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Ravens to keep Yanda, will clear cap space by cutting veterans

The Baltimore Ravens aren't wasting any time shaping their roster for the 2011 season.

They're keeping Marshal Yanda on a five-year, $32 million deal, according to a league source.

Retaining Yanda, who can serve as a guard or tackle, was a priority for general manager Ozzie Newsome, who will clear salary-cap space by dumping the contracts of some notable veterans.

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The Ravens plan to release running back Willis McGahee, The Baltimore Sun reported Monday, as the team looked to clear cap room to make other moves. The team realizes it is likely to lose a lot of free agents, including safety Dawan Landry (he could land in Jacksonville), fullback Le'Ron McClain, offensive linemen Jared Gaither and Chris Chester and cornerback Chris Carr, sources said.

The Ravens are hopeful of being able to re-sign tight end Todd Heap, wide receiver Derrick Mason and defensive tackle Kelly Gregg, after informing the veterans of their pending release Monday.

"In this climate, anything's possible," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "You may have an opportunity to bring some of those guys back. You may not. It just depends on how things shake out the next couple of days.

"It's going to be unpredictable," Harbaugh added. "The market is going to be flooded with players unlike anything that's happened in the history of the National Football League. We've got to do everything we can to improve our team, and we're going to need a little space to do that."

Heap and Mason have been stalwarts of Baltimore's offense, combining for 10,467 receiving yards and 70 touchdowns. Both players are still productive, but they are vulnerable because of high salary figures. Jettisoning the veterans creates $9.1 million in cap room. Heap was due $4.6 million, and Mason was in line for $4.5 million.

By releasing Gregg ($3.5 million) and McGahee ($6 million), the Ravens will clear a total of $18.6 million off their cap.

Before news of the moves leaked, Newsome warned that the team would be busy.

Keeping Yanda will help. The former Iowa standout played in all 16 games last season, all but one of them at right tackle. He is adept at opening holes for running back Ray Rice and providing protection for quarterback Joe Flacco.

"He told us he wanted to be a Raven, and he understood the business part that he had to go through," Harbaugh said. "I'm beaming. "

"We will be making a number of roster moves in the next 48 hours that will free up salary-cap space," Newsome said Monday afternoon in a statement released by the team. "This will give us the ability to make offers to our players we want to re-sign, plus put us in a position to sign free agents from other teams."

Mason, who rose to prominence with the Tennessee Titans before signing with the Ravens in 2005, is Baltimore's all-team leader in catches (471) and receiving yards (5,777). Heap, the Ravens' first-round pick following their Super Bowl victory in 2001, owns all-time franchise marks in touchdown receptions (41), and is second behind Mason in catches (467) and yards (5,492).

"It's part of the business," center Matt Birk told The Sun. "You're surprised, but you're not. It happens every year to guys. It's part of our game that is unfortunate for a lot of reasons. But the salary cap is a big reason why our game is so competitive and popular. Hopefully, the Ravens can find a way to re-sign them, but all of those guys will land on their feet somewhere."

Mason appeared to leave a return to the Ravens open.

"Again I would like to thank all the fans in Baltimore!" Mason wrote Monday night on Twitter. "If last season was truly my last ride then it was a great 6 year ride!

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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