Most of the recent media reports are indicating that the 2012 Salary Cap will be announced by the end of the week and that it is expected to again be around $120M. With that part of the equation pretty much settled, we can now more accurately predict what the Baltimore Ravens’ Salary Cap picture will look like on next Tuesday, March 13, the day the 2012 League Year begins.
The $120M number is for the most part, right where it was last year. But the Baltimore Ravens have done (or will do) two things that will allow them to increase their Salary Cap. The team finished the 2011 season with a little less than $6.182M in available Salary Cap space, which the new CBA allows them to carry over into the following season. The Ravens are expected to do so. Also, as part of the new CBA’s transition rules (because the Salary Cap actually went down from 2009 to 2011), teams can borrow $1.5M in Cap dollars from future year’s Caps. It is expected that the team will do that also. Adding those two numbers to the expected Salary Cap of $120M, gives the Ravens an adjusted team Salary Cap of a little under $127.182M.
With the releases of CB Domonique Foxworth, CB Chris Carr and WR Lee Evans, and the retirement of RB Ricky Williams, the Ravens presently have 40 players under contract for 2012. Those 40 players, and the dead money accumulated from the release of players, totals a Cap commitment of $104.19M.
As expected, the Ravens have used their Franchise Tag designation on RB Ray Rice. The 2012 Franchise Tag for running back is projected to be $7.778M. Once Rice’s Franchise tender is added in, the Ravens’ present Cap commitment totals $111.968M for the 41 players signed or tendered.
The Ravens have 7 Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFAs) that must be tendered by March 13th for the team to retain their rights. Those 7 players will receive one-year contracts of minimum base salaries for their service time of zero, one or two years. Once those 7 players are tendered, the team’s Salary Cap commitment will rise to $115.223M.
The Ravens have 4 Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) – CB Lardarius Webb, CB Cary Williams, LB Dannell Ellerbe and RB Matt Lawrence (although there does seem to be some confusion whether Lawrence is a ERFA or a RFA). Recent media reports have indicated that both Webb and Williams will receive the highest RFA tender of $2.742M, which will allow the Ravens to match any RFA offer sheet signed with another team or receive a 1st round pick if they decline to match the offer sheet.
Given the present lack of depth at ILB on the roster, projecting Ellerbe is a bit problematic. While he’s not even a starter, and has too often been a source of frustration for the coaching staff, the lack of depth at the position may dictate using a 2nd round RFA tender ($1.927M). The alternative is to place the low RFA tender on him, but that brings only the right to match an offer sheet and brings no draft compensation if they declined to match an offer sheet. Again, with ILBs Jameel McClain and Brendan Ayanbadejo both being Unrestricted FAs and likely to move on, the team may err on the side of caution and give Ellerbe the 2nd round RFA tender.
The guess here, though, is that they will use the low RFA tender of $1.26M.
In the past, the team has often non-tendered its lesser RFAs and then re-signed them to veteran minimum contracts. RB Matt Lawrence (if he is a RFA) is a good candidate for such a maneuver. So, instead of giving Lawrence the low RFA tender of $1.26M, they can re-sign him for the minimum base salary of $615K, and save over $600K in Salary Cap space.
For the purposes of this projection, I have omitted Lawrence entirely. Once his status is clarified, he can be added back in. One way or another, though, it is unlikely that he will receive a RFA tender. If he is non-tendered and re-signed to a minimum deal, the Ravens’ available Cap space will be reduced by $225K. If he is not a RFA at all, then the team will likely offer him an ERFA tender, which would reduce the team’s Cap space by $150K.
With those RFAs tendered, the Ravens would then have a total Salary Cap commitment of $121.967M. This would include the 51 players then under contract or tendered and would comply with the Rule of 51 for determining the team’s Cap number.