Now that the Ravens have concluded the majority of their offseason business and minicamps, they are $6.049 million under the NFL salary cap limit of $123 million.
The Ravens gained $3 million in salary cap space when they terminated Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach's contract after failed attempts to reduce his $4.33 million salary cap figure.
The Ravens will spend $1.23 million against the salary cap in the first year when they sign first-round safety Matt Elam.
Elam, who recently struck a multi-year endorsement deal with Under Armour, has yet to hire an agent to represent him and is being advised by his older brother, free agent NFL safety Abram Elam.
Under the NFL slotting system, Elam is slated to sign a four-year, $6.767 million contract that will include a $3.301 million signing bonus.
The top salary cap figures on the roster: outside linebacker Terrell Suggs ($13.02 million), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($11.5 million), offensive guard Marshal Yanda ($7.45 million), cornerback Lardarius Webb ($7.385 million), quarterback Joe Flacco ($6.8 million), running back Ray Rice ($5.75 million), offensive tackle Michael Oher ($4.95 million) and inside linebacker Jameel McClain ($4.2 million).
What will the Ravens do with the excess salary cap space?
They could go for a veteran wide receiver at some point, put the money toward an extension for a younger player in the final year of his contract -- like restricted free agent tight end Dennis Pitta -- or simply use it for an emergency fund when players go on injured reserve. Plus, the Ravens, under the NFL collective bargaining agreement, could carry over some of the unused salary cap space as they did last year.
The Ravens are facing a tight salary-cap situation in 2014.
Ngata carries a team-high $16 million salary cap figure next year and Suggs has a $12.4 million salary cap figure for a combined $28.4 million in cap commitments. Both players, especially Suggs (partially torn Achilles tendon, torn biceps), are coming off seasons hampered by injuries.
The other high salary cap figures on the Ravens' books for 2014 include: Flacco ($14.8 million), Webb ($10.5 million), Rice ($8.75 million) and Yanda ($8.45 million). Six key players would count for a combined $70.9 million in salary cap space for the 2014 NFL fiscal year.
The Ravens have 53 players under contract for 2014 for a total salary cap commitment of $120.788 million. The NFL salary cap limit for 2013 is $123 million, and the salary cap is expected to remain relatively flat for the next few years.
With pending free agents like Pitta and tight end Ed Dickson, offensive tackle Michael Oher, defensive lineman Arthur Jones and cornerback Corey Graham, a lot of potential change shapes up for 2014.
During a Baltimore Sun Sports Forum following the NFL draft, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta expressed confidence that the Ravens are prepared to handle the challenge of personnel and salary cap decisions that await them. And he emphasized that the Ravens are well equipped with general manager Ozzie Newsome and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty leading the AFC North franchise's contract and salary cap responsibilities.
"I think the thing we want to do is just live in the moment right now," DeCosta said. "Those guys are under contract. They're all outstanding players. They're some of the very best players at their position in the league. We just want to play this year. We'll let those decisions wait until the future.
"We have a lot of flexibility with the cap. Pat Moriarty and Ozzie Newsome do a phenomenal job of making tough decisions. We've made a lot of tough decisions over the last couple of years. They're hard decisions to make. Any time you have to cut a player or let a player go in free agency because of the salary cap, it's tough to do that."
During an offseason in which linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk retired, the Ravens reinforced the team by signing Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, free safety Michael Huff, defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears and inside linebacker Daryl Smith and retaining offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. They selected Elam and Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
"We talk a lot about these decisions," DeCosta said. "We spent a lot of time talking about what our offseason was going to be during the season and right after the season and we try to do what's best for the Ravens in the short term and also the long term. So, we'll see how it plays out."
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