In his Twitter Q&A ESPN’s beat writer Jamison Hensley addressed the following Tweet:
@jamisonhensley: I don’t see cornerback Lardarius Webb on the Ravens’ roster next season. With the way Webb is playing, it’s hard to justify paying him $8 million in salary in 2015. The Ravens can gain $5 million in cap room by cutting Webb. Of course, Webb has time left this season to make a convincing argument that he should stay. There’s also the possibility that the Ravens will approach Webb about taking a pay cut. The Ravens just can’t have any confidence that Webb will be healthy enough to play week to week. He has missed three of the Ravens’ five games this year. For his career, Webb has been sidelined for 20 percent of the Ravens’ games (including playoffs) because of injuries. I don’t know how the Ravens can commit that much money to a player who gets hurt this often.
My gut feeling was that Hensley’s answer was rather short-sighted given Webb’s recent extension and negative ramifications such a roster move could have. So I asked our capologist Brian McFarland to put the beat writer’s opinion/theory to the test. ~ Tony Lombardi
Cutting Webb in 2015 is a Pricy Decision
With CB Lardarius Webb making a slow recovery from his most recent injury and being owed a 2015 base salary of $8M, speculation has already begun that the Ravens may perhaps part ways with their talented, but oft-injured, cornerback as soon as next offseason.
While it seems a bit premature to make such determinations and prognostications, it is also important to understand the Salary Cap ramifications of such a move and how it will impact any decision the team might make.
Here is the present status of Webb’s deal:
As the numbers show, releasing Webb in 2015 would only save the Ravens $2M in Cap space.
So, contrary to some reports, releasing Webb won’t provide the Ravens with much in the way of Cap relief and will come at a cost of $10M in dead money against the Cap. After being forced to release RB Ray Rice and take on $9.5M in dead money, it seems highly unlikely that the Ravens would also be willing to take on an additional $10M by releasing Webb too.
Obviously, how Webb plays the rest of the season will go a long way toward deciding this issue, but $20M (and more with other releases) is a huge amount of dead money for a team to carry.
The Ravens already have just over $136M committed to the 2015 Salary Cap and that only includes the 40 players that are presently under contract. Early estimates have pegged the 2015 at around $143M, a $10M increase over this year, so the Ravens will have a lot of work to do, given that they would still have to fill out their roster. Releasing Webb would mean that they would have yet another roster spot to fill.
The Ravens could opt to use a post-June 1 release designation on Webb, which would create $8M in Cap space in 2014 (with $4M in dead money), but would push $6M in dead money onto the 2016 Cap. Usually, pushing such a large amount of dead money forward onto the next year’s Cap isn’t something teams want to do, but if the Ravens feel that they must part ways with Webb, this would likely be there best option.
But, a note of caution – in 2016, QB Joe Flacco’s Cap number almost doubles, going from $14.55M to $28.55M. As such, pushing money forward into 2016 isn’t a very palatable option either. Now, it is likely that they Ravens will restructure and extend Flacco’s contract by 2016, but that isn’t going to come at less of a cost. It will reduce his 2016 Cap number, but the lower they need to reduce that Cap number, the more they are likely to have to give Flacco and the more leverage he will have. It will also ultimately be akin to pushing off today’s problem until tomorrow and that is never a good way for a team to run its Salary Cap.
Because of this, it is likely that the Ravens would like to get at least one more year from Webb, even if it costs them $8M in base salary in 2015. If they can, a post-June 1 release in 2016 would allow them to save $8M in Cap space in 2016 (with $4M in dead money) and allow them to carry over only $2M in dead money onto the 2017 Cap.
But, again, there’s a lot of football to be played in 2014 before having to make a decision on Webb’s status for 2015 (and beyond).