The pending departure of Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach from the Ravens' roster via trade or release will create an additional $3 million in salary-cap space that will bring the Super Bowl champions $6.2 million under the NFL salary cap of $123 million.
That factors in the rule of 51 during the offseason where the top 51 salary-cap figures are accounted for to compute salary-cap room with a $405,000 salary-cap figure being added to the list with Leach leaving.
The Ravens will need a $1.203 million salary-cap figure in the first year for unsigned first-round safety Matt Elam, who still hasn't hired an agent to represent him while being advised by his older brother, veteran 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 Ravens will have roughly $5.37 million in salary-cap space once Elam is signed.
The top salary-cap figures currently on the roster, including Leach: 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), Leach ($4.33 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 recent Baltimore Sun Sports Forum, 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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