The Ravens Salary Cap Picture
With Sunday’s overtime loss to the Steelers bringing a merciful end to the Ravens’ 2021 season, it is now, unfortunately, time to start looking towards 2022. Once (8-3) and sitting close to the top of the AFC, the Ravens season ended with a 6-game losing streak highlighted by crippling injuries and too many excruciating losses.
So, now it’s time to look forward to 2022, when once again, the Ravens will have a lot of work to do to rebuild their roster (especially, the defense) and will look to finalize a contract extension with QB Lamar Jackson, while working with limited Cap space.
As it always seems to be with the Ravens, they enter another offseason of change with a lot of issues to address.
So, with that in mind…
PLAYERS PRESENTLY UNDER CONTRACT:
The Ravens currently have the following 48 players under contract for 2022 (with Cap Numbers indicated):
QBs (1): Lamar Jackson ($23.106M)
WRs (8): Marquise Brown ($3.751M); Miles Boykin ($2.754M); Devin Duvernay ($1.228M); James Proche ($937K); Rashod Bateman ($2.864M); Tylan Wallace ($996K) Jaylon Moore ($705K); Binjimen Victor ($705K)
OL (10): Ronnie Stanley ($18.552 M); Alejandro Villanueva ($9.25M); Kevin Zeitler ($8.975M); Ja’Wuan James ($3.25M); Ben Powers ($2.714M); Tyre Phillips ($1.103M); OL Patrick Mekari ($3.1M); Ben Cleveland ($1.096M); Jaryd Jones-Smith ($795K); Jimmy Murray ($795K)
The above 40 players are under contract for a total Rule of 51 Salary Cap commitment (which includes dead money from players no longer on the team) of $196,141,681. (Link to 2022 Salary Cap Spreadsheet).
Present projections for the 2022 Salary Cap indicate that the Cap will reach the agreed upon Cap ceiling of $208.2M. This would be an increase of $25.7M from the COVID-reduced 2021 of $182.5M, but still around $20M less than where most had originally expected the 2022 Cap to be.
So, using the figure of $208.2M for the estimated Cap, the Ravens will initially have around $12,058,319 in Cap space, accounting for the 48 players presently under contract.
This will be the basis for a lot of early reports on the status of the Ravens’ 2022 Salary Cap, and while that doesn’t sound too bad, it’s important to keep in mind that this number is based on just the 48 players who are presently under contract and nowhere near representative of the team’s Cap with a full roster and with the other factors that will be explained below.
So, between now and Wednesday, March 16th at 4:00 p.m., when the new league year and free agency begins, the Ravens have a lot of work to do and not a whole lot of Cap space with which to accomplish it.
PRACTICE SQUAD FREE AGENTS (FAs)
On Monday, the Ravens signed 8 of their 2021 Practice Squad members. There are 10 players remaining from their Practice Squad and Practice Squad Injured Reserve who have yet to re-sign. Some of these players may still be re-signed to 2022 “Future” contracts within the next couple of days or weeks.
Depending on the player’s service time, these players will receive minimum salary deals, based on the player’s length of service in the league ($705K, $825K, $895K, $965K or $1.035M).
2021 SALARY CAP CARRYOVER
Under the terms of the CBA, teams are allowed to carry over excess Salary Cap space from one year to the next. The Ravens presently have only $300K in remaining 2021 Salary Cap space. Assuming the Ravens elect to carry that amount over (as they always have), they will see an increase in available 2022 Cap space by that amount. It’s certainly not much at all, but every little bit helps (I guess).
OTHER SALARY CAP ADJUSTMENTS
WORKOUT BONUS ADJUSTMENT: All teams will have an adjustment of $849,600 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 charge against 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 onto the Cap.
INCENTIVE ADJUSTMENTS: The Ravens’ 2022 Cap may also see adjustments for incentives earned that didn’t count against the 2021 Cap (“Not Likely To Be Earned” incentives) but that were actually earned and incentives that did count against the 2021 Cap (“Likely To Be Earned” incentives) but weren’t earned. Those will be a positive or negative adjustment on the Ravens’ 2022 Cap.
For many years, the Ravens have used NLTBE incentives as a way of lessening the present year’s Cap number, especially in years with tighter Caps. More recently, though, as the prospects of their Cap woes started to lessen, the Ravens have used fewer incentives in their deals.
Unfortunately, since the details of incentives are not widely reported, it is hard to make an accurate estimation of the amount of this adjustment, which likely will not be known until the beginning of the 2022 league year in March.
