The National Football League Players Association website has a page dedicated to where each team’s salary cap stands. It’s updated daily and presents a sobering truth to Ravens fans who are dreaming up a free-agent haul that includes center Ryan Jensen, wide receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Jimmy Graham.
As of late yesterday afternoon, the Ravens were listed as having just $5.4 million in space, and that’s before Monday’s signing of defensive end Brent Urban had been factored in. To put that into perspective, the average space per team was over $32 million, according to the NFLPA.
Only five teams — the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers — had less space. Eighteen teams had more than $25 million.
Yet, Ravens officials have downplayed their cap situation numerous times this offseason. Owner Steve Bisciotti said last month that he didn’t see cap space as a concern and indicated that the team has enough flexibility to “make a splash and help us on the way to getting our offense clicking better.”
General manager Ozzie Newsome said at last week’s scouting combine that the front office has “come up with ideas and ways to be able to create the type of cap room that we need to get the type of players that we want to add at this portion of the [offseason].”
Newsome didn’t offer specifics, but there’s really no magic formula to creating cap space. Like every other team, the Ravens’ options are:
Cutting players: This figures to happen in the next couple of days or at least before free agency officially begins Wednesday afternoon.
The list of potential Ravens salary cap casualties is well documented. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin ($5 million) would create the most cap savings, followed by cornerback Brandon Carr ($4 million) and right tackle Austin Howard ($3 million).
Cutting running back Danny Woodhead ($1.75 million), safety Lardarius Webb ($1.75 million) and linebacker-special teams ace Albert McClellan ($1 million) wouldn’t provide much breathing room, but they could be in jeopardy given their age and/or injury history.
And every little bit counts when you’re snug against the cap.
Restructurings: Bisciotti mentioned that the Ravens would restructure a couple of deals this offseason, so this is more a matter of when, rather than if.
This is typically a last resort move because it makes contracts harder to get out of later on and puts pressure on future caps, but the Ravens have had to do it often.
Bisciotti specifically brought up restructuring Brandon Williams’ deal, but that probably won’t be the only one.
Extensions: The Ravens can create significant salary cap room by agreeing to some contract extensions with players, deals that hypothetically would lower their 2018 cap numbers.
The most logical one is middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, who will have an $8.7 million cap number as he plays out the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. However, the Ravens could sign him to a long-term deal that lowers his 2018 number significantly.
They also could add a couple of years to the contracts of several veterans, such as outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has one more year left on his deal, and right guard Marshal Yanda and cornerback Jimmy Smith, who each have two more years left on their deals.
This is always risky to do with older players, but it all falls in line with the Ravens vowing to explore every means possible to open up salary cap space.
The Ravens certainly aren’t in salary cap jail. They’ve been a lot worse off in some other years. Newsome and Bisciotti have long said that if there is a player out there who they believe will really help them, they’ll find a way to make it work from a financial standpoint.
But the numbers above certainly reflect that the Ravens will have to be selective in their free-agent forays in a market that is awash with teams with a ton of salary cap space.