With the final cutdown day looming, the Ravens have a few tough decisions to make as they make the final 22 roster moves. As such, the team’s roster will undergo one final large change before the season begins.
The team’s Salary Cap is also about to undergo a huge change.
Since March, all teams have had their Salary Cap calculated pursuant to the CBA-mandated Rule of 51. This rule is in place because offseason rosters can number up to 90 (and more with players on IR) and it would be impossible to include that many players unto the Cap. So, the Rule of 51 essentially dictates that only the players with the top 51 Salary Cap numbers count against the Salary Cap until the start of the season.
At present, pursuant to the Rule of 51, the Ravens have $12M in Salary Cap space.
However, that is about to drastically change. By this time next week, the full roster, not just the top 51, will begin counting against the team’s Salary Cap. That means, not only the 53 players on the active roster, but also all players on IR and PUP will start counting against the Cap. Players on suspension will also count, but at a base salary that has been reduced to reflect the number of weeks the player is suspended. There will also be an additional $1.173M in Cap space needed for the 10 PS players.
Presently, the team has already placed 8 players on IR and 1 player on Reserve/PUP. The 2 players who are facing suspension will go on the suspended list once the season begins. That means that, even with no other additions, the Ravens will already have at least 74 players (53-man roster + 8 IR + 1 PUP + 2 SUS + 10 players on the Practice Squad) counting against the Cap as of kickoff on Sunday, September 11th.
And, that number very well may go up after Thursday’s preseason game.
Below is a projection (just a guess, really) of what the roster could look like as of Saturday and includes placing Safety Matt Elam and Cornerback Maurice Canady on IR.
PUP (1): Lorenzo Taliaferro
Practice Squad (10): TBD
This projected roster includes 76 players, all of whom would be counting against the Salary Cap, and would reduce the team’s Salary Cap space down to just a little under $5.3M. A breakdown of the Cap numbers that make up this projection can be found here (scroll down and hit the “2016 Projected” tab).
Now, this is just a projection, but except for the last 3-4 roster spots, the roster is pretty much set, so while the team’s actual Cap may go up or down a bit based on other players making the roster, any chance won’t be very substantial (barring an unexpected roster decision).
This is where fans have to be careful when discussing and projecting a team’s Cap space. The change that happens when teams are forced to start accounting for their entire roster – especially when the IR list continues to grow – can very easily reduce a team’s Salary Cap situation from “comfortable” to “dire” in no time.
That’s not to say that the Ravens are in a dire position, but they most certainly won’t have that same, comfortable Cap cushion here in a few days.
On the bright side, there are several things that can (or will) happen that will create some additional Cap space, but it certainly won’t be major. First, with some of the players on IR, the team could work out injury settlements that would pay them less than the salaries they are presently set to make. Also, barring injuries, when TE Darren Waller returns after week 4, assuming he is activated to the 53-man roster, someone will need to be released and the balance of that player’s salary will be removed from the Cap. Or, if it is Waller that is released, it will be the balance of his salary that will be removed. The same would apply to TE Nick Boyle after week 10. Lastly, any player on IR, who doesn’t receive an Injury Settlement, can still be released later in the season, once he is healthy enough to pay a team physical.
So, the team should have enough Cap space to make it through the 2016 season, but one thing is clear now – the hope that the team would have a lot of excess 2016 Cap space to carry over into 2017 is pretty much gone.