With the NFL year starting Tuesday afternoon, the Ravens had not reached an agreement Monday night on new contracts with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Lardarius Webb, whose current deals will make it difficult for the organization to be active in free agency.
The team also had not signed any of its unrestricted free agents, who will hit the open market at 4 p.m. Tuesday, and learned Monday afternoon that another key performer, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, will follow wide receiver Torrey Smith out of town.
McPhee, who had 71/2 sacks for the Ravens last season, is set to sign a five-year contract with the Chicago Bears worth nearly $40 million, including $16 million in guaranteed money, according to league sources. Given their tight salary cap situation and needs at other positions, the Ravens considered McPhee a luxury they couldn't afford.
The Ravens did take necessary steps to retain two of their restricted free agents: kicker Justin Tucker and safety Will Hill. The Ravens assigned a $2.356 million second-round restricted-free-agent tender to Tucker and a $1.542 million right-of-first-refusal original-round tender to Hill, according to league sources.
Since Tucker is a restricted free agent, the Ravens have the right to match any competing offer sheet or receive a second-round draft pick in return. A former undrafted free agent, Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, having made 97 of 108 career field goals (89.81 percent).
Hill emerged as the Ravens' starting free safety after serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy for a positive drug test for marijuana. After his punishment, the former New York Giants starter revived his career, starting eight regular-season games and two playoff games for the Ravens last season. He had 39 tackles in the regular season and returned an interception for a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints.
If another team makes an offer for Hill, the Ravens have the right to match it. But if they do not, they will not receive draft pick compensation, because the safety entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
Instead of issuing a restricted tender for reserve defensive back and special teams ace Anthony Levine, the Ravens are hoping to bring him back on a longer-term contract.
According to sources, the Ravens have given $585,000 exclusive-rights tenders to wide receiver Kamar Aiken and cornerback Rashaan Melvin, and $510,000 exclusive-rights tenders to tight end Phillip Supernaw, offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, cornerback Tramain Jacobs and defensive end Steven Means. The Ravens also are expected to assign an exclusive-rights free-agent tender to running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.
The Ravens entered Monday with $4.639 million of salary cap space, but the restricted and exclusive rights tenders put them over the $143.28 million ceiling. The Ravens have until 4 p.m. today to comply with the salary cap.
To that end, they are working toward a restructured deal with Webb, who will take up $12 million of salary cap space under his current deal, according to sources. But no deal is imminent with Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowl selection.
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The Ravens could keep Ngata and his $16 million cap number on the roster going forward, but they would need to make other salary-cutting moves to be active on the open market and retain some of their free agents.
Veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson, whom the Houston Texans released Monday, could be a potential fit as a replacement for Torrey Smith alongside Steve Smith. The Ravens also would like to retain a couple key players from last year's team, including tight end Owen Daniels and running back Justin Forsett.
Forsett has maintained a strong desire to rejoin the Ravens, and the feeling is mutual. But sources said Forsett has drawn interest from the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts, and he is expected to explore his options.