2009 Salary Cap Preview: Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Salary Cap 2009 Salary Cap Preview: Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

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Coming off of one of the more interesting (and too often not in a good way) offseasons in their 13 year history, the Ravens have started off the ’08 campaign with mixed results.  Their 3-3 record indicates that they may not be as far off as they appeared to be in August, but with a brutal schedule ahead, making the playoffs appears to be a long shot.
 
Based on some of their recent decisions, it appears that the Front Office and Coaching Staff have decided to use this year to see which of the young players on offense can become part of the team’s future and which of the aging players on defense can still be productive members of the team.  Obviously, in the NFL, you just never know what is going to come next, but it appears that the Ravens young offense and aging defense will be in for some major changes in the coming offseason.

                So, with that in mind, ProFootball24x7 has decided to take a look at the Ravens’ Salary Cap status for 2009 and how that may influence who stays and goes as well as what options the team has going forward.

                Thankfully, the team’s Salary Cap outlook for 2009 will be very much improved compared to the last couple of years. Presently, based on the numbers compiled by ProFootball24x7, the Ravens have 37 players under contract for 2009, equating to a Cap commitment of just over $99.4M.  The league-wide Salary Cap for 2009 is expected to be set in the neighborhood of $123M.  The team’s present Cap commitment of $99.4M does not include Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) and Exclusive Rights Free Agents (EFAs), who must be given a Tender offer by the team in order to be retained. 

As it stands today the team has 8 players slated to become RFAs and 17 players who will be EFAs after the season.  Those numbers will likely change as the season progresses since some of those players will likely not remain on the roster for the rest of the season.  In addition, a few others will likely not receive Tenders from the team next Spring.  However, working off of those numbers and assuming that most of the RFAs and EFAs will be tendered by the team next year, or be replaced by players of similar stature (or lack thereof), ProFootball24x7 is estimating that the Ravens will enter the 2009 offseason with 60 players under contract or Tendered with just under $14.6M in available Cap space.   

                That $14.6M in Cap space could be increased or decreased when earned and unearned incentives are calculated in.  Over the past couple of years, the Ravens have been able to move some of their unused Salary Cap room from one year to the next, thereby increasing their available Cap space.  They will likely attempt to do so, however, that amount will be offset by any “unlikely to be earned” incentives that are met this year.  Usually, the Ravens don’t have too many of these, but this year it appears they do have a sizeable one in Willie Anderson’s $1M incentive for playing in 40% of the offensive snaps this season.  If he reaches that plateau, the Ravens’ available Cap space will be reduced by $1M.

                On the flip side, the available Cap space will likely be increased by the release or retirement of a couple of the team’s aging veterans.  The following is a breakdown of how the release or retirement of certain players would impact the team’s Salary Cap:


 

NAME

Contract

Expires

After

2009

Base

Salary

2009

Cap Number

Pre-June 1

Release

Savings

2009

Dead Money

Post-June 1

Release

Savings

2009

Dead

Money

2010

Dead Money

Todd Heap

2011

$3.6M

$6.368M

1.064M

$5.304M

$3.6M

2.768M

2.536M

Samari Rolle

2010

$4.1M

6.3M

$4.1M

2.2M

same

same

0

Derrick Mason

2009

$3.0M

4.4M

$3.0M

1.4M

same

same

0

Trevor Pryce

2010

$4.0M

6.25M

$1.75M

$4.5M

4.0M

2.25M

2.25M

Chris McAlister

2010

$8.0M

$10.907M

$8.0M

$2.907M

same

same

0

Kelly Gregg

2012

$3.0M

$3.617M

$1.15M

$2.467M

$3.0M

$617K

$1.85M

Ed Reed

2012

$3.6M

$6.4M

($1.8M)

$8.2M

$3.6M

$2.8M

$5.4M

Willis McGahee

2013

$620K

$3.12M

($8.13M)

$11.25M

$620K

$2.5M

$8.75M

Willie Anderson

2010

$3.5M

$4.057M

$2.944M

$1.113M

$3.5M

$557K

$557K

Frank Walker

2009

$1.6M

$2.225M

$1.6M

$625K

same

same

0

                Immediately, two of those names stand out. 

The first is Samari Rolle, who again is having trouble staying healthy enough to contribute.  As they did this past offseason, it’s possible that the team and Rolle could again agree to reduce his 2009 base salary ($4.1M) to more Cap-friendly amount, but, given that injury issues have again surfaced, it’s more likely that Rolle will not be with the team next year.  Regardless of whether he retires or is released, Rolle’s departure would add $4.1M to the team’s available Cap space.