One earned incentive that is known is Mark Andrews’ $250K Pro-Bowl incentive. This incentive was NLTBE in 2021, since Andrews was not named to the Pro-Bowl in 2020, but since he did make it this year, the $250K will count as an adjustment against the 2022 Cap and his 2022 Cap number will go up by $250K since the incentive is now LTBE.
The Ravens will also receive credits for salaries for players released by the Ravens, but for whom the Ravens guaranteed part of the player’s salary. Those credit amount to just over $1M, but will offset by other earned incentives (like Andrews).
For now, we will use $500,000 as an estimated incentives credit for 2022, understanding that it could be more or less than that amount.
PROVEN PERFORMANCE ESCALATOR: The 2011 CBA mandated 4-year contracts for all draft picks, which eliminated a player’s chance to receive the higher paying RFA tender in their 4th year. To offset this, the 2011 CBA implemented the Proven Performance Escalator (PPE), which allows draft picks (3rd through 7th rounds) to receive an upgrade salary that is equivalent to the low RFA tender if the player performed well over the first 3 years of his contract. The 2020 CBA added 2nd round picks to this calculation, changed the criteria for earning the PPE and adding additional compensation levels. Under the revised rules, meeting playing time thresholds (35%) still will earn the PPE at the low RFA tender level, while more playing time (55%) will earn the low tender, plus $250K, while reaching the Pro-Bowl (1st ballot only) will be paid at the 2nd Round RFA tender.
The Ravens have two players from the 2019 draft who will earn the PPE – OG Ben Powers and WR Miles Boykin. Both earned the Level 1 escalator by virtue of by virtue of attaining the requisite playing time thresholds and thus earning a pay raise from $965K to the low RFA tender salary of $2.54M. These escalators have already been factored into the above numbers, however, do keep in mind, that the PPE is not guaranteed, so if the player is released or traded, the PPE will have zero effect on the Ravens’ Salary Cap. In Boykin’s case, earning the PPE may actually hurt his chances of being retained by the Ravens as a $2.54M salary may be a too much to pay for your 5th or 6th WR.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (ERFAs)
ERFAs are players with less than three (3) years of service time (accrued seasons) in the league. In order to be retained, the Ravens must tender the player with an ERFA tender by the first day of the league year on Wednesday, March 16th. Based on the player’s length of service in the league, the player will receive a 1-year deal with the applicable league minimum salary ($705K, $825K or $895K). Once tendered, these players are fully under the team’s control and are not free to negotiate with other teams.
The Ravens have 9 players who are Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFAs):
In past years, because of the minimal cost and the minimal impact on the Salary Cap and because offseason rosters can include up to 90 players, the Ravens usually have tendered all of their ERFAs. It is expected that the Ravens will retain all of the above players via ERFA tenders.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (RFAs)
Restricted Free Agents are players whose contracts have expired and who have 3 years of accrued service time. In order to attempt to retain the player’s services, the team must tender the player with an RFA offer. Once tendered, another team can sign the player to an RFA offer sheet, but the Ravens then have 7 days to match that offer sheet and retain the player under the terms of that offer sheet. If the Ravens were to choose not to match the offer sheet, they would then receive compensation based on the level of RFA tender made to the player.
Under the terms of the CBA, the RFA Tender amounts increase at the same rate as the overall Salary Cap, plus a certain dollar amount for 2022 ($50K for the low tender and $125K for the 1st or 2nd round tender).
There are basically 4 RFA tenders: 1st Round Tender, 2nd Round Tender, Low Tender and Right Of First Refusal (ROFR).
* 1st Round Tender: allows the team to receive compensation of a 1st round pick – $5.562M (est).
* 2nd Round Tender: allows the team to receive compensation of 2nd round pick – $3.986M (est).
* Low Tender: allows the team to receive compensation of a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted – $2.540M (est).
* ROFR: allows the team to simply match an offer, with no draft pick compensation or for players who were UDFAs – $2.433M (est).
The Ravens have 2 players who are pending Restricted Free Agents (RFAs):
Since both were UDFAs, there would be no draft compensation if they received the ROFR tender. It seems that Alaka, because of injuries and lack of development, will not be tendered.
Westry will be an interesting decision. It seems clear that the Ravens like Westry and feel that he might develop into at least serviceable depth at CB. The low tender however would not protect them much from an offer sheet from another team; while the 2nd Round tender at close to $4M seems like too much. The guess here is that they will use only the low RFA tender on Westry and hope no offer sheets are presented. They also pursue a 2- or 3-year deal with Westry that would allow them to retain him, but at a 2022 Cap number that would be less than the $3.986M 2nd round RFA tender.
