It wouldn't be surprising to see handwritten masking-tape labels on player helmets again at Baltimore Ravens' training camp in July.
The names and faces aren't yet recognizable to coach John Harbaugh, whose Super Bowl-winning defense lost five starters -- including retired linebacker Ray Lewis -- and faces uncertainty about the future of franchise fixture Ed Reed at safety.
"The worst mistake you could make is trying to hold a team together," Harbaugh said. "It's impossible."
But Harbaugh said the decisions were about more than salary cap health. He and general manager Ozzie Newsome decided not to make the mistake of trying to hold a team together for the sake of nostalgia, and did their best to take emotion out of their evaluations. The Ravens will also add through the draft, as is Newsome's mantra.
"If you try to stay the same, you end up getting worse," said Harbaugh, invoking a Michigan coach Bo Schembechler phrase.
The Ravens made an effort to retain linebackers Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe, but the contracts they earned in free agency were miles out of the reach of Baltimore's means. The team understood the ramifications of its biggest move of the offseason -- a six-year, $120.6 million deal with quarterback Joe Flacco -- included spending free agency looking for bargains, not stars.
In addition to Kruger and Ellerbe, right cornerback Cary Williams and strong safety Bernard Pollard, who was released, are no longer on the roster. The Ravens, known for building through the draft, have been diligent "keeping our own," as Harbaugh said, but paying top dollar for Flacco, defensive ends Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata and running back Ray Rice means balancing the books with budget-minded buys.
The Ravens aren't in serious negotiations with outside linebacker James Harrison, but have looked at the former Steelers' pass rusher among other possible replacements for Kruger.