RAVENS SALARY CAP: Looking ahead to the Baltimore Ravens ’08 cap situation

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With the 2007 season already headed toward a very disappointing conclusion, it may be time to start looking toward next season and what kind of decisions the Front Office is going to be faced with during the upcoming offseason.  From a Salary Cap perspective, it appears that they are going to have some very difficult decisions to make.
 
So, the question is…….what would you do?
 
Based on the Salary Cap numbers that Pro Football 24×7 has been able to compile, the Ravens appear to have just over $110M committed toward the 2008 Salary Cap of $116M.  This will leave them with just under $6M in Salary Cap space heading into 2008.  That number includes only the 42 players under contract for 2008 and does not include the 4 Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) and 5 Exclusive Rights Free Agents (EFAs) who will need to be tendered in order for the team to retain their rights.  Those tenders will likely eat up that $6M in cap space, leaving the team right up against, or slightly over, the Cap when the offseason begins. 
 
As such, the team will need to find a way to create cap room in order to sign its draft picks and to re-sign or use the franchise tag on Terrell Suggs.  From a 2008 salary cap perspective, re-signing Suggs to a long-term deal makes more sense since his 2008 cap number on a new contract would be in the $2-2.5M range, while the cost of applying the franchise tag will likely be in $8-10M range.
 
So, one way or another, the team is going to need to find a way to create some cap space, but the larger question – leaving aside the fate of Head Coach Brian Billick – may well be how Owner Steve Bisciotti and GM Ozzie Newsome view the future.  Will they decide that they can still make a Super Bowl run in 2008 by keeping the present roster largely intact?   Or will they decide to jettison some of the older, more expensive veterans now, thereby taking on the “dead” cap space that would come from the release of those players in 2008, with an eye toward having a cleaner Cap and a younger roster in 2009?
 
If they decide to make another run at it, they will likely have to restructure a lot of contracts in order to create the necessary cap space to re-sign/franchise Suggs.  The Front Office will also have to once again address the QB situation, which likely won’t be cheap either.  This scenario is problematic because the team does not have a lot of ideal candidates to restructure.  Most of the candidates for restructures are older players (Ogden, McNair, Rolle, Pryce, Mason, McAlister) who may not be around in a year or two anyway, so restructuring those deals would mean that the team would take larger Cap hits in the near future when those players retire or are released.
 
That’s not a very palatable option for a team that is going to face somewhat of a roster turnover in the next couple of years anyway.  Further, this approach would seemingly fly in the face of Steve Bisciotti’s comments of this past Spring when he talked of avoiding “windows”, in favor of always being competitive.  He seemed to make it clear at that time that he wasn’t interested in the “binge and purge” approach.
 
So again I ask, “What would you do?”
 
In order to more fully answer these questions, it would be helpful to look at the costs of the release or retirement of some of the other more expensive, older players:
 
 
 
NAME
Contract
Expires
After
2008
Base
Salary
2008
Cap Number
Pre-June 1
Release
Savings
2008
Dead Money
Post-June 1
Release
Savings
2008
Dead
Money
2009
Dead Money
Jon Ogden
2010
$7.515M
$11.518M
$2.189M
$9.329M
$7.515M
$4.003M
$5.326M
Ray Lewis
2008
6.5M
9.429M
6.5M
2.929M
same
same
0
Steve McNair
2010
4.0M
6.45M
(900K)
7.35M
4.0M
2.45M
4.9M
Samari Rolle
2010
3.9M
6.1M
1.7M
4.4M
3.9M
2.2M
2.2M
Mike Flynn
2008
2.0M
2.8M
2.0M
800K
same
same
0
Derrick Mason
2009
3.0M
4.4M
1.6M
2.8M
3.0M
1.4M
1.4M
Trevor Pryce
2010
3.0M
5.25M
(1.5M)
6.75M
3.0M
2.25M
4.5M
Mike Anderson
2009
1.8M
2.3M
1.3M
1.0M
1.8M
500K
500K
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TOTAL
 
 
$48.247M
12.889M
 
 
 
 
 
These 8 players take up almost 42% of the $116M 2008 Cap.  The outright release (or retirement) of all 8 players prior to June 1 would create close to $13M in additional Cap space, but would leave the team without 7 valuable starters and cause them to take on $35.358M in “dead money” (Cap space that is essentially unusable in 2008).  Also, releasing McNair and Pryce would actually cost the team additional Cap space in 2008.  While this may not be a good thing for 2008, it does have the advantage of totally eliminating them from the 2009 Cap, which may be a wise approach going forward. 
 