PROJECTED ADJUSTED TEAM CAP AND RULE OF 51 SALARY CAP COMMITMENT
Based on all of the above, it is estimated that the Ravens will have an Adjusted Team Salary Cap of $208,150,400. The team’s Adjusted Cap consists of the projected league-wide Salary Cap of $208.2M, plus the carryover of the 2021 excess Cap space of $300K and the incentives adjustment (est. to be $500K), less adjustments for workout bonuses ($849,600).
Presently, the Ravens have 48 players under contract, but assuming they tender Westry with an RFA tender and tender all 9 of their ERFAs, they would have 58 players under contract or tendered.
During the offseason, though, when roster can balloon to up to 90 players, only the highest 51 Salary Cap numbers (and all 2022 bonus prorations and all dead money from released players) are counted for Salary Cap purposes. This is called the “Rule of 51”.
As such, the Ravens’ estimated Rule of 51 number – including the above factors (including the PPE) and the projected ERFA and RFA tenders – would be a Cap commitment of approximately $200,934,681.
When compared with the team’s Adjusted Cap of $208,150,400, this would leave the Ravens projected to be $7,215,719 under the Salary Cap.
Again, this is just an early estimate and done before the Ravens make other roster moves that will create additional Salary Cap space and/or make additions that will strengthen the roster, but it underscores that the Ravens will again be tight against the Cap and have some work to do to create Cap space.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (UFAs)
The following 21 players are Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) and will be free to sign with other teams if they haven’t re-signed with the Ravens before Free Agency begins on March 16th at 4:00 p.m.:
CB Anthony Averett
LB Chris Board
OC Bradley Bozeman
LB Josh Bynes
DT Calais Campbell
S DeShon Elliott
DT Justin Ellis
LB LJ Fort
RB Devonta Freeman
OLB Justin Houston
QB Josh Johnson
S Anthony Levine
OLB Pernell McPhee
RB Latavius Murray
FB Patrick Ricard
CB Kevon Seymour
OT David Sharpe
CB Jimmy Smith
TE Eric Tomlinson
WR Sammy Watkins
DT Brandon Williams
The Ravens have no candidate for the franchise tag this year.
2022 DRAFT PICKS
The Ravens will have the 14th overall pick in the first round and are expected to have 10 total picks in the 2022 draft. They presently have four (4) of their original picks (their 1st through 4th round picks), the Giants’ 4th (Bredeson trade), Arizona’s 4th (2021 draft day trade) and Miami’s 6th (Mancz trade). The Ravens traded their own 5th to Minn (Ngakoue trade), their 6th to KC (Orlando Brown trade) and 7th to JAX (Oliver trade).
In addition, the Ravens have a 3rd round Compensatory draft pick for the Texans’ hiring of David Culley as their Head Coach. The Ravens are also expected to receive two 4th round Compensatory draft picks for the free agent losses of LB Matthew Judon and DE Yannick Ngakoue.
So, for now, the Ravens’ present draft picks are expected to be 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 4th and 6th.
Based on their present draft position, the Ravens will likely have a rookie Cap of somewhere around $12M. While that number won’t factor into their initial Cap calculations, it is something that the team will be very mindful of as they otherwise build their roster.
Given the lack of Cap space, the Ravens are going to have to make moves to create additional Salary Cap space in order to be able to re-sign players and/or sign other players to the roster. There are three primary ways of creating additional Salary Cap space:
1. Signing players to contract extensions to lessen their 2022 Cap number;
2. Releasing/trading players and/or;
3. Restructuring contracts
EXTENSION: An extension is generally used when a player has a large base salary and is in the later years of his contract. An extension will allow the team to turn much of that large base salary (and often, more) into a Signing Bonus to go along with new years that are added to the contract. This essentially works to reduce the player’s present Cap number. Of course, it takes two to tango and teams and players often don’t see eye to eye on value, so extensions aren’t always a foregone conclusion.
The most obvious candidate for an extension is QB Lamar Jackson. Presently Jackson will count $23.106M against the Cap by virtue of the 5th year option of his rookie deal. The Ravens have continued to talk about getting an extension down with Jackson, however, given the reduction in the 2021 Cap due to COVID, they really didn’t have the Cap space to get it accomplished. Since Jackson already is going to count $23.106M, an extension is much easier to fit into the Cap in 2022 and will likely be needed to also create Cap space for the team by reducing that $23.106M Cap figure.
Another player who is an extension candidate to create Cap space is CB Marcus Peters. Peters is a little bit trickier though since he is coming off of a year lost to injury and the team may be hesitant to extend Peters until they are totally sure he’s going to be healthy and ready to go.
