Last month we laid our first offseason Salary Cap projection and pointed out that the Ravens were going to have a very tight Cap and have a lot of work to do to create the space needed to address their roster needs. A month later, not much has changed – and with 8 days to go before the start of the new league year, they still have a lot of work to do.
With that in mind, here is Russell Street Report’s Ravens’ 2015 Salary Cap projection:
PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT
In the recent weeks, the Ravens have made just 3 roster moves – the release of WR/KR Jacoby Jones (Cap savings of $750K), DE Chris Canty (Cap savings of $2.66M), CB Victor Hampton (Cap savings of $435K) and the re-signing of DT Christo Bilukidi (terms not yet disclosed).
The Ravens presently have 49 players under contract for a 2015 Salary Cap commitment of $140,495,517 (pending numbers for Bilukidi).
PRESENT ADJUSTED SALARY CAP
The present Cap commitment of $140,495,517 will be offset by the $5,791,927 in excess 2014 Cap space that the Ravens were able to carry over into 2015. That number will, however, be offset in the other direction by the incentives adjustment for 2014 earned and unearned incentives. The NFLPA has presently posted that number as $3,940,800.
Once those carryovers are factored in, the Ravens have a present Cap commitment of $138,644,390.
This afternoon, it was announced that the 2015 Salary Cap would be $143.28M.
So, that would leave the Ravens with $4,635,610 in Cap space at present
BUT, that is essentially with only 48 players (still need to add Bilukidi when disclosed) and before the team tenders its RFAs and ERFAs.
OTHER SALARY CAP ADJUSTMENTS
There are also other adjustments that could or will factor in that will further adjust these numbers:
WORKOUT BONUS ADJUSTMENT: All teams will have an adjustment of $561,600 added to their Cap for team workout bonuses. This number is essentially the total amount of CBA mandated workout bonuses that could be earned by the players in the offseason. This amount is a debit from the Cap. Once training camp begins, this debit will be removed and the actual amount of workout bonuses earned by the players will be added to the Cap.
This number has not yet been applied to the publicly reported Cap numbers.
ADDITIONAL INCENTIVE ADJUSTMENTS: A team’s Salary Cap is adjusted for incentives earned that didn’t count against the prior year’s Cap (“Not Likely To Be Earned” incentives) that were actually earned and incentives that did count against the prior year’s Cap (“Likely To Be Earned” incentives) but weren’t earned.
The NFLPA has seemingly already applied this adjustment, but it remains to be seen whether there may be further adjustments added.
2011/2012 CAP ADJUSTMENT REPAYMENT: When the new CBA was agreed upon in 2011, the Salary Cap saw a reduction and, for a few years, stagnation. Foreseeing this, the terms of the CBA allowed for teams to borrow ($3M in 2011; $1.5M in 2012) against future Caps, but forced teams to repay that amount during the 2014 through 2017 league years. The CBA leaves it up to the team to decide when to repay those amounts. In 2014, the Ravens repaid $1.125M of that amount. This amount, 1/4th of the $4.5M due to be repaid, would seem to indicate that the team intends to repay that amount each year from 2014 to 2017. So, if they follow that pattern, the team will have a negative adjustment to the 2015 Cap of $1.125M.
On the other hand, given how tight against the Cap it appears that the Ravens will be, the team could opt to not take that hit for this year. So, this is a “to be determined” adjustment and, for the time being, will not be included in the projection.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (ERFAs)
The Ravens have 11 players who are Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFAs), with tender amounts based on service time:
- WR – Kamar Aiken ($585K)
- S – Brynden Trawick ($585K)
- LS – Kevin McDermott ($585K)
- CB – Rashaan Melvin ($585K)
- CB – Tramain Jacobs ($510K)
- G – Ryan Jensen ($510K)
- DT – Steven Means ($510K)
- TE – Philip Supernaw ($510K)
- RB – Fitz Toussaint ($510K)
- DT – Casey Walker ($510K)
- LS – Patrick Scales ($435K)
In the past, the Ravens have usually always tendered all of their ERFAs.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (RFAs)
The Ravens have 3 remaining players who are Restricted Free Agents (RFAs):
- S – Anthony Levine (undrafted)
- S – Will Hill (undrafted)
- PK – Justin Tucker (undrafted)
Given his undrafted status, it would be a huge surprise if PK Justin Tucker didn’t get the 2nd round RFA tender ($2.356M).
The Ravens decision on S Will Hill will be interesting. Prior to the disclosure of his latest brush with the legal system, it would have been expected that Hill would also get the 2nd round RFA tender. Now, though, it would not be surprising to see the team use the low RFA tender ($1.542M) on Hill.
It will be interesting to see how the Ravens handle the RFA tender for S Anthony Levine. Levine is thought of very highly by the Ravens staff, so it would be no surprise to see him receive the low RFA tender. However, the Ravens could go the same route with Levine as they did with DT Christo Bilukidi and re-sign Levine to 2-year deal that would include a lesser 2015 Cap number.
