CAP KNIFE TO CUT RAVENS IN 2008?

Lombardi's Way CAP KNIFE TO CUT RAVENS IN 2008?

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Jamison Hensley of The Sun delivered an insightful piece today concerning the Ravens projected cap situation and how the team needs to win during the next two years because 2008 could resemble 2002.  Team President Dick Cass explained, "When you go over the cap for three years like we have, we probably can only go one more year," Cass said. "Unless we restructure contracts, we won’t be in a situation in ’08 that we were in ’02 – but it will be tight."
 
While the Ravens actual payroll doesn’t exceed the cap figure like that of the Washington Redskins, this style of cap management will almost always force difficult roster decisions at some point during a cycle of 3 to 5 years.  It’s a concept that concerns small market teams and their ability to compete.  It’s referred to as “cash over cap.”
 
Keep in mind that the cap is purely a bookkeeping number that savvy capologists can circumvent and dodge – at least for awhile.  However at some point, the extended bonuses and re-structured contracts do catch up with a team and its ability to book keep.  Steve McNair’s contract situation with the Titans is a perfect example of what can happen.
 
Dan Snyder and his bookkeepers have had payrolls well over $100 million the last few seasons, even while the highest salary cap up to 2006 was $85.5 million.  By definition “cash over cap” is the difference between a team’s true payroll and its salary cap number.  And that is what Dick Cass is alluding to in his comment.
As Hensley reported, The Ravens exceeded the cap by $10 million in bonuses in 2004 and 2005. This year, the Ravens are projected to go over the cap by $15 million to $18 million.
 
If the Ravens already know that they will have to sharpen their cap blade in 2008, the efforts of Eric DeCosta and his staff will be so important to maintain a relatively consistent level of competitive play.  Veterans like Edwin Mulitalo, Derrick Mason, Samari Rolle, Mike Flynn and even Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden could feel the wrath of the cap as players like Brian Rimpf, Demetrius Williams, David Pittman, Jason Brown and Adam Terry fill in.
 
This then puts the Ravens in a win-at-all-costs-now mentality and it certainly creates even more pressure for the club to obtain Steve McNair.  With Kyle Boller at the helm, one cannot expect the light switch to suddenly go on for the highly criticized signal caller.  The Ravens certainly cannot afford to rest their postseason hopes on a player that hasn’t won a road game since November of 2004.  McNair is a must and I don’t know about you, but I certainly noticed a few reports about player injuries in some mini-camps around the league this week.  Stay safe Brad Johnson, Kurt Warner, David Carr and Charlie Frye.
 
And while the draft picks are critical to rebuilding efforts, ask yourself this: What would bother you more, giving up a fourth round pick for McNair instead of a fifth round pick or missing out on him altogether and hope that Boller, Kerry Collins or Tommy Maddox is the answer at QB for a team that needs to win now?
Considering the compensatory picks the Ravens will pick up as a result of lost free agents, I think I know your answer.
 
A couple of other fan favorites whose future with the Ravens could be affected by the Ravens’ cap situation are Adalius Thomas and Ed Reed.  Given the cap projections, it is extremely difficult to envision a scenario in which Thomas, Reed and Ray Lewis are all playing together in 2007.  Lewis’ cap figure next season is $9.2 million should he stay.  If the Ravens release Lewis, his cap figure is roughly $5.5 million.  That cap savings could be used as part of an effort to keep AD who is likely to command a signing bonus at or near $15 million.
 
The signing of Ed Reed could get tricky.  With Pro Bowls and the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year on his resume, Reed will not be happy accepting anything less than the signing bonus of Chris McAlister ($16 million).  If you were building a defense and you were next on the clock with your pick, having the choice of Reed or McAlister at $16 million, which do you choose?
 
