The Ravens will likely need to make a flurry of moves before the free-agent market officially opens next week.
The Ravens had $5.4 million in salary-cap space prior to signing Brent Urban last week, which ranks among the bottom third of the league. The NFL recently announced the 2018 salary cap at $177.2 million, an increase of more than $10 million from last year.
Still, the Ravens are left with limited financial resources that will require some tough decisions with their current roster. The NFL’s non-tampering window opens Monday, March 12, and the official league year begins two days later.
The first, and seemingly obvious move, would be to release receiver Jeremy Maclin, who underperformed in 2017 with 40 receptions for just 440 yards, the worst season of his eight-year career. Maclin also appeared disinterested at times, which was more alarming than his production. The Ravens can add $5 million to their cap by cutting him by by March 16.
Those funds will likely be used to add another playmaking wide receiver. As it stands, some of the top free agent wideouts are Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee. However, there will be a bidding war for their services and the Ravens could be priced out of the fight.
The Ravens have been closely linked to Miami’s Jarvis Landry throughout the offseason, but that would require a trade. The Dolphins have the leverage because they could still work out an extension with him.
There is some speculation that cornerback Brandon Carr’s roster spot could be in jeopardy. The Ravens could reportedly add $4 million to their cap by declining his 2018 option — a move that would not necessarily help the team. Carr is a durable player and will be needed for a secondary that could be missing fellow cornerback Jimmy Smith, who suffered a torn Achilles last season and might not be ready for the opener.
Other salary-cap casualties could include offensive tackle Austin Howard, running back Danny Woodhead, safety Lardarius Webb and linebacker Albert McClellan.
The Ravens need to maintain depth on the offensive line because of their history with injuries, so Howard might be safe. Woodhead missed time with a hamstring injury and his age (33) does not help his cause. Both Webb, 32, and McClellan, who will turn 32 in June, have been effective players and leaders, but their age also works against them.
The Ravens’ brass made it clear the team needs to get younger, faster and more explosive.
General manager Ozzie Newsome has already made a flurry of minor moves. The team added receiver DeVier Posey, who most previously played for Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the Grey Cup in November. Posey has also spent time on the Texans, Jets and Broncos rosters. He has a solid upside, but will have to fight for a roster spot because of the lack of of NFL experience (26 games total between 2012-14, all with Houston).
The Ravens also re-signed Urban to a one-year deal. He was having the best season of his four-year career before suffering a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury in Week 3. Urban must prove that he can stay healthy and he could be a boost to the team if he can stay on the field.
The rest of the Ravens’ defense is intact, barring players being released. Improving the offense remains the biggest priority. The question is, do the Ravens have the financial savvy to accomplish their goals?
The drama will officially unfold in the coming days.