at any time in the 2009 League Year, any unamortized signing bonus will be immediately included in Team Salary.

§ There is no year-end netting of incentives in 2009. Not-likely-to-be-earned incentives are charged to team salary immediately when earned, and likely-to-be-earned incentives are deducted when they are no longer possible to earn.

§ Guaranteed salary from 2010 and beyond is reallocated to capped years unless the entire 2009 salary is guaranteed.

§ 50% of guaranteed salary in any League Year beyond 2012 is reallocated to capped years.

§ The 30% increase rule restricts salary increases from 2009 to 2010. For example: a player with a $500,000 Salary in 2009 would be limited to annual salary increases of $150,000 ($500,000 x 30%) beginning in 2010.

§ A team can include only three veteran team incentives in a player contract covering 2009 and beyond. These incentives must also be coupled with a playtime requirement. Previously, clubs were limited to eight team incentives and no playtime requirement.

Q. Are current player benefits affected in the uncapped year?

A. We expect player benefits to decline in the uncapped year. The union agreed that in the uncapped year, clubs would be relieved of their obligation to fund numerous benefit programs. Examples include second career savings (401K), player annuity, severance pay, and tuition assistance. The total league-wide contributions to such plans in 2009, the last capped year, are expected to be in excess of $225 million, or more than $7 million per club.

Q. What are the categories of free agents?

A. Players are either "restricted" or "unrestricted" free agents. Within these categories there are also "transition" and "franchise" players.

Q. What determines an unrestricted free agent in the uncapped year?

A. In capped seasons (2008 and 2009), a player whose contract has expired becomes an unrestricted free agent if he has four or more accrued seasons. In the uncapped year (2010), a player whose contract has expired becomes an unrestricted free agent only if he has six or more accrued seasons. An unrestricted free agent is free to sign with any club with no compensation owed to his old club.

Q. What determines whether a player is a restricted free agent in the "Final League Year?"

A. In capped seasons (2008 and 2009), a player whose contract expires becomes a restricted free agent if he has three accrued seasons. In the uncapped year (2010), a player whose contract expires becomes a restricted free agent if he has three, four or five accrued seasons. The rights of restricted free agents remain unchanged in the uncapped year.

Q. What constitutes an "accrued season?"

A. Six or more regular-season games on a club's active/inactive, reserved-injured or physically unable to perform lists.

Q. In addition to the right to designate a Franchise (or Transition) Player each capped year, can clubs designate additional players in the uncapped year?

A. Yes, one additional player can be tagged. In capped years (2008 and 2009), a club may designate a Franchise Player or a Transition Player. In the uncapped year (2010), a club may designate one additional Transition Player. A Transition Player must be offered a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the prior season at the player's position or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, whichever is greater. A Transition Player designation gives the club a first-refusal right to match within seven days an offer sheet given to the player by another club after his contract expires. If the club matches, it retains the player. If it does not match, it receives no compensation.

Q. What determines a Franchise Player?

A. A club can designate one franchise player in any given year. The type of franchise player depends on the amount of the old club's offer. An "exclusive" franchise player - not free to sign with another club - must be offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at the player's position for the current year as of a predetermined date (April 18, in 2008), or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, or the average of the top five salaries at his position as of the end of last season - whichever of the three is greatest.

If the player is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries of last season at his position, or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary, he becomes a "non-exclusive" franchise player and can negotiate with other clubs. His old club can match a new club's offer, or receive two first-round draft choices if it decides not to match the new club's offer.

Q. What is the Final Eight Plan?

A. During the uncapped year, the eight clubs that make the divisional playoffs in the previous season have additional restrictions that limit their ability to sign Unrestricted Free Agents from other clubs. In general, the four clubs participating in the Championship Games are limited in the number of free agents that they may sign; the limit is determined by the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs. For the four clubs that lose in the Divisional playoffs, in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters.

Q. Is there an Entering Player Pool in the uncapped year?

A. There may be. The CBA provides that the league has the unilateral right to make that determination in an uncapped year.

