Carroll County Times

Ravens: Not much room to spare for free agency

OWINGS MILLS - As the NFL fiscal year and free agency signing period officially kicks off Tuesday afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens are currently $14.44 million under the league salary cap limit of $120.6 million.

Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, that number can also go up a few million dollars if they choose to borrow against future years of the salary cap.

The $14.44 million figure includes carrying over $5.831 million in remaining salary-cap space from last season, a $7.742 million franchise tender for Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice and accounting for 40 players already under contract for next season.

The Ravens are saving room for a potential blockbuster contract extension for quarterback Joe Flacco that may take several months to negotiate.

The Ravens haven't locked up any of their unrestricted free agents, and many of them are expected to depart via free agency, including Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs and linebacker Jarret Johnson.

Inside linebacker Jameel McClain has expressed interest in returning to Baltimore and is regarded as a priority to retain.

However, the Ravens' current salary-cap space will go down before free agency begins once they assign restricted free agent tenders to starting cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams.

They are expected to use first-round tenders to retain both players. That comes at a cost of $2.742 million apiece for a combined $5.484 million against the salary cap.

The Ravens could also opt to use a second-round ($1.97 million) or original round-right of first refusal tender ($1.26 million) for inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. They might opt to not use a tender on running back Matt Lawrence, who has been struggling with knee problems.

He could be re-signed at a much lower price, though.

They also are still carrying dead money after cutting cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth ($3 million) and Chris Carr ($2.85 million) and wide receiver Lee Evans ($1.232 million), but it's significantly less than what it would have cost to carry them on the roster. The dead money is included in the $14.44 million.

Foxworth had a $5.6 million base salary in the final year of his four-year, $27.2 million contract.

Carr was due a $2.5 million base salary, but received a $3.8 million signing bonus last year with remaining proration accelerating due to his release.

Evans was due a $3.275 million salary plus a $1 million roster bonus and a $100,000 workout bonus

The Ravens have several exclusive-rights free agents, including long snapper Morgan Cox, cornerback Danny Gorrer, outside linebacker Sergio Kindle and linebacker Albert McClellan.

Each player has to be tendered by Tuesday for the team to retain their rights and will be assigned one-year contracts with minimum base salaries.

Once all of those numbers are accounted for, the Ravens could wind up roughly $5.7 million to $7 million underneath the salary cap limit when the restricted-free agent tenders and exclusive-right tenders are assigned.

The Ravens' top salary-cap figures for next season: outside linebacker Terrell Suggs ($11.52 million), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($10.4 million), free safety Ed Reed ($8.5 million), quarterback Joe Flacco ($8 million), wide receiver Anquan Boldin ($7.531 million), middle linebacker Ray Lewis ($6.85 million), offensive guard Marshal Yanda ($6.5 million), fullback Vonta Leach ($4.33 million) and offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie ($4.2 million).

McKinnie is due a $500,000 roster bonus on March 17, and strong safety Bernard Pollard is due $500,000 on March 22.