The Ravens will need to clear plenty of space to fill a playoff roster
Before teams can start thinking free agency during the 2nd week of March, they have to worry about cap space. Next up is the Baltimore Ravens and their current cap challenges. Keep in mind that teams are required to spend 89% of their cap between 2013 and 2016, which is why there is carryover cap space for teams who did not reach the previous year’s cap number.
Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens find themselves in familiar territory with little cap space this time of year, and once again many are blaming Joe Flacco’s contract rather than using actual data. His cap hit is again less than $15M, which currently ranks him 15th among fellow quarterbacks. The biggest problems comes in the form of two players who combined to barely play a down last season, as well as a few veterans with inflated cap hits. The Ravens had little to no 2015 carryover projected during the 2014 season, but were able to make a few moves to gain roughly $5M.
Current 2015 Rule 51 Cap number $142.5M
Dead money $9.9M
Estimated Team Salary Cap $148.2M ($143M NFL + $5.2M team carryover)
Estimated Cap Room $5.7M (edit: increase to $7.3M after the termination of Jacoby Jones’s contract)
Movable or adjustable:
DT Haloti Ngata (cap number $16.0M, dead money $7.5M = cap savings $8.5M) – The Ravens have little choice but to extend Haloti. He is in the last year of his contract, so they have room to maneuver. His solid play in 2014, coupled with the fact that he is a suspension risk after his 4-gamer to end the 2014 season, should give the Ravens motivation and leverage to ink a more team-friendly deal. Assuming they offer a bonus + salary equal to the current $16M cap hit, they should gain $7-10M in 2015 cap space depending on how the contract is structured.
RG Marshal Yanda (cap $8.5M, dead $3.5M = savings $4.9M) – Yanda is one of the best interior linemen in the NFL and isn’t going anywhere. The question is whether the Ravens can offer a contract extension that will open up cap space in 2015 AND be of market value. His current $5.5M salary ranks him 5th at his position.
CB Jimmy Smith ($6.9M, $0M = $6.9M) – Smith is an interesting story in that he underwhelmed during his first two regular seasons, then came of age during the Super Bowl run. He followed up with a fantastic 2013, then injured his foot in 2014. A $7M salary is probably the going market rate for Smith, but players tend to take less the first couple years of a contract when coupled with a nice signing bonus. Expect the Ravens to gain at least a couple of million if/when they extend his contract.
CB Lardarius Webb ($12.0M, $10.0M = $2.0M) – The Ravens have more leverage than what may appear on paper. Webb is not worth a $12M cap hit, and if they cut him after June 1, they gain $8M of cap space instead of the $2M shown above (although that move would push an additional $6M into 2016.) My guess is the Ravens will attempt to extend Webb on their terms, or he risks getting cut and picked up by another team at a lower salary (which the Ravens also cannot afford in terms of talent). The oft-injured Webb did pick up his play towards the end of 2014.
DE Chris Canty ($3.3M, $0.7M = $2.7M) – The Ravens have decent and inexpensive depth at this position, so Canty could be a cap casualty depending on the draft. They will lose Pernell McPhee no doubt to free agency. Although Pernell is listed as a LB, he is 6’3″ 280 and an interior hybrid.
P Sam Koch ($3.1M, 0.6M = $2.5M) – The Ravens punter has not performed as well recently as he did after signing his contract in 2011. Expect the Ravens to reduce his salary, or at the very least, hold a competition in camp similar to what they did with Billy Cundiff.
Immovable players or contracts (excluding the obvious- Joe Flacco and Ravens’ 2013/14 high round draft picks):
LT Eugene Monroe ($7.7M, $14.3M = -$6.6M) – The Ravens are not going to move their left tackle, especially one with $5M in guaranteed salary. Even if they cut him after June 1st, they would not gain cap space and would lose a solid lineman in the process. His dead money is reduced to $6.6M in 2016.
LB Terrell Suggs ($6.2M, $12.8M = -$6.6M) – Suggs is staying for at least one more season. He enjoys the last of his guaranteed money in 2015 ($4M). Lets see which Suggs shows up this year as he loses some contract leverage (although unless the Ravens rework Flacco’s 2016 cap number, Suggs will have nothing to worry about with a near equal cap number ($6.7M) to dead money ($6.6M) in 2016.
TE Dennis Pitta ($6.2M, $12.8M = -6.6M) – Even though Pitta’s health status is completely uncertain, what is certain is that he has $4M of guaranteed money coming his way, plus a healthy cap hit if he is released.
RB Ray Rice ($9.5M dead money) – Fair or unfair, the Ravens are saddled with Ray Rice dead money this year because they cut him post June 1st 2014, and those are the rules. Between Rice and Dennis Pitta, that’s nearly $16M or roughly 11% of the Ravens cap space gone to players who may not see a 2015 snap.
The Ravens do have solid pieces in place on the offensive line, defensive line, and linebacker. The issue is finding cap space to afford offensive tools like a #1 wide receiver, a tight end, and a starting running back, while drastically improving their defensive backfield. This year will be the Ravens biggest cap challenge of the John Harbaugh era.
Editors note: The cap numbers are rounded to the nearest $100K, causing the appearance of some calculation errors.