Salary Cap Ravens 2011 Free Agency Primer

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With the NFLPA and NFL owners seemingly close to coming to a final resolution of the labor impasse that has forced the league to shutdown since March, it’s now time to take a look at the coming Free Agent period and where the Ravens stand with the Salary Cap.

First, though, I’ll start this article with a disclaimer, courtesy of a Twitter post by NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora, who stated when referencing the new Cap rules – “no cap guy in the NFL even has a full handle on it………Literally 3-5 people fully get it now”. 

So, with that said, I’ll try to make as much sense of the Ravens’ 2011 Salary Cap status as I can.

Now, the present state of the team’s roster:


The Ravens presently have the following 44 players under contract for 2011:

QBs (2):  Joe Flacco, Hunter Cantwell

RBs (4):  Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Jason McKie, Curtis Steele

WRs (6):  Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, David Reed, James Hardy, Justin Harper, Brandon Jones

TE (4):  Todd Heap, Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitta, Davon Drew

OL (7):  Michael Oher, Matt Birk, Ben Grubbs, Ramon Harewood, Andre Ramsey, Brady Bond, Eric Vanden Heuvel

DL (8):  Haloti Ngata, Kelly Gregg, Cory Redding, Terrence Cody, Brandon McKinney, Paul Kruger, Arthur Jones, Lamar Divens

LBs (6):   Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Brendon Ayanbadejo, Jason Phillips, Albert McClellan

CBs (4):  Domonique Foxworth, Lardarius Webb, Marcus Paschal, Danny Gorrer

S (1):  Ed Reed

ST (2):  Billy Cundiff, Sam Koch

These 44 players are under contract for a total Salary Cap commitment of $118.6M.  (Link to Salary Cap Spreadsheet).  At least, that would be the calculation under the Salary Cap rules from the last CBA.  Based on media reports to date, it does not appear that the method of calculating a player’s yearly Cap number will be changed, but that will become clearer as further details of the new deal are reported.

The following 7 players have been tendered with Exclusive Rights Free Agent (EFA) Tenders:

LS – Morgan Cox

LB – Dannell Ellerbe

LB – Sergio Kindle

RB – Matt Lawrence

OT – Bryan Mattison

OC – Daniel Sanders

CB – Cary Williams

These players have been tendered contracts of the league minimum, based on the player’s length of service in the league.  These players are fully under the team’s control and are not free to negotiate with other teams.

The following 8 players have been tendered with Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Tenders:

LB – Jameel McClain (2nd Round Tender)

OL – Oneil Cousins (Low Tender – 3rd Round Comp)

LB – Tavares Gooden (Low Tender – 3rd Round Comp)

S – Haruki Nakamura (Low Tender – 6th Round Comp)

RB – Jalen Parmele (Low Tender – ROFR, No Compensation)

WR – Marcus Smith (Low Tender – 4th Round Comp)

DT – Kelly Talavou (Low Tender – ROFR, No Compensation)

S – Tom Zbikowski (Low Tender – 3rd Round Comp)

These players can negotiate an Offer Sheet with other teams and if they do sign an Offer Sheet, the Ravens have the right to match the Offer Sheet. If the Ravens decline to match, they will receive compensation based on which level of RFA tender was made to the player. 

When these 15 players are added to the team’s Salary Cap, it raises the team’s total Salary Cap commitment to just under $132M.  However, at this time of year, when team’s rosters can total up to 80 players (and, perhaps, 90 under the new CBA), only 51 players (the “Rule of 51”) count against the Cap, since it would be impossible for teams to carry 80 (or 90) players and still remain under the Cap.

The Ravens’ Rule of 51 Cap commitment is just under $128.7M.

The Ravens have 8 Draft Picks who will need to be signed:

CB – Jimmy Smith

WR – Torrey Smith

OT – Jah Reed

WR – Tandon Doss

CB – Chykie Brown

DT – Pernell McPhee

QB – Tyrod Taylor

RB – Anthony Allen

The following 14 players are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) and whenever the Lockout ends will be free to sign with other teams.  It does appear that there will be a 72-hour period during which the Ravens will have exclusive negotiating rights with these Free Agents (during which you can expect a crazy amount of tampering by other teams and agents!):

QB – Marc Bulger

LB – Prescott Burgess

CB – Chris Carr

OG – Chris Chester

OT – Jared Gaither

LS – Kevin Houser

WR – TJ Houshmandzadeh

S – Dawan Landry

RB – Le’Ron McClain

OT – Tony Moll

WR Donte Stallworth

CB – Fabian Washington

CB – Josh Wilson

OG – Marshall Yanda

Based on various media reports, the 2011 Salary Cap will be set at $120M.  There are also reports of a $3M exemption, which would essentially raise the Cap by that amount and La Canfora has also reported that there are various “complicated” credits that will make the Cap “feel more like $130ish”.  What these credits are and whether they would apply to all teams – most importantly, the Ravens – remains to be seen.

Regardless, it appears that the Ravens will be tight against Cap, whatever it may be.

The Ravens have several options for creating Salary Cap space, but the easiest – and biggest – is signing DT Haloti Ngata to a contract extension that would greatly reduce his $12.5M Cap number.  With the past methods of accounting, Ngata’s Cap number could come down to somewhere around $5.5M (or even less depending on the structure of the deal and the signing bonus).  That would go a long way toward creating the Cap space necessary to sign or re-sign players.

The other main avenue for creating Cap space is the release of a player or two.  The following players are under contract for 2011, but may (or may not) be on the bubble to return because of salary, performance or attitude issues:









Cap Number

Pre-June 1




Dead Money

Post-June 1







Dead Money

Todd Heap









Derrick Mason









Matt Birk









D. Foxworth









Kelly Gregg









W. McGahee









The biggest variable in the above is just how the new CBA will treat the release of players in 2011, since there now cannot be any “pre-June 1” releases.  As the above chart shows, there is a substantial difference in how the “pre-June 1” release and the “post-June 1” were applied to the Cap.  From the Ravens’ perspective – even though it’s never wise to push “dead money” into future years – the hope would be that all 2011 releases would be treated as “post-June 1” releases.  Or, better yet, that teams have the option to choose which treatment a release would receive.  At the very least, the Ravens would probably like to have the expected release of Willis McGahee treated as a “post-June 1” release, thereby creating $6M in additional Salary Cap space.

So, in conclusion – at least until further details and clarifications emerge – it appears that the Ravens are likely to be close to the 2011 Salary Cap, but do have ways of creating the necessary Cap space to re-sign the players they would like and to sign some Free Agents to address areas of need.

Stay tuned…


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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. More from Brian McFarland

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