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Last Fall, Ravens Team President, Dick Cass, seemingly sent a warning sign to Ravens fans when he reportedly stated that the team would be facing a salary cap purge in a couple of years.  With the cap purge of 2002 still fresh in the minds of many, Ravens fans were understandably concerned. 
Cass’ recantation of a few days later did little to ease those concerns.  A “salary cap purge” in its truest sense is the release of a sizeable amount of players in order to get under the cap.  That was the case for the Ravens in 2002, but many Ravens fans have surmised that this time around, any alleged salary cap purge would have more to do with the natural attrition of older, declining, higher-priced players than an actual salary cap purge. 
The hope was that, unlike 2002, when, in addition to the release of older players like Rob Burnett, Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe and Tony Siragusa, the team was forced to jettison many younger, viable players like Jamie Sharper, Jermaine Lewis, Sam Adams, Duane Starks and Lional Dalton, this time around it would have more to do with just the turnover of the older players as opposed to having to release players to get under the salary cap.  Still, without further explanation, Cass’ words were disconcerting and left open to interpretation.
ProFootball 24×7 has decided to take a look at the Ravens cap outlook for 2008 and beyond in an effort to shed some light on this issue:
Looking ahead to the 2008 season
Based on the numbers that ProFootball 24×7 has been able to compile, it appears that the Ravens are currently a little more than $16M under the projected 2008 salary cap of $116M (based on another jump or $7M from the 2007 cap of $109M).  That sounds great, but there is one major qualifier.  That number only includes the 33 players that are currently under contract for 2008. 
Depending on who makes the team this year, the Ravens will likely have a slew of RFAs and EFAs that will need to be tendered next year.  It’s likely that those players could take up close to $8M of that available cap space.  That would leave the team with around $8M available.  Also, some of the players drafted next month would also be expected to be on the team in 2008, so that’s going to take up another sizeable chunk of that cap space.  The good news, at least, is that in 2008, the Ravens will only have one major UFA to worry about – Terrell Suggs. Otherwise, the only other UFAs of note would be Kyle Boller, Keydrick Vincent and BJ Sams.  Ideally, an extension for Suggs would come this summer, otherwise, just like with Adalius Thomas this year, the Ravens simply may not have the cap space to place the Franchise Tag on Suggs. 
Any extension for Suggs would take another sizeable chunk out of that cap space.  So, Ravens fans should expect the offseason of 2008 to look a lot like this offseason, perhaps even quieter.  However, it does not appear that there would be any great need to jettison players in order to get under the cap, so a salary cap purge does not appear to be in the offing. 
Still, the team will likely look to release some of its older, high-priced veterans.  This is probably where Cass’ statement comes into play – while not a salary cap purge, it’s very possible that some of the veteran stalwarts on the team may no longer be on the team, either due to their own retirement or because the team has released them.
Foremost among these would be Jon Ogden, who will likely have retired by then.  The only question there is – will it happen this year or will he play for 2007?  Ogden’s 2008 cap number is set to be almost $10.2M.  If he retires before 2007 and the team takes the entire hit in 2007, then he would be wiped totally off the books for 2008.  If the team decides to release him after June 1, then there will be a carry over of $5.362M onto the 2008 cap, but that would still provide a significant 2008 cap savings of approximately 4.834M.  If he plays in 2007 and retires next offseason, the savings would be the same $4.834M (or $7.515M if released after June 1, 2008).
The following is a list of some of the players who could be released in 2008 and the cap implications:

Pre-June 1 Release Savings
Post-June 1 Savings/2009 Dead Money
Jon Ogden
Ray Lewis
Mike Flynn
Samari Rolle
Derrick Mason
Mike Anderson
Steve McNair
$400K charge
Trevor Pryce
$1M charge

So, the Ravens could certainly create cap space by releasing some of their older players, whose contracts have likely outlived their performance.  Or, they could decide to release some players in 2008, so that there are no lingering cap charges for those players in 2009. As things stand today, at a minimum, it is likely that Flynn, Rolle and Anderson could face being released in 2008.  Of course, those releases would have more to do with the player’s cap value outweighing performance, as opposed to simply needing cap space, as was the case in 2002.
Still, with so many facing possible release in 2008, it appears that 2007 will likely be the last hurrah for the roster as presently assembled.
So, how does 2009 look? 
It’s kind of hard to tell, since the team, at this point, has only 16 players under contract for 2009.  However, those 16 players account for a whopping cap charge of just over $79M.  That number does not include the RFAs (the 2006 draft class), EFAs and players drafted over the next 2 seasons that will be on the roster at that time.  However, it does include a lot of guys who, as stated above, will most likely not be on the team any longer.  The releases of those players will greatly lessen that $79M.  Still, with the cap likely to be somewhere around $123M, the Ravens should be in good cap shape at that point, although it is imperative that they continue to draft well in order to replace some of the starters that will likely be released over the next 2 years.   

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Brian McFarland

About 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 NFL’s salary cap and actually make sense of it for those of us who view it as inviting as IRS Tax Code. 
Brian, who hails from Catonsville, MD and still resides there, is married and has two children.

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