Breaking News:

Keep up with So Much Sports on Twitter @SoMuchSports

Cash-strapped Ravens likely unable to make many more moves

Willis McGahee was one of a few veterans cut to save cap room.

The Ravens finally added a player to the team that was not on the roster last year by signing fullback Vonta Leach but it is becoming pretty apparent that the reason the Ravens were such a non-factor in free agency before was because they didn’t have any money to spend.

Last week ESPN’s John Clayton reported that the Ravens were $1.8 million over the cap, which did not include the RFA tenders, which adds $10 million.

To top it all off the Ravens didn’t have a single rookie signed to a contract.

Strapped for cash Ozzie Newsome was forced to cut four veterans, who by now everybody knows were Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Kelly Gregg, and Willis McGahee. By releasing those players the team opened up $18.6 million, but thank to the Rule of 51 (which says that at this point of the year only the highest 51 salaries count against the cap, meaning those four salaries had to be replaced by four more salaries) the cap savings were actually only $16.875 million.

Now add in the rookies. Because the new collective bargaining agreement has limited the amount of money rookies can make, the absolute maximum the Ravens could spend this year is $4.578 million, a number they are pretty close to, if not at. With the Rule of 51 the Ravens only need $1.578 million of cap space to sign their rookies but it cuts their cap space to $15.297 million.

Figuring in that $10 million for restricted free agents the Ravens were down to just over $5 million in cap space and then by signing Marshal Yanda (though the official cap hit is unknown since the terms of the deal have not been released) they are probably left with something like $2 million left to spend on free agents.

Now the Ravens have some options to get more money. Because last year was an uncapped year the new CBA added a feature that will help teams with the transition. Teams can borrow up to $3 million against future salary caps by designating up to three veterans with at least five seasons of accrued service time and getting a $1 million rebate on them. The borrowed amount will then be added to the 2014-2016 salary cap figures.

They could also borrow another $1.5 million in 2012.

Baltimore is likely going to exercise this option to give them somewhere around $5 million to spend in free agency.

The only other options to clear up space are to renegotiate and restructure contracts with players taking up a lot of the team’s salary cap figure or make more cuts. The Ravens have made a few more cuts. They released DT Lamar Divins, which saves them around $600K, and RB Curtis Steele, which is not effecting the cap situation because of the Rule of 51.

A few moves the Ravens did make to save money were withdrawing the $1.2 million restricted free agent tenders from WR Marcus Smith, RB Jalen Parmele, and DT Kelly Talavou, and resigning them to longer contracts worth more in the long run but less in the first year. That gave them roughly $3 million to spend, depending on the exact figure for Yanda.

Giving Haloti Ngata a long-tern deal could clear up a large chunk of money.

Since then the Ravens have signed Chris Carr and Leach. It is not known just how much they will be taking in 2011 but odds are the Ravens are back to being broke and won’t be able to spend a single cent until Haloti Ngata signs a long-term contract. As the team’s franchise player Ngata is due $12.476 million next season. By renegotiating that deal the Ravens could potentially save $8 million, but it’s likely they’ll at least save $6 million.

Things look a little better again since that would give the Ravens roughly $13 million to spend.

Here’s the problem though, Newsome said he wants to wait for “the dust of training camp to settle” before he starts talking to Ngata’s representatives about a long-term contract. The top-tier free agents are all pretty much gone at this point; in three to four days (the rough time table before talks start) the market will be even barer. But the reasoning for his wait is a pretty solid one, if players sign before August 4 (all free agents that’s why nobody is reporting until then) then there will be dead money in 2014 going against the Salary Cap.

While they’re saving money two years down the line, this is a win now league because nobody knows what could happen to Ray Lewis or Ed Reed or any other players taking up a lot of the cap room.

The Ravens have problems they need to fix if they want to go out and contend with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, or New England Patriots (who just added two phenomenal players in Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth via trade).