Q. Is there a Minimum Team Salary in the uncapped year?

A. There is no Minimum Team Salary in the uncapped year. The Minimum Team Salary in 2008 is $100,224,000, meaning each team is required to spend $100 million this year on player costs (not including benefits). The team salary cap in 2008 is $116 million.

Q. Are there individual player minimum salaries in the uncapped year?

A. Yes, but they rise at a rate somewhat slower than player minimum salaries rise in capped years.

Question: We'll see about this year's draft, but three of the guys that DeCosta seemed to go out on a limb for -- and even reach for -- in the 2006 and 2007 drafts look pretty questionable about now. He raved about Chris Chester's athleticism back in 2006, and also seemed very high on Pittman based on his senior week performances. And last year he went on and on about Figurs, "fastest player he'd seen on film," etc. He said he would have taken Yamon late in the second round. Now given his inability to catch the thrown ball it looks like he's a return specialist only, and he's been shaky at times catching the ball even doing just that. Given these misjudgments, has DeCosta lost any credibility within the organization, or does everyone just chalk this up to the draft being a wild card and "you hit some and miss some"?

Answer: Eric DeCosta is an excellent scouting director, but no one is infallible. You're going to hit and miss regardless of how hard you work. Sometimes, you're going to be wrong about a guy. In each case, I think the Ravens bet on athleticism and clean character. In each case, the guys are athletic and not troubled athletes. However, each of those players has displayed a lack of ideal toughness whether it's getting pushed around at the point of attack (Chester), fumbling (Figurs) and Pittman (struggling to adjust to speed of the game after excelling in Division I-AA). I don't think missing on a few players, and I'm not sure that Figurs is a miss at this point given how dangerous he is as a return specialist, means people should lose faith in a highly respected talent evaluator who has a sterling reputation around the league. Is it the Ravens' fault that Dan Cody has gotten hurt so much?

No, since he had no injury history in college. Could they be criticized for picks like Adam Terry, Dwan Edwards, Devard Darling, etc..? Sure, that's fair. I think they have learned a few things from some of their mistakes. Remember, even Phil Savage made some bad recommendations from time to time when he was in Baltimore. Also, Ozzie Newsome has final say on every pick, so it's not as if Eric's recommendations are always followed as a rule. Basically, you do your best to avoid mistakes and I can tell you this guy is a tireless worker. The Ravens are fortunate to have Eric in place.

Question: Is there a possible reunion coming between former Chargers OT Shane Olivea and Cam ?I saw somewhere that the niners approached Olivea but his agent said he signed somewhere else but article didn't mention the team

Answer: Maybe. Even though I haven't heard his name around team headquarters, it would make sense for them to explore this possibility. His agent hasn't returned calls, so it's unclear if they are making a move for him or not. Right now, it's a mystery. Keep in mind this guy tanked big-time and had a bad attitude after signing a six-year contract, so I wouldn't be too eager for him necessarily.

Question: The Ravens are clearly moving some young blood into key positions (OL) and have some veterans that will have to be replaced on D fairly soon. Is it safe to say that the idea of building a top 5 D (as of old) with a 28th ranked Offense is the key to change over the next few years? Even if the D fell to 10th, a top 18 Offense would win a lot of games in my opinion.What do you say, Chief? Is that why Cameron is where he is: to start that process?

Answer: I think the major impetus for change is their realization that they have to be balanced and strong on both sides of the football. They are devoting a lot of resources toward changing the culture of this being only a defensive team. Cam Cameron's addition is the most important change that the team has made in years.

Question: Is Troy Smith showing such a significant degree of improvement in year 2 that we could have a QB controversy on our hands in 2009/2010?

Answer: Honestly, I don't think they are careening toward a controversy because the organization has committed itself to Joe Flacco and I don't think Troy Smith's improvement is going to shake that belief in Flacco. Of course, things can change, but I don't foresee that transpiring.

Question: As far as the minicamps this year we really don't hear to much about Rex Ryan. What has he been saying & has anybody discussed the the defense future or even talked to him recently?

Answer: He did an interview at the mandatory minicamp where he expressed a lot of confidence in the defense and in the changes John Harbaugh is making as far as the entire team's direction. He's scheduled to talk to us, along with Cam Cameron, at next week's passing camp.

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.


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