RELEASE/TRADE: The below chart includes players who have most often been discussed by fans as candidates for release and lays out the Salary Cap implications of the release or trade (both are treated the same for Cap purposes) of those players:
With a tight Cap, creating Cap space is going to be imperative, but the Ravens really don’t have many candidates for release.
VILLANUEVA: Let’s get this one out of the way first. This was is pretty much a sure bet as Villanueva was terrible at RT and not much better at LT. Releasing Villanueva will create $6M in Cap space.
BOYKIN: As mentioned above, Boykin earned the PPE by virtue of reaching the playing time threshold and saw his base salary increase to $2.54M. That amount may well be too much to
pay Boykin, who will likely be no higher than 5th or 6th on the WR depth chart. Releasing Boykin would create $2.54M in Cap space.
POWERS: Powers may be in a similar spot as Boykin, but a $2.54M salary for a reserve OL isn’t too expensive, so he may well hang around until after the draft or into the preseason, depending on other moves the team makes.
PETERS: This would seem unlikely given the poor play of the Ravens’ secondary without him in 2021, but the Ravens made the interesting decision to not do a max restructure with Peters in 2021, which would seem to indicate they didn’t want to add any additional dead money in 2022 if they were to release him. Given how the 2021 season played out though, that thinking may well have changed. Releasing Peters would create $10M in Cap space.
YOUNG: Young made it through the season for the first time in 3 seasons, but his $9.183M Cap number and $5.845M base salary may be too much of a risk given his injury history. However, with so many question marks in the secondary, including the status of fellow CB, Peters, the team may decide to keep him around. Releasing Young would create $5.845M in Cap space.
KOCH: I’ve resisted the calls for Koch to be released over the years, but this might be the year the Ravens do actually consider it. Koch had an up and down year in 2021 and as we saw with LS Morgan Cox last offseason, the Ravens aren’t averse to moving on and going younger (and cheaper) when they feel the time is right. Releasing Koch would create $2.1M in Cap space.
OLIVER: Releasing Oliver wouldn’t create much Cap space when you consider the offsetting cost of the player who replaces him, but $1.075M is probably a bit much to pay for your No. 3 TE. Since the Cap savings isn’t that great, he could be another guy who hangs around until the draft or until training camp as injury protection.
JAMES: This one seems unlikely given the relatively modest $3.25M Cap number and given that his signing was always a move made for 2022, not 2021, but if for some reason they do not feel his recovery is progressing as anticipated, they could decide to cut bait on James.
STANLEY, BOYLE and WOLFE: None of these guys were added to the chart because they aren’t going to be released. All three have guaranteed base salaries in 2022 that make them either prohibitive to release (Stanley) or essentially a wash to keep or cut (Boyle and Wolfe).
RESTRUCTURE: The main drawback of constantly restructuring contracts is that it often becomes a vicious cycle that forces the team to continue and continue to restructure deals year after year. The Ravens have been stuck in this cycle over the last couple of years and those restructures have created some bloated Cap numbers (Williams, Jefferson) that aren’t easy to get away from.
And, of course, 2021 with a greatly reduced Cap forced a lot of teams, the Ravens included, to restructure deals in order to create needed Cap space.
In 2022, but for COVID, the Salary Cap would likely have been roughly $20M higher, so the need to restructure deals would likely not have existed. But with a tight Cap expected due to the reduced Cap – and with the Cap expected to jump substantially in the coming years – restructuring deals may again be on the agenda in 2022.
The best candidate for a restructure to create a decent chunk of Cap savings is CB Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey’s $10M base salary could be reduced down to the league minimum of $1.035M, with the balance being paid as a Signing Bonus. The Bonus would prorate $1.793M over 2022-2026 and would create $7.172M in 2022 Cap space.
Ronnie Stanley would also be a candidate to restructure given his $9.5M base salary, but due to the uncertainty of his recovery, the Ravens may be hesitant to do so. A Stanley restructure would create $6,348,750 in Cap space.
While 2021 was supposed to be the year that the Ravens would finally get over hump and advanced to the Super Bowl, the COVID pandemic and injuries had other ideas. So now, the Ravens are going to have to make tough decisions about their roster and rebuild it with hopes of returning to Super Bowl contention.
The good news is that they do have some options to create the Cap space needed to address their many issues. The Salary Cap is always a puzzle and the Ravens’ Front Office will likely use a combination of the above maneuvers to create the Cap space necessary to address the team’s pressing roster needs. The biggest domino in the offseason equation is getting an extension done with Jackson. If they can accomplish that, then along with some cuts and restructures, the Ravens should have enough Cap space to make some moves.
As always, the months of February, March and April will once again be an interesting time of year, as we see how free agency plays out and to what lengths teams will go to to create Cap space.