Last night’s news that the Ravens had acquired Jacksonville Offensive Tackle Eugene Monroe was certainly a shock to Ravens fans. Given that Coach John Harbaugh very pointedly expressed his displeasure with the offensive line on Monday, a change wasn’t an unlikely expectation, however acquiring a quality Offensive Tackle of Monroe’s stature came totally out of the blue.
OZZIE STRIKES AGAIN!
But, while the rare in-season trade by the Wizard (has there ever been another for the Ravens?) leaves Baltimore with an abundance of Tackles, it also created a serious lack of Cap space for the team.
In fact, with only $1,580,111 in Cap space prior to acquiring Monroe, the Ravens are going to have to make a move or two in order to accommodate the remaining $2,905,882 of Monroe’s 2013 base salary (13/17ths of $3.8M).
So, in order to fit Monroe in, the team will need to create approximately $1.326M in Cap space in order to fit Monroe under the Cap.
The team has several options to do so, but the release of a highly-paid veterans will not be one.
Under the rules of the NFL CBA, the base salaries of vested veterans (i.e. players with 4+ years of service) become guaranteed if the player is on the team’s roster for the 1st week of the season. So, you can forget about the team releasing players like Bryant McKinnie, Jacoby Jones, Jameel McClain, or Vonta Leach because there would be no Cap savings from doing so.
If the team could find a trading partner for one of these players, it would relieve them of having to pay the remainder of the player’s guaranteed base salary, because it would then be the responsibility of team acquiring him. The chances of trading any of those players, though, would appear to be very remote.
Unfortunately for the Ravens the aforementioned players are the only players with base salaries large enough to offset the new Cap number for Monroe.
Where are the Ravens going to find $1.580M in Cap space?
First, there will be an offset for the player who is released in order to add Monroe to the roster. Since the team is already carrying 9 Offensive linemen, it would seem that releasing one of them would make the most roster sense. Again, McKinnie is out, so that leaves Jah Reed and AQ Shipley as the most likely candidates.
There is more savings from Reid, but he is basically the only back-up at Guard. Shipley is the only back-up Center, but if Ryan Jensen, a player capable of playing both guard and center is ready to return, that could make both Shipley and Reid expendable.
Whichever way they go the savings from either of those guys isn’t that great – $392K for Reid (12/17ths of his $555K salary) or $339K for Shipley (12/17ths of his $480K).
So, that would still leave the Ravens around $1.2-1.3M short.
The next biggest savings for the release (or trade) of any one player would come from cutting either TE Ed Dickson or recently acquired S Jeromy Miles. The savings of $934K (12/17ths of $1.323M) would still leave the Ravens short and that savings is offset by the fact that the release of either player would necessitate the need to add a new player to the roster, thereby offsetting the savings. A new player making the rookie minimum (Ex. Matt Furstenberg) would have a base salary for the rest of the year of $310K, thereby reducing the savings from the release of either Dickson or Miles.
There are really no other players who could be released to create the needed Cap space because of the cost of replacing that player, thereby minimizing any Cap savings.
Plus, there is another very important consideration – just fitting Monroe into the Cap doesn’t provide the team with any excess Cap space for injury replacements later in the season. So, whatever they do, they aren’t going to have to create just enough Cap space to fit Monroe in, they are, in reality. going to have to create excess Cap space over and above that for future moves.
So now what?
The only realistic option for creating that much Cap space is to restructure a contract. But even there, though, the options are pretty much limited.
Only a restructure of Marshall Yanda, Terrell Suggs or Haloti Ngata would provide enough Cap space. Doing a simple restructure (turning base salary into bonus money to be prorated over the remaining years of their contract) for one of those players would create anywhere from around $1.5M (Ngata) to $2M (Suggs). However, both of those players already have huge Cap number in 2014 (and 2015 for Ngata), so adding more may not be the way to go.
On the other hand, Yanda’s Cap number for 2014 and 2015 is only $8.45M, so adding another $900K or so may be the team’s best option (or, at least, the least painful option).
Signing one of those players to a contract extension, thereby reducing their 2013 Cap number would be another possibility, but given how long it took to reach contract extensions with Suggs and Ngata the last time around, it would seem highly unlikely that they would be able to agree to such a deal within the next 24 hours.
One final option the Ravens could pursue would be to sign Monroe to a contract extension, thereby reducing his Cap charge and making it easier to fit him under the Cap. At only 26 years old, Monroe would seem to be an ideal player for a contract extension, but given that he is only 6 or so months away from being a free agent, reaching an agreeable number – especially one that fits under the team’s 2013 Cap – may prove to be very difficult (especially within 24 hours).
So, while the Ravens have stated often that they wish to avoid restructuring contracts in order to create Cap space – at the expense of future Cap space – the acute failures of the offensive line have forced them into a situation where they pretty much must do so.
At least the Ravens can take solace in the fact that they are doing so for what appears to be a clear upgrade at Offensive Tackle and a player who could very well be their long term answer at Left Tackle.