Now that Joe Flacco’s contract has been resolved, it’s much easier to give an accurate forecast of where the Ravens will stand when the 2013 league year begins on next Tuesday at 4:00 pm.
So, with that in mind, here’s a look at the Ravens’ 2013 Free Agency and Salary Cap status:
PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT:
The Ravens presently have the following 48 players under contract for 2013 (with Salary Cap numbers indicated):
QBs (2): Joe Flacco ($6.8M), Tyrod Taylor ($581K)
RBs (4): Ray Rice ($5.75M), Bernard Pierce ($619K), Vonta Leach ($4.33M), Lonyae Miller ($480K)
WRs (8): Anquan Boldin ($7.53M), Torrey Smith ($924K), Jacoby Jones ($4.9M), Tandon Doss ($658K), LaQuan Williams ($555K), Deonte Thompson ($481K), Tommy Streeter ($504K), Tori Gurley ($405K)
TE (2): Steve Watson ($405K), Alex Silvestro ($405K)
OL (10): Michael Oher ($4.955M), Marshall Yanda ($7.45M), Jah Reid ($696K), Kelechi Osemele ($760K), Bobbie Williams ($1.6M), Gino Gradkowski ($601K), David Mims ($480K), Reggie Stevens ($480K), Jack Cornell ($405K), Antoine McClain ($405K)
DL (6): Haloti Ngata ($11.5M), Terrence Cody ($910K), Pernell McPhee ($591K), Michael McAdoo ($557K), DeAngelo Tyson ($492K), Swanson Miller ($405K),
LBs (7): Terrell Suggs ($13.02M), Jameel McClain ($4.2M), Courtney Upshaw ($1.204M), Brendan Ayanbadejo ($1.073M), Spencer Atkins ($630K), DJ Bryant ($405K), Nigel Carr ($405K)
CBs (5): Lardarius Webb ($5.385M), Jimmy Smith ($1.2035M), Corey Graham ($2.65M), Chykie Brown ($591K), Asa Jackson ($516K)
S (2): Bernard Pollard ($3.25M), Christian Thompson ($555K)
ST (2): Justin Tucker ($480K), Sam Koch ($2.5M)
These 48 players are under contract for a total Salary Cap commitment of just over $112.719M, which includes the dead money from the releases and retirements of players who are no longer on the roster.
ADJUSTED SALARY CAP: The league has announced that the Salary Cap for 2013 will be $123M. For the Ravens, this number will be adjusted upwards by the carryover of $1.182M from the 2012 Salary Cap, but adjusted downward by the cost of offseason workout bonuses of $504K that all teams must carry against their Salary Cap. This yields an Adjusted Salary Cap number of $123.678M. This is the number that the Ravens must be under as of 4:00 pm on Tuesday, March 12, and they must stay under that amount from that time until the end of the 2013 league year.
One caveat, though, the above number could be further adjusted upwards or downwards based on the carryover of earned or unearned incentives from 2012. The Ravens haven’t been a team to do a lot of incentives in the past, so any adjustment either way would likely be relatively minor. Those incentive adjustments are usually not disclosed until right before the free agency period begins.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (UFAs):
The following 12 players are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) and will be free to sign with other teams if they haven’t re-signed with the Ravens before Free Agency begins on March 12th at 4:00 p.m.:
S – Ed Reed
LB – Dannell Ellerbe
CB – Cary Williams
DT – Ryan McBean
LB – Paul Kruger
OT – Bryant McKinnie
S – Sean Considine
DT – Ma’ake Kemoeatu
S – James Ihedigbo
LB – Ricky Brown
TE – Billy Bajema
CB – Chris Johnson
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (EFAs):
These players must be tendered contracts of the league minimum, based on the player’s length of service in the league ($555K, $480K or $405K). Once tendered, these players are fully under the team’s control and are not free to negotiate with other teams.
The Ravens have 10 players who are Exclusive Rights Free Agents (EFAs):
RB – Anthony Allen ($555K)
RB – Damien Berry ($480K)
RB – Bobby Rainey ($480K)
LB – Josh Bynes ($480K)
LB – Albert McClellan ($555K)
LB – Adrian Hamilton ($405K)
DT – Bryan Hall ($480K)
S – Emmanuel Cook ($555K)
S – Anthony Levine ($480K)
S – Omar Brown ($405K)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (RFAs):
The Ravens have 6 players who are Restricted Free Agents (RFAs):
TE – Dennis Pitta
TE – Ed Dickson
LS – Morgan Cox
DT – Arthur Jones
WR – David Reed
OL – Ramon Harewood
There are three RFA tenders available:
High – $2.879M
2nd Rounder – $2.023M
Low – $1.323M
The Ravens must tender those players with one of the above tenders in order to maintain their rights over the player. In the past, the Ravens have usually tendered all of their RFAs.
For the purposes of this projection, we’ll assign the following RFA tenders – Pitta (2nd round tender), Jones (2nd round tender), Dickson (low tender – 4th round compensation), Reed (low tender – 5th round comp), Harewood (low tender – 6th round comp), Cox (undrafted – ROFR).
