Late For Work 1/5: Simple And Straightforward Way To Lower Joe Flacco's Monster Cap Hit

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Simple And Straightforward Way To Lower Flacco's Monster Cap Hit
Re-negotiating a $120 million NFL contract for your franchise quarterback is never easy, but there is a "relatively simple and straightforward" way to lower Joe Flacco's 2016 cap hit, says CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora.

Flacco will reportedly count $28.55 million against the salary cap in 2016, which is the third-highest hit in the NFL (behind Drew Brees and Ndamukong Suh). That number is the total cap space he accounted for in 2014 and 2015 combined.

The nearly $29 million represents about one-fifth of the entire estimated $147 million cap next season, a number that would be prohibitive in turning a 5-11 team into a playoff contender.

Reworking Flacco's contract could free up an estimated $6 to $10 million, which General Manager Ozzie Newsome could put toward strengthening other areas of the team, including pass rusher, cornerback and receiver.

"[I]t's worth noting that the last series of negotiations with Flacco became heated and somewhat acrimonious at times," wrote La Canfora.

But both sides knew this day would come, and the goal is to find a new deal before the free-agent market opens on March 15.

One way to drop the cap hit, per La Canfora and  WNST's Luke Jones, is converting a portion of Flacco's remaining base salaries into a signing bonus and adding two or three years onto the already remaining three years currently on the contract.

A potential goal would be to get each year's cap hit closer to $20 million, says Jones, as opposed to where they currently stand (listed below):

2016: $18 million base salary; $28.55 million cap hit
2017: $20.6 million base salary; $31.15 million cap hit
2018: $20 million base salary; 24.75 million cap hit

"A renegotiation won't solve all of the Ravens' cap woes as the realistic scenario is adjusting his cap numbers closer to the $20.1 million average annual value of the original deal," says Jones. "But Flacco says he will leave the details up to the Ravens and [agent Joe] Linta.

For his part, Flacco is very aware of his cap figure, saying Monday that it is "obviously out there, and it's probably going to be somewhat of an issue."

"You know this day is going to come," Flacco said.

"The first few years of my deal, the cap number wasn't very big. So, you don't really have any other way around it [but] to have a monster one at the end of it. You know it's coming, unless the salary cap makes some kind of enormous jump, but it's really kind of out of my control. It's just an issue that these guys are used to dealing with, day-in and day-out."

Steve Smith's Peculiar Comment About Terrell Suggs

When wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. took a question Monday about fellow leader Terrell Suggs (both are rehabbing from Achilles injuries), his answer raised ESPN's Jamison Hensley's eyebrows.

Smith was asked if he's spoken with Suggs about the rehab, and he gave this "cryptic" response:

"Suggs is a little vulnerable right now," