Hopefully, it’s after raising the Lombardi trophy, but whenever the Ravens’ season comes to a close, General Manager Ozzie Newsome has plenty of tough decisions ahead.
Ozzie won’t be at it alone, though. Assisting him will be Pat Moriarty.
For those unaware of Moriarty’s role within the Ravens organization, he is the Vice President of Football Administration and one of his major duties is to negotiate contracts on the franchise’s behalf. In other words, he’ll be partially responsible for the Ravens being able to cram as much talent as possible within the expected $121 million salary cap in 2013.
Linebacker Paul Kruger has emerged during the final season of his rookie contract and has guaranteed a major pay raise in his future. After the Ravens lost fellow linebacker Jarret Johnson to the San Diego Chargers via free agency and with Terrell Suggs showing that he’s not at full-strength following surgery on his Achilles tendon and biceps teart, Kruger has been a blessing for the defense.
On Sunday, all eyes were on linebacker Ray Lewis as he played his final game in Baltimore, but Kruger was the shining defensive star during the Ravens’ 24-9 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Having the last name of “Kruger,” it’s fitting that he gave Colts’ rookie quarterback Andrew Luck nightmares on Sunday. Kruger finished with 2.5 sacks, four combined tackles and hit luck five times during the Ravens fifth consecutive victory during a opening playoff game.
According to ProFootballFocus, Kruger generated 11 pressures on 41 pass rushes.
There’s no doubt the Ravens would want to have Kruger back, but he may be too expensive for the Ravens taste. According to 105.7 The Fan’s Glenn Younes while appearing on the Russell Street Report webcast, Kruger’s asking price according to a source is at $7 million per season.
That’s a significant pay raise over his current base salary of $615,000.
Krugers’s asking price seems extreme but given the parity in the NFL, one team desperate for a pass rusher will overpay for Kruger, but possibly not at his asking price. For comparison’s sake, the only Ravens currently on the roster with a salary over $7 million are safety Ed Reed and running back Ray Rice.
Clearly, asking for $7 million per season is a negotiation tactic from his representation but it wouldn’t be unlikely to see Kruger sign with either the Ravens or another team for a price somewhere around $5 million.
Having additional money to sign Kruger will depend on what the team decides to do with some of their other pending contract dilemmas.
Reed is in the final year of his deal and hasn’t played like someone earning over $7 million for his services. There is a good chance the Ravens pass on resigning Reed, unless it comes at a heavily discounted price. The next item on the checklist is if they can come to an agreement with quarterback Joe Flacco or if they’ll have to franchise him. Having to franchise Flacco will mean that his entire $14.642 salary would be guaranteed.
Decisions still also have to be made whether to resign tackle Michael Oher who will have his salary double from $865,000 to $1.685 million next season. Signing Oher to an extension helps the team by being able to spread out his salary over future seasons but will also mean the franchise would have to commit to a player fans constantly see penalized for false starts and who has still struggled despite this being his fourth season in the NFL.
Finally, Kruger isn’t the only defensive player looking for a new deal. Fellow linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is playing in the final year of his contract as well. Last season, Ellerbe was given a second-round restricted free agent tender by the Ravens, and he’ll hit the open market at the conclusion of the season.
Two major things become evident when it comes to Kruger after his performance against the Colts on Sunday: he’s going to make at least six or seven times his salary next season; and, no one envies Newsome and Moriarty as they decide how to field a team in 2013 that can realistically three-peat as AFC North Champions.