Looking deeper at the Ravens' pending salary cap decisions

Of all the difficult decisions the Ravens have, what to do with Mike Wallace may be the toughest one.

The roster cuts have already started elsewhere. The Cleveland Browns let go of veteran quarterback Josh McCown and cornerback Tramon Williams. The Green Bay Packers moved on from running back James Starks and cornerback Sam Shields. The Philadelphia Eagles dumped cornerback Leodis McKelvin.

Many more cuts are expected league-wide in the days ahead.

There’s been no movement yet from the Ravens, who figure to make a handful of cost-cutting decisions before the start of free agency on March 9. The Ravens typically make their cuts later in February, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be on the same timeline this offseason.

By now, you’re probably well aware of the players the Ravens have to make decisions on. They’ve all been written or spoken about quite a bit as reporters and talking heads work to cover the time before free agency begins.

But as we get closer to the decisions, let’s look a little deeper at the team’s potential salary cap casualties, starting with the most difficult decisions first.

Mike Wallace, WR

Age: 30

2017 salary cap hit: $8 million

Cap savings if cut: $5.75 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: The Ravens have until March 9 to pick up Wallace’s option for the 2017 season, and it’s probably the most difficult roster decision they face from now until the market opens. Coming off a 1,000-yard season, Wallace is the top receiver the Ravens have, and they are especially thin at the position with Steve Smith Sr. retiring and Kamar Aiken heading to free agency. However, Wallace has the fifth-highest cap hit on the team and the Ravens could theoretically use some of his savings to add a cheaper veteran possession receiver to pair with speedsters Breshad Perriman and Chris Moore. But even with Wallace’s high price tag, it’s tough to dump a proven commodity when another one isn’t currently on the roster at the position.   

Lardarius Webb, S

Age: 31

2017 salary cap hit: $7.5 million

Cap savings if cut: $5.5 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: Webb got better each week in his transition to safety, and he’s a widely respected team leader. Still, the Ravens are always seeking to get faster and younger on defense, and that desire could make Webb expendable. His cap number is also the 10th-highest among NFL safeties, according to overthecap.com. In Webb’s favor, though, the Ravens don’t have another obvious starting safety candidate alongside Eric Weddle. Kendrick Lewis is a potential cap casualty and reserve safeties Matt Elam and Anthony Levine Sr. are both free agents.  

Dennis Pitta, TE

Age: 31

2017 salary cap hit: $7.7 million

Cap savings if cut: $3.3 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: Pitta’s successful return from a twice-fractured and dislocated hip was one of the feel-good stories of 2016, but his status is again in limbo with the team. He has the sixth-highest salary cap hit among NFL tight ends. That’s tough for the Ravens to absorb, given that Pitta remains an injury risk and he averaged only 8.5 yards per catch last year. The Ravens also currently have six tight ends on their roster, and they won’t be able to keep them all come September. Pitta is as well-liked and respected as anybody in organization and he proved last year he’s still a productive player when healthy. The Ravens would love to keep him, but it will be tough at that price.

Elvis Dumervil, OLB

Age: 33

2017 salary cap hit: $8.5 million

Cap savings if cut: $6 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: Dumervil will likely be victimized by his age, declining sack numbers (nine over the past two seasons while battling injuries) and high salary-cap figure. Ravens officials have said they expect Terrell Suggs to be back, along with young pass rushers Za’Darius Smith and Matthew Judon. The Ravens also want to add one or two edge rushers in the draft or free agency. Dumervil can still get after the quarterback, but his high cap number puts him in a precarious position.

Benjamin Watson, TE

Age: 36

2017 salary cap hit: $4 million

Cap savings if cut: $3 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: The Ravens foresaw Watson making a significant impact offensively before he tore his Achilles last preseason. Now, they have to decide whether they can count on a 36-year-old playing on a surgically repaired Achilles. It’s inconceivable that Pitta, Watson, Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle and Darren Waller will all be on the team next September. Pitta and Watson could be an either/or situation. Still, there’s a temptation to see what Watson has left.

Jeremy Zuttah, C

Age: 30

2017 salary cap hit: $4.6 million

Cap savings if cut: $2.4 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: Letting go of Zuttah wouldn’t generate a ton of cap savings. But the move will be made if the Ravens believe younger center John Urschel is ready to step in, or they’ll find an upgrade either in free agency or the draft. Team officials have spoken a lot about improving the offensive line. With Ronnie Stanley, Alex Lewis and Marshal Yanda entrenched in their roles, and right tackle Rick Wagner approaching free agency, that would seemingly indicate center is one position they have designs on upgrading.

Kendrick Lewis, S

Age: 28

2017 salary cap hit: $2.25 million

Cap savings if cut: $1.8 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: Like with Zuttah, this would be more a performance issue rather than a financial one. After starting 15 games in 2015, Lewis lost his starting job last year and played sparingly before he went to injured reserve. If the Ravens plan on moving on from Webb, they could keep Lewis around for veteran insurance. Otherwise, they’ll replace Lewis with a younger and quicker safety that they can develop behind Weddle and possibly Webb.  

Shareece Wright, CB

Age: 29

2017 salary cap hit: $5.3 million

Cap savings if cut: $2.6 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: The Ravens would incur just as much dead money on their salary cap as they would save by cutting the veteran cornerback. However, the team appeared to lose confidence in Wright, who struggled mightily after signing a contract extension last offseason. The Ravens plan on bringing in multiple cornerbacks, looking to upgrade at the position. Wright’s spot is tenuous.  

Kyle Arrington, CB

Age: 30

2017 salary cap hit: $2.76 million

Cap savings if cut: $2.1 million

Why decision is or isn’t difficult: Arrington missed all of last season after suffering a concussion in training camp. It’s unclear whether he’ll continue to play or just retire, although his days with the Ravens appear to be numbered.

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