Can the Ravens afford Brett Favre?

Salary Cap Can the Ravens afford Brett Favre?

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Hall of Famer-to-be, Brett Favre now appears to be regretting his decision to retire and wants to return to the NFL and play again this season.  He prefers to do so with the Green Bay Packers, but the team apparently has tired of his continued wavering and would rather he not return at all.  Now, Favre has responded and asked the team to "unconditionally" release him (as if there was such a thing as a conditional release in the NFL). 
However, it appears clear that under no circumstances will the Packers release Favre for fear that he might sign with one of their NFC North rivals, most notably, Minnesota or Chicago.  More likely Favre will stay retired, return to the Packers or be traded.
There have been several media reports indicating that the Baltimore Ravens could be a possible landing spot for Favre if things can’t be worked out in Green Bay.  The thinking goes that, coming off of the Kyle Boller experience, the team would be wise to let rookie 1st round pick, Joe Flacco, sit for a year or two behind an established veteran quarterback like Favre. 
The Ravens have not publicly commented on Favre, and whether Favre would even be willing to play in Baltimore remains to be seen.  At this point, there are very few facts being reported and any likely destination for Favre appears to be based on pure speculation.
(One could also speculate that any team acquiring Favre especially one with a QB-in-wait, like Flacco – might be hesitant to take Favre on, for fear of a future repeat of the melodrama that is now playing out in Green Bay.)
If the Ravens are interested in acquiring Favre, there would still be two issues to deal with: (1) what would Green Bay want in return as far as trade compensation goes and (2) what would Favre want as far as salary and could the team afford such a number. 
So, if, for example, the Packers wanted a 3rd round pick, would the Ravens be willing to go that high?  The team gave up a 4th for Steve McNair 2 seasons ago which seemed like a decent price at the time – but there is little in McNair’s favor in a comparison between the two, other than McNair was younger.  Favre, on the other hand, has never been seriously injured and has put up very solid numbers over the last 2 years. 
As such, a 3rd doesn’t sound like too much in comparison, but then there is the lingering concern over just how long Favre will want to play.  And, given how things are now playing out in Green Bay, it’s a vital question that any team acquiring Favre must answer.  Is a one-year rental at Quarterback, even for one as great as Favre, really a worthwhile investment for a team such as the Ravens? 
Even if the team got some assurance that Favre wanted to play longer, would it be worth the risk?  After all, at the end of the 2006 season, very few would have ever guessed that 2007 would be Steve McNair’s last season.  So, Favre could promise to play into 2010, but may later decide for any number of reasons – that enough is finally enough and retire for good.
The question of how long Favre wants to play also factors into the equation when determining whether the Ravens can afford Favre from a Salary Cap perspective as well.  The easy answer is that most teams regardless of their present Cap status can usually find a way to fit a guy into their Cap, if they really want to.  The question generally is how badly do they want to and how will it impact their ability to acquire other players if needed?
Favre was set to make $12M, $13M and $14M over the last 3 years of his deal in Green Bay.  Any team acquiring him would likely be unwilling to pay those amounts and, given his on-again, off-again retirement dramas, would likely be unwilling to sink any type of sizeable signing bonus into him either.  Also, it remains to be seen if Favre would be willing to take less to continue playing.
For the Ravens who are presently around $8.6M under the Salary Cap (mainly due to the retirements of Jon Ogden and Steve McNair) and will need a couple of million of that to sign their rookies, they would not be able to acquire him without a new contract based on their present Cap space.  They could take him at $12M, but in order to do so, they would have to either restructure a contract or two (Chris McAlister would provide the most Cap savings) or get Terrell Suggs re-signed by July 15th (which doesn’t look very promising at this point). 
If they decided to restructure some deal, any Cap room created to accommodate Favre would come at the expense of Cap space in 2009 and/or beyond, at a time when they would likely need the Cap space to further solidify the team around their QB-of-the-future, Joe Flacco.
So, reaching a new contract agreement with Favre would likely be the better approach, but, again, how much would Favre expect?  He and his agent would likely expect somewhere around the $12M he would make under his present contract (which would come back into effect if he is reinstated by the Packers), so could the Ravens (or any other team for that matter) do a deal to accommodate that number? 
To fit Favre into their present Cap, the Ravens would have to get his Cap number into the $6M range to leave them with enough space to also sign all of their rookies.  To do so, they would then have to give him a $9M bonus over a 3-year deal, with a 2008 base salary of $3M.  His Cap number would be $6M and he would receive $12M in total money this year.  But, if he did not return in 2009, the team would be stuck with $6M in dead money against the 2009 Cap (or $3M in 2009 and $3M in 2010, if they released him in June of 2009).  Neither sounds like a particularly appetizing scenario for a one-year rental (not to mention what would have to be traded to get him).  If Favre really wanted to come to Baltimore and was willing to accept less, then, of course, it would, be easier for the team to make it work.
At present, the Ravens should have plenty of Salary Cap space in 2009 and beyond.  However, they still would like to get Terrell Suggs re-signed, would like to reach a reasonable extension with Ray Lewis and need to get Jason Brown re-signed before he becomes a highly sought-after Free Agent next Spring.  They should have enough Cap space to get all of those accomplished and acquire Favre, but that could mean that they aren’t able to acquire someone else at a position of need that could make the team better for years to come, while Favre would likely only be a one- or two year fix.
It’s definitely a tough balance of factors to consider if the team was interested in acquiring Favre.  From a Salary Cap perspective, it can be done, but perhaps isn’t the most prudent approach given that it appears that this year is shaping up as somewhat of a transitional year for the team. This is especially true given the age and lack of experience of the young offensive line — a group that could make Favre’s job that much tougher if they didn’t gel quickly.
Does anyone recall how Favre looked in 2005 when his offensive line was decimated with injuries?
So, would the team really want to commit so many resources, a high mid-round draft pick and a sizeable amount of present and, potentially, future Salary Cap space – for a player, who would bring tons of excitement and a few more wins, but would perhaps, only be around for one year? 
Probably not, but it sure does make for some interesting water cooler conversation now doesn’t it?

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Brian McFarland

About Brian McFarland

Known on Ravens Message Boards as "B-more Ravor", Brian is a life-long Baltimorean and an avid fan of the Ravens and all Baltimore sports.  A PSL holder since 1998, Brian has garnered a reputation as a cap-guru because of his strange (actually warped) desire to wade through the intricacies of the NFL's salary cap and actually make sense of it for those of us who view it as inviting as IRS Tax Code.      Brian, who hails from Catonsville, MD and still resides there, is married and has two children. More from Brian McFarland


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