With all of the players expect Lewis and Flynn (since 2008 is the last year of their deals), the team could create more 2008 cap space by releasing them after June 1 (or by using a June 1 exemptions that allow them to cut them prior to June 1, but still receive June 1 Cap treatment), but that would come at the expense “dead money” counting against the 2009 Cap.  This would help out in 2008, but may not be such a palatable option, because it would add more onto the 2009 Cap, when the team would probably prefer to have the additional Cap space to further the rebuilding process.
 
Two of those players – Jon Ogden and Samari Rolle – appear likely to retire, and it will be interesting to see how the Front Office handles those retirements – pre- or post-June 1 releases (if a player is going to retire, the team simply releases him first, so as to get the more favorable Cap treatment, as the case may be).  The team will also have to decide whether Steve McNair is done or whether he could return as the back-up (if he would even want to?).  Taking the entire Cap hit in 2008 will be costly, but would prevent any lasting implications for 2009.  Or, perhaps, the Ravens could convince McNair to take a paycut to remain as the back-up (a la Mark Brunell and the Redskins), which would then allow the team to release him in 2009 or 2010 with lesser Cap implications.
 
Make up your mind yet on what to do?
 
Of course, the Front Office may decide to do a little of both thereby saving cap space for this year and putting some off into 2009, but not greatly impacting either.  This middle of the road approach may be helpful for 2008, but it will again have an adverse impact on 2009, which may somewhat delay the rebuilding process (or at least the Salary Cap part of that equation).  The beauty of the 2002 purge was Newsome’s decision to take it all at once, thereby leaving the team in pretty solid Cap shape from 2003 to 2006. 
 
Also, in order to more fully answer these questions, the proverbial 500 lb. Gorilla of a question sitting in the corner will also need to be addressed – what is the fate of Ray Lewis?  No one should ever deny what Ray Lewis has meant to this franchise, but as with players like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and others, the cornerstones of franchises don’t always finish their careers where the greatest glories have occurred.  Next year will be the final year of his contract and he is set to make $6.5M in base salary and have a cap number of $9.429M. 
 
The deciding factor likely won’t be whether Ray would still be valuable to the team in 2008 – he’s been playing very well this year – but whether he will want to be around if the team is “rebuilding” or if some of his friends like Steve McNair, Jonathan Ogden or Samari Rolle are no longer on the team.  Ray has made it clear that he knows that his career is winding down and that he wants another shot at another Super Bowl.  So, what happens if he feels that the direction of the team means that he’s not going to get that shot here next year?  It’s not like he’s been one to keep his feelings to himself in the past anyway.  Will he want to stay and possibly waste one of his few remaining years playing for a rebuilding team?  Or will his close relationship with Bisciotti and Newsome allow them to find a way to amicably part ways? 
 
If Lewis were to be released or traded the Ravens would realize an additional $6.5M in cap space based on the removal of his base salary from the books.  They would still have to carry $2.929M in “dead money”, which represents the final installment of pro rata bonus money, but that’s a lot of cap relief and would go a long way toward creating cap space to franchise Terrell Suggs, if necessary.
 
So, the Ravens are going to face a lot of tough decisions this offseason – some involving Jon Ogden and Ray Lewis, the two pillars of the team since its arrival in Baltimore.   
 
So, if you are Steve Bisciotti and Ozzie Newsome…….what would you do?
 
This entry was posted in Salary Cap Analysis by Brian McFarland. Bookmark the permalink.

About Brian McFarland

Brian McFarland
Known on Ravens Message Boards as "B-more Ravor", Brian is a life-long Baltimorean and an avid fan of the Ravens and all Baltimore sports.  A PSL holder since 1998, Brian has garnered a reputation as a cap-guru because of his strange (actually warped) desire to wade through the intricacies of the...more

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