The organization may have a lot of faith in their rookies but right now they are going to have to have Jimmy Smith (first round CB), Torrey Smith (second round WR), and Jah Reid (third round RT) to all be major players in their first years.

It’s not unheard of at all for rookies to come in and have major impacts, but when the team has to rely on it, it’s a problem.

The Ravens need a veteran backup quarterback, a backup running back, and full back, help on the offensive line, a pass rusher, help in the secondary, and an experienced receiver. If those positions don’t get filled then Tyrod Taylor will be the man if something happens to Joe Flacco; seven-round draft pick Anthony Allen will be spelling Ray Rice; Reid will have to go up against the likes of LaMarr Woodley and Robert Mathis; and the top option to help Terrell Suggs get to the quarterback will be a guy that we don’t even know can play with that type of contact.

Over half of the salary cap is taken up by eight players. Ngata ($12.476M), Suggs ($10.02M), Ed Reed ($7.8M), Domonique Foxworth ($7.4M), Anquan Boldin ($7.28125M), Ray Lewis ($6.4M), Flacco ($5.725), and Jarret Johnson ($5.265M) take up $62.36725M of the team’s salary cap.

Most of those guys are worth that money but Foxworth did show he was deserving of being the team’s fourth-highest paid player before he got hurt, and Boldin really underperformed last year.

Is Matt Birk really worth $4 million at this point?

But when looking at the rest of the rest of the roster two guys in particular stick out. Matt Birk is definitely a solid center and yes, the team has problems with the offensive line, but his age has been showing and he has simply been an average center for Baltimore, yet he is getting paid $4M next year. Cory Redding is another player taking up a hefty amount of the team’s salary cap ($3.75M) that hasn’t lived up to it. Redding was brought in to help provide a pass rush but only got to the quarterback for three sacks last season and with younger guys like Terrance Cody, Pernell McPhee, and Arthur Jones on the roster Redding may in deed be expendable.

If players like Heap and Mason got cut because Ed Dickson, Dennis Pitts, Smith, Tandon Doss, and James Hardy were on the roster then it is hard to justify $7.7M being spent on two under-performing veterans in the final years of their contract (meaning little to no dead money held against the salary cap).

If the Ravens were to part ways with them they could clear another $7 million to their cap situation, which, depending how much a Ngata renegotiation would save, could give the Ravens $14 million to improve their team with what’s left in free agency.

With $14 million the team could retain Bulger, go out and get somebody like Samson Satele or Chris Spencer to fill in at center (both of whom are young and should be much cheaper than Birk but should at least provide just as much as he did), sign a veteran right tackle like Damien Woody to be a bridge guy for Reid, bring in a big time veteran wide receiver like Braylon Edwards or Malcolm Floyd (or maybe even Randy Moss), get a strong bruising power back like Ricky Williams to spell Rice, and bring in a pass rusher like Osi Umenyoira via trade or Matt Roth through free agency.

But unless they clear up cash, no of that could be possible and right now, the Ravens don’t have much at all.

The following two tabs change content below.

Corey Johns

Editor in Chief
You could say Corey was born to become a sports journalist. His father won a national championship coaching college soccer. His mother is a baseball fanatic who hasn't missed seeing an Orioles game since 1983 (literally, sometimes it's annoying). His great uncle was a big-time boxing promoter and his maternal grandfather was once a department head at the Baltimore Sun. Basically, sports and journalism run through his blood. He played just about every little league sports there was when he was a kid and was a multi-sport athlete in high school; even playing in the first-ever high school sanction Rugby game in the country. Eventually he retired from sports as an undefeated Maryland state Rugby champion as a high school senior. Perhaps lack of athletic talent has more to do with the retirement, but he will tell you that it more had to do with a great desire to jump right into media. Upon his graduation from University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a triple communications major, Corey started the So Much Sports network and has continued to grow his websites and continues to work to make them premier sports media outlets.

Comments are closed.