Yesterday former Baltimore Colts safety Bruce Laird joined us on GAMETIME.  Bruce shared many things with us about his career and the Ravens which you can listen to here on our GAMETIME link.  I asked Bruce about safeties helping and communicating with cornerbacks as it relates to No. 20 on your Ravens’ scorecard:
 
“Ed Reed has got to help his corners more.  He has to communicate better", according to Laird.  "The safeties are facilitators.  They are back 7 to 10 yards further than everyone else and they can see things better than when you are on the line of scrimmage or even at linebacker.  These are also the guys that are telling your corners what is going on and where the split of the wide receiver is.  The safeties need to tell the corners to stay inside or if the situation calls for it to jump the route and I’ll take care of you on the up route."
 
Laird continued, “I once said to Gary Baxter, ‘It must be nice playing with Ed Reed.’  And he said, ‘You know [Reed] didn’t talk to me that much.  He didn’t tell me that many things.’  And that’s a shame because Ed sees it and he’s got great reactions and obviously he’s looking at things and he has to communicate to his teammates.”
 
It’s no secret that the Ravens thought very highly of Ernie Sims heading into the 2006 NFL Draft.  And with the possibility of Ray Lewis departing after the 2006 season, the Ravens need to make some contingency plans.  It is possible that a slightly bigger Bart Scott could supplant Ray.  It is also possible that the Ravens may look to the draft in 2007 to begin the apprenticeship for Ray’s long term replacement.  Another possibility is the supplemental draft.
 
Ahmad Brooks is a 6’4”, 260 pound linebacker out of Virginia.  In high school, Brooks was the national defensive player of the year and he had a very good 2004 season for the Cavaliers.  Last year he sat out with ankle, knee and back problems.
 
Brooks was thought to be a top 10 pick in 2007 if he had stayed in college and performed in a way consistent with his high end talent.  Some scouts have compared him to Ray Lewis noting however that he is bigger and taller.  He runs the field with reckless abandon and his pursuit of ball carriers has been described as relentless and intense.  Once he greets his victim, he explodes through them.  Brooks doesn’t except defeat.
 
There is very little to complain about with Brooks physically outside of the medical issues that kept him off the field in 2005.  Naturally that would require expert examination.
 
The bigger problems with Brooks are those off the field.  One source has reported that Brooks has repeatedly tested positive for an illegal substance.  The levels of his positive tests were not that high and those in Brooks’ corner claim that the positive tests were – you guessed it, the result of second hand smoke.
 
As a result of what the school claims are repeated team violations, Brooks has been booted from the team and appears to be headed to the supplemental draft.  So what does that mean?
 
According to NFL.com, this year’s supplemental draft is tentatively scheduled for July 13.  The draft order is determined by a weighted system that is separated into three groupings.  First are the teams that had six or fewer wins in 2005, followed by non-playoff teams that had more than six wins and then of course, the playoff teams.  The supplemental draft at times in the past has been conducted through email.  Teams submit the name of the player to the league along with the round that they’d like to select that player in.  If more than one team submits identical bids, the player is awarded to the team that has priority based upon the draft order in this April’s NFL Draft.
 
So for example, let’s say that both the Ravens and the Browns bid on Ahmad Brooks in the fourth round.  Because the Browns have priority, Brooks would be awarded to them.  The Browns would then surrender their 2007 fourth round pick.
 
Steve McNair is certainly busy these days in the Nashville community.  On June 1 he hosts The Steve McNair Football Camp.  On June 11 there’s an "Evening Affair with Air McNair" at the Marriott Cool Springs which is open to the public for $250 per person or $3,000 for a VIP table of 8. Vince Young will be a special guest at the event.
 
Then there is The Steve McNair Celebrity Golf Tournament on June 12 at Brentwood Country Club. Foursome packages are available, ranging from $3,000-$5,000 to include "An Evening Affair with Air McNair" June 11.
 
What happens if McNair is a Raven on June 2?  Will the evening then become an "Air Ball?"
 
Suppose you put up 3 large for a VIP table and the guest of honor is in Owings Mills, MD? 
 
Suppose McNair gets sucked in by a loving community?
 
Does that fourth round pick still sound like too much?

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24x7 Networks, LLC's founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and CBS Sports 1300. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, Guinness, Orange Crushes and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. More from Tony Lombardi

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