After signing Joe Flacco to a record $120.6 million contract extension, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome will begin to search under every sofa cushion at the Under Armour Performance Center for loose change in an attempt to position his team for another Super Bowl run. For Flacco’s contract to not handcuff the franchise in other areas of need, Newsome will have to replace veteran players for more cost-effective and younger options.
Unfortunately for special teams ace/linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, he may be one of the players at the top of Newsome’s list.
The 36-year-old Ayanbadejo is entering the second year of his three-year, $3.21 million contract extension signed during the first wave of free agent additions in 2012. Given his age, it was surprising to see him offered a multi-year deal; however, Ayanbadejo has always remained as one of the most physically fit players in the NFL, thus avoiding the typical decline a player may see from age.
Primarily a special teams contributor, Ayanbadejo sparingly saw time at linebacker as the Ravens were depleted with injuries to their top three options. Never a standout linebacker, Ayanbadejo nonetheless played well in coverage and helped the Ravens wether the storm until Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe were healthy enough to return.
If cut now, Ayanbadejo’s 2013 cap number of $1,073,333 would be reduced to $266,666, a savings of nearly $807,000. His ’14 salary of $955,000 would be eliminated; thus, the Ravens would save nearly $1.762 million of salary cap space over the remainder of his contract.
One of the main reasons Ayanbadejo could be released is because he’ll help soften the blow of the $8 million increase the Ravens will see to Flacco’s cap number in 2014 (to a total of $14.8 million). Ayanbadejo not being owed his $955,000 base salary in 2014 could help offset that cost in exchange for someone doing the same job at the rookie minimum of $570,000.
Drafted in 1999 by the Miami Dolphins, Ayanbadejo bounced around practice squads, NFL Europe and the Canadian Football League before consistently playing in the NFL the past ten seasons. The veteran was one of only four players inside the Ravens locker room with Super Bowl experience before he and his teammates won the Super Bowl last month. If released, the 36-year-old Ayanbadejo may receive looks from other teams who are looking to bolster their special teams units. If he wasn’t in such peak physical condition for his age, it’s likely his career would have already ended.
This past year, Ayanbadejo and Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe have made more news off of the football field than on it. Both men have taken the lead amongst professional football players to publicly support same-sex marriage. Ayanbadejo’s former teammate, center Matt Birk, was vocal in his opposition to same-sex marriage and the two didn’t let their differences of opinion affect their professionalism. It may become an interesting and awkward dilemma for Ayanbadejo if he is indeed released as he may not be heading into a locker room as amicable to differing beliefs as the one he had in Baltimore.
Ayanbadejo is a good guy and has had a very successful career as a three-time Pro Bowler and now Super Bowl Champion. If he indeed is released, I wish him nothing but the best.