A sizable chunk of the Ravens' salary cap is taken up by the bloated cap figures of Pro Bowl players such as Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata and costly cap hits for fellow franchise cornerstones such as Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Marshal Yanda. In 2013, those five players will account for more than a third of the team’s salary cap.
I’m not knocking them. They earned their big-money contracts by performing at a high level for years, and the Ravens probably wouldn’t have won their latest Lombardi Trophy if they hadn’t paid those guys accordingly.
But the Ravens also have to rely on young players and cheaper veterans to round out their roster -- as is the case with the rest of the teams in the NFL. All but 10 of the players on the Ravens’ 90-man roster make less than $3 million, and they are counting on major contributions from a few players who earn less than a million.
Here is a list of seven of the biggest bargains on the Ravens, and predictably, many are youngsters still on their rookie deals:
--- Michael Huff, FS ($1.35 million cap hit in 2013): The Ravens signed the former Oakland Raiders first-round draft pick to a three-year, $6 million contract this offseason, which is $9 million less than what former Ravens safety Ed Reed got on his three-year deal with the Houston Texans. Huff is the only player on this list who carries a cap hit above $1 million, but it is a small price tag for an established veteran starter.
--- Albert McClellan, OLB ($555,000 cap hit in 2013): Even with the addition of Elvis Dumervil and rookie John Simon to a now-crowded group of linebackers, you have to like McClellan’s chances of making the 53-man roster -- and making an impact somehow. McClellan is capable of playing all four linebacker positions and was one of the team’s leading tacklers on special teams last season.
--- Pernell McPhee, DE ($591,140 cap hit in 2013): In 2012, McPhee battled injuries, struggled to keep his weight down and recorded just 2.5 sacks in 16 games, including playoffs. But in his rookie season, he showed promise as an interior pass rusher with six sacks. If he can start getting to the quarterback again -- the coaches plan to play him some at rush linebacker -- he will become a bargain again.
--- Kelechi Osemele, OG ($760,425 cap hit in 2013): Osemele, a second-round draft pick in 2012, has drawn praise nationally for a solid rookie season that ended with him playing at a high level at left guard during the Super Bowl run. Now Osemele, who is expected to remain at guard, is being hailed as a future Pro Bowler at the position. If he continues to progress, he will provide nice value to the Ravens.
--- Bernard Pierce, RB ($618,986 cap hit in 2013): A third-round draft pick a year ago, Pierce came on strong down the stretch in 2012, twice rushing for 100 yards, including once in the playoffs. He enters his second season behind Rice, a Pro Bowl back who carries one of the team’s highest cap hits, but Pierce could receive more opportunities to give the Ravens bang for their buck.
--- Torrey Smith, WR ($924,336 cap hit in 2013): For less than $1 million this season, the Ravens will at the very least get one of the NFL's most dangerous deep threats in Smith. But Smith, who led the team with eight receiving touchdowns in 2012, is looking to grow into the go-to guy for Flacco now that Anquan Boldin is gone. If he does, he will be one of the NFL’s best bargains.
--- Justin Tucker, K ($480,000 cap hit in 2013): Where would the Ravens be without Tucker? After signing as an undrafted free agent last summer, Tucker delivered one of the best seasons for a kicker in franchise history and proved to be clutch with his 47-yard game-winner in double overtime against the Denver Broncos. How cheap is he? Billy Cundiff’s cap hit ($1,800,000) is nearly five times his salary.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun