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Only certain free agents will make the cut in filling Ravens' remaining needs

The Baltimore Ravens should remain active in free agency, even after signing cornerback Brandon Carr to a four-year deal on Thursday. They're just looking for a particular free agent over the next two months.

Baltimore is expected to narrow its search to players who've been cut, because they don't count against the compensatory-pick formula. Right now, the Ravens are projected to get an additional pick in the third and fifth rounds in the 2018 draft for losing offensive tackle Rick Wagner and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

That's why it is more likely Baltimore signs a player who has been released: offensive tackles Ryan Clady and King Dunlap; pass-rusher Mario Williams; wide receiver Victor Cruz; inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson; and center Nick Mangold.

If the Ravens signed an unrestricted free agent -- a player whose contract expired, such as Anquan Boldin, Dwight Freeney, Chris Long, Zach Brown or Kevin Minter -- it could negate that fifth-rounder. Baltimore is currently plus-one in the comp-pick formula after losing four UFAs (Wagner, Juszczyk, Lawrence Guy and Vladimir Ducasse) and signing three (Carr, Tony Jefferson and Danny Woodhead).

It's expected to improve to plus-two (qualifying them for those two comp picks) when wide receiver Kamar Aiken signs elsewhere. Players who've been cut by the Ravens like linebacker Elvis Dumervil and safety Lardarius Webb don't factor into the formula.

For those who doubt the Ravens think about such matters, general manager Ozzie Newsome brought up this strategy unsolicited last week.

"I think we have educated ourselves on how the comp pick [system] works," Newsome said. "So we know how we are able to acquire players and still be able to keep some of our comp picks, because we continue to lose high-value players to other teams."

The Ravens have really mastered this system. They've been awarded an NFL-best 48 compensatory picks since the system began in 1994. That's 10 more than any other team in the league (the Green Bay Packers are second with 38).

Baltimore received a third-round compensatory pick this year after All-Pro guard Kelechi Osemele signed with the Oakland Raiders last year. Notable players who came to the Ravens as comp picks: Wagner, Juszczyk, linebacker Pernell McPhee, punter Sam Koch, fullback Le'Ron McClain, offensive tackle Tony Pashos, running back Chester Taylor and guard Edwin Mulitalo.

Now, the Ravens only have to be this selective with free agents for the rest of March and April. Starting May 9, teams can sign any free agent without it counting against their compensatory-pick formula.

That's why Baltimore waited until the middle of May last year to sign Ducasse, cornerback Jerraud Powers and quarterback Josh Johnson. So, if the Ravens suddenly sign some free agents in May again this year, it can be traced back to their plan to maximize their comp picks for next year's draft.