Over the next four weeks, the Ravens will work to get their salary cap in order and put the organization in the best possible situation before the start of the new league year and free agency on March 10.
That means some players will be released. Others could get contract extensions that would lower their 2015 salary cap numbers. Though they have mostly avoided doing this in past offseasons, the Ravens also could restructure some contracts, giving them temporary cap relief.
Below is a look at several players whose contracts could be terminated, restructured or extended:
Chris Canty, DE
2015 salary cap number: $3.336 million
Potential cap savings if let go: $2.66 million
Skinny: The 32-year-old is pondering retirement so that would take the decision out of the Ravens’ hands. If he opts to return for an 11th NFL season, there’s a good chance it won’t be with the Ravens. Canty has been solid over the past two seasons, but the Ravens have several young defensive ends who could help replace his production at a fraction of the cost. At this point, it would be moderately surprising if Canty returned.
2015 salary cap number: $1.695 million
Potential cap savings if let go: $1.574 million
Skinny: Due to a Proven Performance escalator, the reserve center’s contract jumps to $1.574 million, which should accelerate his exit from the organization. The Ravens hate giving up on draft picks early, but cap room is too precious for them to justify devoting nearly $1.7 million of space to a player who lost his starting center job to Jeremy Zuttah and was inactive for eight regular season games this past season. Young offensive linemen John Urschel and Ryan Jensen also could make Gradkowski expendable.
Jacoby Jones, WR-KR
2015 salary cap number: $3.375 million
Potential cap savings if let go: $750,000 ($2.5 million if he’s released with post-June 1 designation);
Skinny: Jones is low on the wide receiver depth chart after making just nine catches during the 2014 regular season, and he also made a couple of gaffes in the return game. However, the Ravens wouldn’t open a whole lot of cap space by releasing him and Jones remains one of the most dangerous return men in the game. Releasing him with a post-June 1 designation probably makes the most sense here.
Sam Koch, P
2015 salary cap number: $3.1 million
Potential cap savings if let go: $2.5 million
Skinny: Koch is highly respected in the organization and coming off one of the finest seasons of his career. He’s one of the top holders in the league and he’s also considered a locker room leader. The Ravens aren’t looking to replace him, but his salary cap number is pretty high. A contract extension for the 32-year-old with a lower 2015 salary cap number would be ideal for the Ravens.
Albert McClellan, LB
2015 salary cap number: $1.2 million
Potential cap savings if let go: $1 million
Skinny: McClellan is valued for his work on the Ravens’ special teams units over the past four seasons and he led the team with 13 special teams stops in 2014. However, he has a very small role with the defense and $1 million is a significant commitment to someone who essentially plays only on special teams. The Ravens also have another reserve linebacker, Zach Orr, who is well on his way to becoming a core special teamer.
Haloti Ngata, DT
2015 salary cap number: $16 million
Potential cap savings if let go: $8.5 million
Skinny: The five-time Pro Bowl selection is the key to the team’s quest to add salary cap space. As important as Ngata is, the Ravens can’t afford to have him occupying $16 million of cap room in the final year of his deal. Both sides would welcome a contract extension that would allow the defensive lineman to retire as a Raven, similar to the one Ngata’s close friend, Terrell Suggs, agreed to last offseason. However, arriving at a number both parties can accept won’t be easy. Cutting Ngata, one of the organization’s all-time best players, would be tough, but the Ravens are deep along the defensive line.
Dennis Pitta, TE
2015 salary cap number: $6.2 million
Skinny: The Ravens wouldn’t release the injured tight end because that would create $12.8 million in dead money on the salary cap and hamper them in future seasons. If they release him after June 1, they would open up $4 million of space. Otherwise, there’s not much the Ravens can really do with Pitta, who has suffered a fractured and dislocated hip in back-to-back-years, putting his career in jeopardy. There’s a distinct possibility that Pitta retires.
Lardarius Webb, CB
2015 salary cap number: $12 million
Potential cap savings if let go: $2 million
Skinny: As stated above, the Ravens don’t like restructuring contracts, but Webb is a prime candidate to have his deal reworked. His health has been an issue throughout his career and it would be tough to justify keeping Webb under his current contract. But the Ravens are already thin at cornerback and Webb played better the healthier he got in 2014. Webb values being a Raven, so there’s probably a deal to be made there that could appease both sides. But the Ravens are going to have to be comfortable with where Webb is health-wise.
Marshal Yanda, OG
2015 salary cap number: $8.45 million
Skinny: Yanda, arguably the league’s best guard and one of the top offensive linemen in team history, isn’t going anywhere. But he is an ideal candidate for a contract extension, given that he’s entering the final season of a five-year deal, signed in 2011. Yanda, who is still playing at an extremely high level, is another guy that the Ravens would love to retire with the team. He’s also been willing to rework his contract in the past.