Late for Work 1/20: Looking at the Ravens' 2021 Salary Cap Situation

GM Eric DeCosta

Pump the Brakes on Cap Flexibility for Now

If the Ravens target some of the top free agents this offseason, there's a good chance they'll have to get creative with cap space.

Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland projects the Ravens to have just over $10 million in cap space heading into free agency, which means plenty of tough decisions.

The key is that the salary cap may only rise to $175 million after teams were financially hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cap was originally estimated to rise to $210 million.

"The Ravens certainly have some holes to fill, but overall have an exciting young talent base to continue to build around," McFarland wrote. "Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic is going to put a major dent in their hopes of taking advantage of the early, cheaper years of Lamar Jackson's career. Now, like most teams, the Ravens are going to need to be creative with their offseason plans, given that the originally expected Cap space of $40-50M will, unfortunately, not be coming to fruition.

"Instead, the Ravens are going to have a very tight Cap and are going to need to do a lot of maneuvering to create the Cap space needed to accomplish their offseason goals."

McFarland acknowledged that this is an early projection, but it gives a good idea of what the Ravens are expected to work with this offseason. There are plenty of factors that will play into the salary cap space over the next few months, but it's time to pump the brakes on a free-agent spending spree.

The Ravens don't usually rank among the league leaders in cap space, but McFarland noted that there's ways to create more. That could include extensions, releases, trades or restructures.

It could also lead to the possibility of signing players on shorter, "prove it" deals like we've seen Baltimore do in the past.

"[N]ow the Ravens, much like most NFL teams, are going to have to make tough decisions about their rosters – and perhaps release some players they would otherwise prefer to keep," McFarland wrote. "The Salary Cap is always a puzzle – especially this year – and the Ravens' Front Office will likely use a combination of the above maneuvers to create the Cap space necessary to address the team's pressing roster needs. While it's going to be tough for the Ravens, there are certainly a lot of teams in far worse shape than the Ravens. At least that bodes well for the Ravens.

"As always, the months of February, March and April will once again be an interesting time for the Ravens as the look to tweak their roster in hopes of finally getting over the hump and on to the Super Bowl."

Allen Robinson 'Likes' a Pundit's Proposed Move to the Ravens

Even though the salary-cap situation may not be as rosy as hoped, we're just less than two months from the start of free agency, and excitement is already beginning to build.

And here come the cryptic tweets, or likes in this instance, with pending unrestricted free agent wide receiver Allen Robinson.

Robinson liked a tweet by Bears Wire's Bryan Perez saying, "[t]he Ravens should just hand Allen Robinson a blank check. He's everything Lamar needs in 2021."

"He knows what's up," Perez wrote. "He knows the Ravens are a dominant wide receiver away from completing their offense, and that he's on a very short list of potential free agents who can make that happen for them. And that means a massive payday that the Bears probably can't match."

"The Ravens already have a dominant rushing attack and a defense that, even when not playing at their best, is among the top in the league," Ravens Wire's Matthew Stevens wrote. "Adding another weapon for Jackson and improving the passing scheme might be all it takes to turn Baltimore from a playoff team into Super Bowl champions. At the very least, Robinson appears to be open to the idea."

While there's certainly nothing binding Robinson to the Ravens by liking a tweet, it creates an interesting conversation. It's also important to point out that Robinson has liked tweets about potential free-agent moves to the Miami Dolphins and Las Vegas Raiders.

After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Chicago Bears, Robinson is expected to be one of the most sought-after receivers on the free-agent market. Bleacher Report's Maurice Moton predicted Robinson could command a contract north of $20 million a year.

Anything in that range would be the most money Baltimore has ever spent on a free-agent receiver.

"Regardless of where Robinson signs in the offseason, he's due for a big payday because of his productivity within an aerial attack ranked 22nd or worse over the last two seasons," Moton wrote. "Coming off a 1,250-yard, six-touchdown campaign, Robinson will hit the open market as arguably the top wideout. He's at least one of the big three alongside Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay."

One of Justin Tucker's Misses Actually Crossed the End Line

Justin Tucker had never missed two field goals from inside 50 yards in the same game before Saturday night's loss to the Buffalo Bills. It turns out he ended up on the wrong side of a game of inches.

NFL data and analytics expert Michael Lopez posted a graphic on Twitter showing that Tucker's first kick from 41 yards hit off the left upright and crossed the end line before landing in front of the goalpost.

You know when the most accurate kicker in the NFL is missing, something is up. And if you're wondering why that didn't count as a make, The Baltimore Sun explained:

"According to the NFL rulebook — Section 4, Article 1, Part C — the entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal, which is the area above the crossbar and between the uprights or, if above the uprights, between the outside edges. If the ball passes through the goal, and returns through the goal without striking the ground or some object or person beyond the goal, the attempt is unsuccessful."

Lopez said wind undoubtedly played a factor in both of Tucker's attempts, but it wasn't one-sided. Bills kicker Tyler Bass also struggled to account for the wind missing on two attempts.

NFL Network's Kurt Warner wasn't a fan of weather playing a factor in the game.

"Can't we just play every playoff game inside?" Warner said. "... I don't like when we come to the biggest moments of the season, the biggest moments of our career, and now the elements become part of the mix. I want the best team to be able to advance [and] all of the elements be the exact same for every team."

Mark Ingram Made a 'Significant Impact' With Ravens

Few shined brighter on and off the field in Baltimore than Mark Ingram II, which is why it wasn't a surprise given the reaction following the veteran running back's release.

"Ingram will wind up spending less than two full years as a Raven," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "However, few players in recent franchise history have made as significant of an impact in such a short period of time."

"To teammates and coaches, Ingram's imprint on the franchise will go beyond two years and two words [big truss]," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "Few players have been embraced so strongly in the locker room in such a short run in Baltimore.

"Ingram's leadership really shined when he was removed from the spotlight. A Pro Bowl player in 2019, he lost his starting job midway through the 2020 season and never said a negative word publicly. Even though he was no longer the star running back on the team, Ingram was there for his teammates when they hit tough times."

How much of an impact did Ingram make in a short time with the Ravens? Just ask a number of his teammates, who sent Ingram their jerseys signed with personalized messages.

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