Baltimore Ravens Throw Counter Punches in NFL Free Agency

John Jenkins@jjenksIIContributor IIIMarch 15, 2012

Evan Mathis could be the Ravens' answer to a departing Ben Grubbs.
Evan Mathis could be the Ravens' answer to a departing Ben Grubbs.Rick Stewart/Getty Images

If the 2012 NFL Free Agency period was a boxing match, some may think the Ravens are on the ropes.  But maybe they are borrowing the rope-a-dope method that Muhammad Ali made famous in the mid-1970s.

It did not take long for Jarret Johnson to land a new contract with San Diego or for Cory Redding to reunite with his former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis.  It looks like Ben Grubbs is next, with his visit to New Orleans

Is anyone surprised by these moves?  Baltimore seemed prepared for their exits and appears ready to move on based on some parting shots made by Johnson.

In an interview with WBAL's Brett Hollander, Johnson said, "... they were respectful about it.  A lot of teams will give you an offer that is insulting, but the Ravens didn't do that.  But they did make it clear my time is up."

Baltimore seems prepared to give their younger players the opportunity to step up and try to take the place of the departed veterans.  Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee and Art Jones are prime candidates to be the "next man up," the Ravens version of "Remember the Alamo."

Jones seems prepared by his recent twitter comments, "Just got off the phone with Cory Redding.  He gave me a lot of encouraging words for the future.  And I'm so not gonna disappoint."

Baltimore is not just relying on the young players to step up.  To prepare for what seems to be an inevitable Ben Grubbs exit, former Philadelphia Eagles Guard Evan Mathis is scheduled to visit Charm City today.  Former Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston is also expected to visit.  Both players seem to have a real interest in coming to Baltimore.

Baltimore is one of the teams that has Winston's attention.
Baltimore is one of the teams that has Winston's attention.Bob Levey/Getty Images

Mathis was interviewed on AM WNST 1570 and offered the following:

"I would love to play for a guy like Ozzie...If I didn’t want to play for him, I wouldn’t be taking the visit. I like what the Ravens do and I like what Ozzie has always done, so I’m taking this visit and seeing how things play out.”

Mathis is viewed as one of the best guards on the market.  Some view him as a slight drop off from Grubbs, others view him to be on par.  His biggest drawback may be that he is slightly older than Grubbs.

Winston seems to put a great emphasis on going to a team with a chance to win.  If that is true, then the Ravens obviously stand a great chance to land the offensive tackle.  This does not bode well for incumbent Bryant McKinney.  Odds are, if Winston is signed, Oher would move back to the left side and Winston would hold down the right tackle position, leaving McKinney as the odd man out. McKinney is due a $500,000 roster bonus at the end of the week.  So it would appear that a move could be imminent. 

No matter what has happened in the first couple of days of free agency, the Ravens are still in this fight.  As usual they will go the distance and not bow out after the first round.