Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams is ranked among the top 10 free agents on the market in a list compiled by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, and tackle Rick Wagner also makes the top-25 list, checking in at No. 24.
That only underscores what was already conventional wisdom around Baltimore: The Ravens will have a tough time holding on to either player given interest around the league and their typically thin amount of salary cap space.
At the "State of the Ravens" address on Tuesday, general manager Ozzie Newsome said the team has had preliminary discussions with some agents representing their pending free agents.
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"We have talked to some of the players before they left and let them know that we really would like to retain them," Newsome added. "A lot of the legwork has been done."
Williams and Wagner headline a pending free agent group for the Ravens that includes fullback Kyle Juszczyk, special teams ace Anthony Levine and safety Matt Elam.
Williams comes in at No. 9 on the NFL.com free agent list, and at this point, it would seem likely he will test the market and see what offers are out there. He is going to like what he sees.
"Williams is a one-man solution to your favorite team's run-stopping problems," Rosenthal wrote. "Damon Harrison paved the way last season for nose tackles to get paid like pass rushers."
Harrison signed with the New York Giants for five years and $46.2 million, with $24 million guaranteed.
Can, or would, the Ravens offer Williams a similar deal? Probably not, and that's nothing against Williams, who is a popular and respected player. He has probably been the Ravens most consistent defensive player over the past couple of seasons. But the Ravens have undrafted rookie Michael Pierce available at a fraction of that cost, and they could then turn their attention and resources to more pressing needs.
As for Wagner, Rosenthal ranks him as the 24th-best available free agent, and he predicts that Wagner could command "north of $10 million per season in this market."
The salary cap, while not set yet, is expected to rise by $10 million or more. So the Ravens will have more money to work with. Then again, so will everyone else.
"With the salary cap escalating as it is, then the salaries of the players are escalating also," Newsome said. "You have to play the game."