Buckle up NFL fans. This next week in particular is going to be wild and crazy. With the NFL lockout finally in the rear view mirror and free agency set to open tomorrow morning, teams are free to begin making roster transactions after having to wait the last four-plus months to execute any official business. The Baltimore Ravens wasted no time doing just that on Monday, as they've reportedly informed four big name contributors that they will be cut this week -- Derrick Mason, RB Willis McGahee, DT Kelly Gregg and TE Todd Heap.
The news has to be particularly shocking for Mason, the Ravens' player rep in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations process. I've listened to Mason speak throughout the lockout on various radio programs and he's come across as nothing but professional and loyal to both the organization, the league and his fellow players. Mason, 37, has been with the organization for since 2005, and has appeared in all 96 of the Ravens' games during that span.
Heap has also been a mainstay of the franchise since being drafted in the first round of the 2001 Draft. Heap has made two Pro Bowls, hauled in 467 receptions and 41 TDs the past decade. Steelers defenders won't soon miss him, even if he hasn't exactly torn up Dick LeBeau's defense in recent memory.
The decision to cut McGahee is also a significant one for Baltimore. Not necessarily for production purposes as much as what the veteran back from Miami brings to the table in the locker room. One of the team's most respected players, McGahee is heading out of town after four seasons with the Ravens. He was the primary ball carrier for just one season, his first back in 2007. At 29 years of age, McGahee likely has some football left in him, most likely as a short-yardage back similar to the niche he's occupied the past few seasons.
Finally, Gregg is one of the most anonymous names on what's been a stout Ravens' defense for years. Drafted in the sixth round of the 1999 Draft, Gregg arrived in Baltimore in 2001. He missed the 2008 season with injuries, but outside of that lone year, he's been as durable and consistent as they come, starting all but two games since 2005.
The decision to cut the quartet stems from Baltimore's need to free up cap space to extend younger players, and perhaps even to get under this year's cap. I'm not quite certain of the exact particulars of their salary cap situation, but needless to say, Ozzie Newsome felt it imperative to make some tough choices in order to free up some dollars for the immediate future.
Stay tuned for more news and updates throughout the evening and week. Football's back baby!