Managing the salary cap is tricky business every offseason.
The Ravens are one of the teams that consistently spend up to the salary cap, which means they often have to part ways with high-priced players every offseason. They've allowed free agents to walk away in the past, including Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee, and also parted ways with key players like Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and Anquan Boldin.
As the Ravens look though their roster and look for ways to get back to the postseason in 2017, Head Coach John Harbaugh hinted that some players will likely become salary-cap casualties.
"Everything is on the table," Harbaugh said when asked about cutting veteran players during Tuesday's season-review press conference. "Absolutely, everything has to be on the table in terms of how we can improve. The financial part of it is a big piece of it."
Harbaugh didn't give any names for potential cuts, but some media members have speculated that outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil ($8.375 million reported cap hit), center Jeremy Zuttah ($4.6 million), cornerback Kyle Arrington ($2.76 million) and safety Kendrick Lewis ($2.27 million) could all be candidates.
Cutting Dumervil would save the most money, reportedly trimming about $6 million off the cap. The 32-year-old pass rusher was asked about his status multiple times this week after coming off a disappointing season where he battled through the effects of Achilles surgery and finished the year with three sacks.
"I got one year left on the deal," Dumervil said at locker cleanout Monday. "That's where it's at right now. Me personally, I'm just trying to get my body back to where it needs to be."
The Ravens are in the market for pass rushers, so Harbaugh and General Manager Ozzie Newsome will have to determine whether they stick with Dumervil at his current number, or move on to young defenders like Za'Darius Smith and Matt Judon.
Part of the reason Baltimore's salary cap is difficult to navigate is the fact that they have quarterback Joe Flacco signed to a $120 million contract. Having one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks eats up a sizable chunk of the cap space.
"We do not have the salary-cap room that you have if you don't have that type of situation," Harbaugh said. "We have to make tough decisions also."
Harbaugh, Newsome, Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta and cap specialist Pat Moriarty will make decisions about what players to keep under contract when they hold their annual summit at Owner Steve Bisciotti's house in Florida later this offseason. That meeting is a time to develop the offseason blueprint, and that blueprint is particularly important this season as the Ravens look to get themselves back to the playoffs.