Could Ray Lewis be a salary cap casualty in 2013?

Ray Lewis Eye of the tiger

Ray Lewis’ Cap Impact Clouds his Future with Club

With this week’s news that Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis is lost for the season with a triceps injury, the immediate question that comes to mind is whether or not Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys was not only Lewis’ last game of the year, but also possibly the last game of his career.

Or, perhaps, it’s just the last game of Lewis’ career as a Raven?

In 2013, Lewis will be in the 5th year of a 7-year contract he signed in 2009.  Lewis is presently set to earn a base salary of $5.4M in 2013 and will have a 2013 Cap number of $7.3M.  He is set to earn base salaries of $5.85M in 2014 and $6.3M in 2015 and will have Cap numbers of $6.5M and $6.7M in those years, respectively.

The following is a breakdown of Lewis’ 7-year contract:

 

Year

Signing
Bonus

Option Bonus

Roster Bonus

Base
Salary

Bonus Prorations

Cap
Charge

2009

6,250,000

2,750,000

1,000,000

1,250,000

5,000,000

2010

1,250,000

4,250,000

1,500,000

5,750,000

2011

2,000,000

4,500,000

1,900,000

6,400,000

2012

4,950,000

1,900,000

6,850,000

2013

5,400,000

1,900,000

7,300,000

2014

5,850,000

650,000

6,500,000

2015

6,300,000

400,000

6,700,000

When a player is released or retires, the team is relieved of having to pay his remaining base salaries, but still has to account for any remaining bonus prorations (which come from bonuses already paid to the player) that haven’t yet counted toward the team’s Salary Cap.

In Lewis’ case, the Ravens still have $2.95M in remaining bonus prorations (2013-2015) that have yet to count against the team’s Cap.

Of Lewis’ $7.3M Cap number for 2013, the $1.9M in 2013 bonus proration will count against the Cap no matter whether Lewis is on the team or not. So while the team would not have to pay Lewis’ 2013 base salary of 5.4M, the team would see the 2014 and 2015 bonus prorations (totaling $1.05M) accelerate against the Cap.

That would mean that the Ravens would realize $4.35M in Salary Cap savings ($5.4M – $1.05M) if Lewis does not return in 2013.  That is not an insubstantial amount of Cap savings and could go a long way toward signing or retaining a key free agent.

So, short of an agreement to take a pay cut from that $5.4M base salary, the decision for the Ravens’ front office is whether Lewis’ will be a player worth his 2013 salary and Cap number or whether that Cap savings will be better used elsewhere?

Lewis certainly is a special case, and while no one will ever question Lewis’ drive and determination, it does become a fair question as to whether the team will be willing to pay that much for a 38-year old middle linebacker, especially one coming off of a significant injury?

It was just 2 seasons ago that the team was willing to part ways with Ravens’ stalwarts like TE Todd Heap and WR Derrick Mason, and while clearly neither occupies the lofty stratosphere of Ray Lewis – actually, no one is – it does show that the team is willing to make tough decisions when it comes to aging veterans.

Just as was the case with Heap and Mason in 2010, the Ravens are expected to be right up against the Salary Cap again in 2013, so they will need every Cap dollar available to them and the Cap savings from Lewis would likely provide them with some much needed Cap flexibility.

Lewis is truly an iconic player and it’s hard to imagine the Ravens without Ray Lewis – or the team  making a decision that would end Lewis’ days as a Raven – but that time is coming and it’s very possible that it could come as soon as next year.

2 Raves on “Could Ray Lewis be a salary cap casualty in 2013?

  1. Paulfun on said:

    Ray Lewis is the definition of what it means to “Play Like A Raven!” Ray Lewis has earned the right to say when it’s over! I don’t forsee him playing after this contract is up! But the Ravens wouldn’t be the Ravens if he never came to Baltimore! I don’t care what it costs the Ravens, Ray will decide when he’s done!

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