For the purposes of this projection, Levine will be tendered with the low RFA tender ($1.542M).
PROJECTED ADJUSTED TEAM CAP AND RULE OF 51 CAP COMMITMENT
With a Salary Cap of $143.28M, the Ravens will have an adjusted Salary Cap of $144,569,527 ($143.28M + $5,791,927 carryover – $3,940,800 in adjustments – $561,600 workout bonus adjustment). Based on all of the above, the Ravens’ Rule of 51 Cap commitment (top 51 cap numbers for players under contract, RFA/ERFA tenders and dead money) would be $146,535,517.
This will put the Ravens $1,965,990 OVER the Salary Cap of $143.28M, before making any other roster moves.
For a full breakdown of these numbers, go HERE and click on the “2015 Projected” tab.
This number is a quite a bit better than our previous projection based on 3 factors: (1) a slight increase in the projected Cap (from $141.8M to $143.28M); the releases of Jacoby Jones, Chris Canty and Victor Hampton; (3) a slight change in the RFA tender amounts (and Gradkowski’s escalator) based on the $143.28M Cap and (4) an ever-so slight change in the NLTBE incentive carryover debit.
CAP MOVES TO BE MADE
Teams must be under the Salary Cap by 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 10th. So, between now and then, the Ravens are going to have to create a sizeable amount of Cap space. This will be accomplished via a mix of cuts, restructures and/or contract extensions.
One move would appear to be pretty easy. First, due to the Proven Performance escalator, C/G Gino Gradkowski’s base salary increased from $660K to $1.542M. In other years, the Ravens may have been willing to carry a backup at that salary, but with Gradkowski being banished to the bottom of the depth chart and with the team having an acute need for Cap space, it seems very likely that Gradkowski may be released.
One thing that is important to remember when calculating the actual Cap savings from a release/retirement are the ramifications of the Rule of 51. If a player who had been part of the top 51 is released/retires, he is replaced in the Rule of 51 by the player who had previously been the 52nd top Cap number. So, any Cap savings is offset by the cost of adding the new 51st player.
So, while the release of Gradkowski removes his $1.542M from the team’s Cap, this “savings” will be offset by $510K for the new 51st player. So, the actual impact on the team’s Cap will be $1.032M in Cap savings.
The below chart lays out the Salary Cap implications of the release/trade/retirement (all basically treated the same for Cap purposes) of some Ravens players:
- Release – $8.5M in Cap savings (less Rule of 51 offset).
- Extension – likely around $5M in Cap relief.
- Release – $2.5M in Cap savings (less Rule of 51 offset).
- Extension – could create approx. $1M in Cap relief.
YANDA: Extension – could create approx. $2-2.5M in Cap relief.
JIMMY SMITH: Extension – could create approx. $2-3.5M in Cap relief.
McCLELLAN: Release – $1M in Cap savings (less Rule of 51 offset).
- Pay Cut – with incentives to allow Webb to earn reduction back – could create approx. $3-4M in Cap relief.
- Post-June 1 release – $8M in Cap savings (less Rule of 51 offset).
- Pre-June 1 release – Too expensive (because of his guaranteed 2015 base salary of $4M).
- Retirement (processed post-June 1) – $4M in Cap savings (less Rule of 51 offset).
One note on post-June 1 releases: Teams can designate up to 2 players as post-June 1 releases and release those players in March (after beginning of the new league year), but there is no Cap impact at the time of the release. The player’s Cap number remains on the team’s Cap until June 2nd, at which time the team finally realizes the Cap relief.
So, if you hear anyone say that the Ravens can, for example, release Lardarius Webb and create $8M to sign Brandon Marshall (for example), that isn’t realistic or the way the Cap works. Since Cap relief isn’t realized until June 1, it is of no use to the team in March when they would be looking to sign Marshall (or any other fan crush).
Webb and Ngata appear to be the best places to find the most Cap space via restructures/extensions and it appears that is where the Ravens presently have their aim. Reports though have them apparently having difficulties finding a middle ground with Ngata, leaving the possibility that he could be released.
Not since 2011, when the Salary Cap took a major step backwards with the advent of the new CBA, have the Ravens been in this sort of Cap shape. That year, fans were surprised to see favorites like TE Todd Heap, WR Derrick Mason and NT Kelly Gregg released. Those releases weren’t made so much as to make room to get under the Cap, but to make room to sign and re-sign other players. The Ravens probably have a better corps of players presently – and only a few pending FA worth re-signing, but they are still starting from a negative or even Cap position (depending on where the Cap ends up).
The team really has to be hoping that the Cap will go up a little more than expected and they will need to find a way to balance a lot of the above factors to create the needed Cap space.
Now, to be clear, the Ravens will make moves to get themselves under the Cap and have some Cap room to work with, so it’s going to be interesting over the next week or so as to which moves they actually make.
But, it also seems pretty clear that unless the Ravens make some really unexpected moves, they aren’t likely to be big spenders in the free agent market.