OWINGS MILLS — The anticipated free agent exodus from the Baltimore Ravens’ roster has already started.
Pro Bowl offensive guard Ben Grubbs is visiting the New Orleans Saints today, a football team badly in need of a replacement for standout offensive guard Carl Nicks as he’s expected to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And veteran Ravens defensive end Cory Redding is visiting the Indianapolis Colts and is already in contract negotiations with a team now coached by Chuck Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator.
The Ravens made what coach John Harbaugh termed a "substantial offer" to Grubbs’ agent, Pat Dye. While Dye said he had a "very positive meeting" with team officials at the NFL scouting combine, he emphasized that Grubbs was likely to explore his market value.
Grubbs is expected to ultimately sign a contract more lucrative than the five-year, $32.5 million deal that Pro Bowl offensive guard Marshal Yanda signed last summer to remain with the Ravens.
So, holding onto Grubbs was always regarded as something of a luxury item. And he was never expected to pass up millions of dollars to remain in Baltimore.
The Ravens could replace Grubbs through the draft, perhaps with stout Wisconsin offensive linemen Peter Konz or Kevin Zeitler, or shift offensive tackle Jah Reid, a third-round draft pick a year ago, inside to left guard.
Redding is a reliable veteran who started 11 games last season and recorded 43 tackles, 4 1/2 sacks and one fumble recovery last season as he played for a $2.7 million base salary.
Pagano is attempting to install a hybrid 3-4 defense and needs all the reinforcements he can get for the defensive line.
The Ravens could replace Redding through a combination of Pernell McPhee, who had six sacks as a rookie, and Arthur Jones.
Meanwhile, the Ravens are interested in former Houston Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston.
He has scheduled visits with the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs and the St. Louis Rams. The Ravens and the Redskins are two other teams Winston might visit if he doesn’t strike a quick deal with the Dolphins, who got the first visit from the former University of Miami standout.
Winston has started every game for five consecutive seasons.
When the Texans cut Winston on Monday, the move sparked surprise around the NFL.
Winston started every game last season and was due a $5.5 million base salary in 2012.
Rather than request that Winston take a paycut, the Texans moved on.
The Ravens remain in contact with starting linebackers Jarret Johnson and Jameel McClain and would like to retain at least one of them.
McClain is regarded as someone the Ravens would ideally like to keep because of his productivity last season as he finished second on the team with 81 tackles behind Pro Bowl middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
Johnson is another player the Ravens would like to hold onto, but he’s expected to draw interest from the New York Jets, Colts and other teams.
If Johnson leaves, Paul Kruger is expected to get a shot at replacing him at strongside linebacker.
The Ravens have also expressed interest in speedy Denver Broncos free agent wide receiver-returner Eddie Royal. Royal is visiting the Washington Redskins, but has yet to agree to a deal.
The Ravens haven’t re-signed any of their unrestricted free agents, including: center Matt Birk, safeties Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski, center-guard Andre Gurode, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney, inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, linebacker Edgar Jones and tight end Kris Wilson.
With the exception of Birk, none are regarded as priorities for the Ravens to hold onto.
The Ravens are expected to meet with Joe Linta, the agent for Birk and quarterback Joe Flacco, later in the week.
"Matt wants to be with the Ravens," Linta said. "We’ll work hard at making that happen."
NOTE: The Ravens didn’t give a tender offer to linebacker Chavis Williams, making him an unrestricted free agent.