Since the waves of NFL free agency anticipation and subsequent analysis are now at low tide, it’s time to look ahead. Obviously moves can and will still be made, but for the most part all of the big moves are in the rearview.
The Ravens re-signed key players such as left tackle Eugene Monroe, tight end Dennis Pitta, All-Pro kick returner Jacoby Jones, and inside linebacker Daryl Smith. They also added 13-year veteran wide receiver Steve Smith.
None of those five players received contracts that included big signing bonuses. In fact, the 2014 cap number of those five contracts totals $13,791,666, or approximately $2.75 million per player (according to spotrac and RussellStreetReport’s Brian McFarland). Baltimore shored up positions that, if left ignored, could’ve become a major hindrance in their quest to return to playoff greatness.
Last year, the Ravens made a similar series of moves without breaking the bank. For the money Paul Kruger got from Cleveland ($40 million), the Ravens signed Elvis Dumervil, Chris Canty, Marcus Spears, and Rolando McClain, and still had money left over.
I point that out to illustrate how the Ravens are building toward something, both in the present and for the future. They’ve procured their nucleus to ensure themselves a legitimate chance to win now while simultaneously rationing their spending for the impending storm they’ll face in 2016.
In March 2015, Baltimore won’t have that many key players to re-sign. Torrey Smith and Jimmy Smith will be the only two unrestricted free agents on the Ravens’ roster that have played a significant number of snaps. Chykie Brown and Pernell McPhee will also be unrestricted free agents next year, and while they have played well, they aren’t starters.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say Baltimore wants to re-sign each of those four players. It’s way too early to tell what they will ask for, but we do know know their collective cap number in 2014 is only $4,814,848. Jimmy Smith and Torrey Smith will probably ask for big raises, and based on their 2013 performances, they deserve it. Brown and McPhee will probably get raises too, but they shouldn’t be substantial.
If this all comes true, the Ravens will be in healthy financial shape next season. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the 2016 free agency class isn’t far away.
Here are the names of current key Ravens that will be unrestricted free agents heading into the 2016 season: Haloti Ngata, Marshal Yanda, Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele, Bernard Pierce, and Chris Canty. In 2015, those players are set to have a total cap number of $31,325,525.
To recap, the combined cap hits of Baltimore’s key players entering free agency will go from $4,814,848 in 2014 to $31,325,525 in 2015. That’s an increase of 651 percent.
Come March 2016, the seven players that are set to take up nearly a quarter of Baltimore’s entire salary cap will want to get paid as much, if not more than they had been getting paid. Therefore it’s likely that at least one of those players won’t be back with the Ravens that Fall.
It gets worse for Senior Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty. March 2016 is also when Joe Flacco’s cap number is set to spike to $28.55 million. Even if Flacco’s deal gets restructured, he’s their most important player so any negotiations are likely to produce more headaches than hope.
One year from now, the Ravens organization should enjoy smooth sailing. Two years from now, not so much. Tough, stressful, franchise-altering decisions will have to be made.
It’s a good thing the Ravens have been saving up over the last two years because they’re going to need every dollar they have heading into the 2016 season.