Although teams cannot release players until Thursday, numerous teams have already made announcements on who they plan to cut. Baltimore, for example, will be releasing four well-known players according to sources close with ESPN.
Thanks to a little depth on the offensive side of things, Baltimore can afford to cut some veterans to leave room for some youth. Among the players to be released are 31-year old tight end Todd Heap, 37-year old two-time Pro Bowl wideout Derrick Mason and 29-year old running back Willis McGahee.
All four of the cuts will combine for a net saving of $18.6 million, clearly clearing room under the salary cap. However, according to another report says the team could bring Heap and Mason back at a lower price once the free agency period begins.
Either way, Heap and Mason will no doubt be on an NFL roster come September. It's just a question as to whether or not Baltimore would bring them back, and whether or not the two would be willing to return at a cheaper price.
The fourth to reportedly be cut by Baltimore is 34-year old nose tackle Kelly Gregg, and although this position isn't currently in as dire a need as wideout and tight end for Baltimore, Gregg's presence on the D-line will surely be missed. Gregg has been a Raven ever since Baltimore's record-setting Super Bowl run in 2000.
If, in fact, Baltimore does not bring Heap or Mason back for 2011, I really think Joe Flacco and his passing game would be at a loss. Here Baltimore is trying to make a deep playoff run with a more matured Flacco and they lose two of its bigger offensive weapons.
The 2010 season was a down year for Heap (13 starts), Mason (first season under 1,000 yards since '06) and McGahee (3.8 YPC, 5 TDs), but having Mason's yards after catch ability, Heap's blocking ability and presence on the line, and McGahee's body-type in short-yardage situations will surely make a huge impact come playoff time in Baltimore.
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