                The second name that stands out is Chris McAlister.  With the second longest tenure on defense (behind Ray Lewis), McAlister has been a large part of the success of the Defense over the years.  However, he has also often been a thorn in the side of the coaching staffs and it appears that those issues have emerged again.  In the past, that part of McAlister’s mercurial nature could be overlooked because of his outstanding play, but he missed substantial time last year due to injury and hasn’t been fully healthy this year either.   With rumors of a personality clash with Head Coach John Harbaugh abounding, it’s hard to imagine the Ravens paying McAlister $8M in base salary next year.  That is “elite” Cornerback money and, while still good, McAlister is no longer an elite Corner. 

                So, the team could have close to $26-27M in Cap space based on just those two moves.  That Cap space would go a long way toward signing quality replacements for Rolle and McAlister and, on other side of the ball, possibly finding a top-flight Wide Receiver or Offensive Tackle.

As for some of the other players on the above list, the 2009 fates of players like Willie Anderson, Derrick Mason, Frank Walker and Trevor Pryce – and perhaps even Todd Heap – will probably be decided by their health and productivity this season.  The structure of Anderson’s and Walker’s deals would seem to indicate that they were intended to be one-year deals when signed.  The release of any of those players would add to the team’s available Cap space.

That Cap space could, however, be limited by two of the other players on the list: Ed Reed and Willis McGahee. 

Reed is only on the list because of the concerns that his neck injury could be career threatening.  If healthy, there is no question that Reed will be back manning his customary centerfield position for years to come.  With the 2008 season now over 1/3 old, it appears that some of those fears are lessening.

McGahee, perhaps, is another issue altogether.  The team was apparently very unhappy with his dedication and preparation throughout the offseason.  Hopefully, some of the recent media reports of a potential parting of the ways were just the team trying to send him a message and, hopefully, that message was received.  If not, from a cap perspective, as the above chart shows, doing anything with McGahee is going to be quite painful.  Thankfully, as the season has progressed to date, it appears that McGahee is getting healthier and becoming more productive, so ideally, whatever issues that did exist have been resolved. 

                Assuming that neither of those issues becomes reality, the team should have plenty of Cap Space to do what is necessary to improve the team.  The team will need to use a portion of that Cap Space to re-sign some of their own pending Free Agents.  Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Jason Brown are the 3 biggest names who are scheduled to become Unrestricted Free Agents next year.  Other Free Agents of consequence are Matt Stover, Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard. 

                It is likely that either Suggs or Brown will be franchised. 

Suggs would cost the team over $10M in Cap Space if he is Franchised for a second straight year.  However, it seems likely that if the team cannot strike a deal with Suggs by that time, the team would pursue a “tag-and-trade” arrangement.  Under that scenario, Suggs would only count $10M against the team’s Cap until a trade was completed.  Conversely, if the team is able to sign him to a long term deal, the 2009 Cap number on his new deal would likely only be in the $4-5M range.

Ray Lewis is another interesting situation, but given the season that the team is likely to have in 2008 and the changes that will likely come in 2009, it’s not hard to envision that Ray, himself, may decide that he’s ready to move on.  With his last shot at another Super Bowl title quickly escaping and more turnover of the Ravens’ roster likely next offseason, it’s highly possible that Ray might decide that he has a better opportunity elsewhere.

                Otherwise, the hope here is that the team and Ray can arrive at a reasonable contract that will allow the Ravens to continue improving their roster, while also keeping Ray in a Ravens’ uniform for the rest of his career.

Re-signing Brown should be a priority – perhaps the offseason priority – for the team.  He is the leader of young offensive line and any progress made this season could possibly be lessened by his departure.  Just like with Terrell Suggs, re-signing Brown would not have a huge impact on the Ravens Salary Cap because the first year Cap number of a long-term contract is usually relatively minimal in comparison to the overall terms of the deal and far less than the yearly average of the deal. 

So, while this year looks to be an up and down season, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Hopefully, the 2008 season will provide evidence that some of team’s younger players on offense and defense can be part of the future and the team should have sufficient Salary Cap space in 2009 to advance the process of rebuilding the core of the team.
 
 
 
Photo by Sabina Moran 


 

 

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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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