Baltimore Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome’s philosophy differs greatly from other GMs in that he rarely “kicks the can down the road” by restructuring contracts to lessen the current cap while jeopardizing future cap numbers. Players are generally asked to take a pay cut, or be cut. This philosophy may be at an impasse after the Ravens awarded a half dozen big dollar contracts recently. Over the next two years (even before Joe Flacco’s cap number accelerates in 2016), there are five major contracts the Ravens will have to contend with, four of which carry over into 2015. Listed below are the current cap numbers as well as the most relevant 2014 contracts in terms of flexibility.
Current 2014 Rule 51 Cap number* – $111.5M
Dead money $4.4M
Estimated Team Salary Cap $127.8 ($126.3M NFL+ $1.5M 2013 carryover)
Estimated Cap room $11.9M
*Ravens only have 46 players under contract. Due to rule of 51, 5 signed players from the practice squad guys are built into the figure at the league minimum of $420K each.
Suggs (cap number $12.4M, Dead money $4.6, cap savings $7.8M, final year under contract) – Three of his last four seasons have been subpar, although that one good season landed him a 2011 DPOY trophy. In 2013 he started strong on and off the field, but faded at the season’s midpoint with little pressure on the QB and lacked lateral movement. If he is still in the Ravens plans beyond 2014, they will most likely extend him to a much lower salary this season. If he isn’t in their plans, he will be traded or more likely cut.
Chris Canty (3.1M cap, 1.3M dead = 1.8M savings) – Not the player the Ravens were hoping for, and $1.8 will be enough reason to make a change. They could use the depth on the defensive line, but $3M is too much for a part-timer who seems to play injured every game.
Vonta Leach (2.3M, .58M = 1.75M) – Although he has ties to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, this should be a no brainer. He was barely in the Ravens 2013 plans, as he was cut then eventually resigned days after the Dennis Pitta injury as they presumably tried to cling onto some sort of 2012 symmetry. The running game stunk whether he was in the game or not, and his playing time whittled down to 10% of offensive snaps over the last 5 games.
Jameel McLain (4.4M, 1.2M = 3.2M) – The Ravens would prefer to hold onto him because of his work ethic and what he means to the team and local community. He was able to return from devastating spine injury so it will be interesting to follow how the Ravens handle this one. Ravens should try to sign him for less and keep him for depth behind Author Brown.
Sam Koch (2.8M, 1.2M = 1.6M) – Koch had an off year in 2013, and $2.8M is a steep price for a punter unless he is performing well. He has a strong history otherwise, and the question is, who would be available to replace him? The few good FA punters out there will wash out the $1.6M in cap savings. It’s a good year for rookie punters, so expect the Ravens to bring in a couple of stud unsigned free agents to compete for the spot.
Marshall Yanda (8.75M, 6.49M = 1.96M) – Its difficult to imagine the Ravens can find a guard of Yanda’s caliber for $2M, especially after a full off-season of post-surgery recovery time. It takes a normal human nearly 6 months to recover from rotator cuff surgery, but Yanda was back practicing after two. That said, nearly $9M is a high price tag for a guard with question marks. His dead money number in 2015 drops to $3.5M.
Haloti Ngata (16M, 15M = 1M) – There has been much discussion that Ngata’s contract could get restructured, however, this isn’t Ozzie Newsom’s style especially considering that if he rides out the year he will save another $7.5M in Cap space in 2015 WITHOUT adding years to Ngata’s contract. The only other option would be to cut him, take the hit and gain another $7.5M of space in 2015. In my opinion he might retire when his current deal is over. He has been riding a wave of injuries for a few years, and Jr. Seau’s case hit him hard (Story here). He wants to go through life with his faculties in order.
Lardarius Webb (10.5M, 10M = 0.5M) – Webb has a similar money situation, but looks to be healthy. He wasn’t as strong against the pass, but improved against the run. He should only be better this year barring injury.
Elvis Dumervil (3.2M, 9.5 = 5.7M) – Elvis did play a big part in the success of the defense but was inconsistent and faded down the stretch. The cap numbers don’t lie. Even if he stunk in 2013 he would be a Raven in 2014.
Ray Rice (8.8M, 14.3M = 5.5) – Despite Rice’s play on the field in 2013 (and I would argue the offensive line had just as much if not more to do with it), $14.5M in dead money will keep him on the team. Not to mention that after being in the top 10 in combined yards over the previous few years (including #1 in 2011), he deserves at least one more year to show what he has left.
Joe Flacco (14.8M, 38.2M = 23.4M) – Flacco’s salary starts to rise in 2014 and locked in with dead money. If he has another bad year, watch for the Ravens to start preparing for a change. However, for the next 2 years, he is relatively cheap even for a top 14 QB (sub $15M cap number) before his number explodes to $28M in 2016.
Jimmy Smith (2.4M, 1.0M = 1.4) – Although Smith could save the Ravens $1.4M in cap space, that’s a small price to pay for the strides he took late 2012 and continued throughout 2013. His salary is a bargain at $2.4M.
The 2014 Ravens do have the ability to be an active player in free agency, but just how active will involve some tough decisions. The current cap space could grow to $20M without too much trouble, but they will have to be mindful of years 2015 and 2016 when determining their spending levels and length of contracts signed.