PROJECTED SALARY CAP COMMITMENT:
Based on all of the above, if the Ravens tendered all of their RFAs and ERFAs and released no one, they would be $2.235M UNDER the Salary Cap. This number encompasses the top 51 (“Rule of 51”) Cap numbers on the team (and all other bonus prorations and all dead money), and count as the team’s Salary Cap number at this time of the year. This rule is in place because during the offseason, rosters can total up to 80 players and it would be impossible to fit all 80 under the Salary Cap.
So, with Salary Cap number in mind, it’s possible to work backwards to figure out how much additional Cap space the team can create.
EFFECT OF RULE OF 51:
First, as stated above, the Rule of 51 is in effect as of March 12th and it is important to keep this rule in mind because of how it affects the amount of Cap space used up or created by a transaction.
Basically, for any player released or any player signed, there is an offset – either positive or negative – to the Cap space created or needed. This is because when a player who is among the top 51 Cap numbers is released, he is then replaced by the player who had been the 52nd highest, but now moves into the 51st spot. So, the amount of Cap savings created by the release of the player is reduced by the cost of his replacement moving into the top 51. Conversely, when a player is signed, his Cap number will replace the Cap number of the player who had been the 51st highest Cap number. As such, the amount of Cap space used to sign a new player is reduced by the removal of the former 51st player from the Rule of 51 calculation.
As mentioned above, the Ravens have usually tendered all of their RFAs and ERFAs, but with the team being so tight against the Cap this year, it’s very possible that they may choose to non-tender a player or two, most notably, 3 RFAs – WR David Reed, G Ramon Harewood and LS Morgan Cox. There are a variety of reasons that those three might be on the chopping block, but in each case the team could choose to non-tender the player and re-sign him to a veteran minimum contract of $630K. If they chose that route, they could save $693K per player against the Salary Cap.
If they chose to non-tender and not re-sign any of those 3, or the player chooses to look elsewhere for a different opportunity, the Cap savings would be $843K per player. The entire tender amount of $1.323M is not saved because under the Rule of 51, the tender amount for that player would be replaced amongst the top 51 Cap numbers by a player making $480K, thus creating a net savings of $843M.
The Ravens have several players who could– for a variety of reasons – be candidates to be released. Below are the Cap ramifications of the releases of those players.
Of these players, it would appear that Guard Bobbie Williams is pretty much a lock to be released, but if the team finds the need to create additional Cap space, all of the others could be – at vary degrees – at risk.
But, again, remember that under the Rule of 51, any savings received from the release of any of the above players will be offset by the Cap number of the new 51st player (presently $480K).
In lieu of being released, and in acknowledgement of his importance as a team leader, it’s possible that the team could offer FB Vonta Leach a chance to stay on the team, but at a reduced rate. In this case, the pay cut would act to reduce his Cap number, but keep him around for another year.
At the “State of the Ravens” press conference in early February, GM Ozzie Newsome indicated that the Ravens were not likely to restructure any contracts. This is a practice by which a player’s base salary is converted into a bonus, which for Salary Cap purposes, is prorated over the remaining year of the player’s contract. Most restructures are simply an accounting procedure, and rarely does the player ever receive any less money than he was expecting to make. The advantage to doing a restructure is creating additional Cap space for the present year, but the downside is to a restructure is that it comes at the cost of future Salary Cap space.
But, restructuring can become a dangerous practice because once started, it’s often a hard cycle to stop. It’s because of this, that the Ravens have, over the past decade, eschewed this practice because, as they learned in 2001-2002, Cap hell resides at the end of a several years’ worth of contract restructures.
That said, a restructure or two sprinkled over a couple year period isn’t necessarily an unwise practice. If the Ravens are in the need of additional Cap space, though, they really only have 3 players who could provide them with any amount of significant Cap space via a restructure – Terrell Suggs ($2.7M), Marshall Yanda ($2.5M) and Haloti Ngata ($2.1M).
Newsome has always been very careful in his wording and sometimes it’s more important to focus on what he doesn’t say, as opposed to what he does say. In the NFL, there is a vast difference between a “restructure” and a contract “extension”. So, it is important to note that while Newsome specifically mentioned that “restructures” were unlikely, he made no mention of contract extensions.
The Ravens have several players in the last year of their contracts who might be good candidates for contract extensions because an extension would help reduce the player’s 2013 Cap number.
WR Anquan Boldin, WR Jacoby Jones and OT Michael Oher would be candidates for extensions.
For example, the Ravens could sign Boldin to an extension of 2 years (so, 2013 + 2 more), by which Boldin received a $6M Signing Bonus and new base salary of $1M. This would reduce his 2013 Cap number by $3M, therefore giving the team some much needed Cap space, but while also giving Boldin a $1M more than he is presently scheduled to make.
The team could also receive additional savings from extending the contracts of Jones and Oher, albeit it in lesser amounts.
FINAL CAP SPACE:
Based on the above, the Ravens do have several options to create the Cap space that they will need and they are likely to use a combination of each of the methods to do so. That said, they seem mindful of protecting their future Salary Caps, especially given the magnitude of Flacco’s new contract, so it is unlikely that they will be very active in the free agent market and will likely focus on retaining their own free agents, most notably, LB Dannell Ellerbe, S Ed Reed, and possibly OT Bryant McKinnie.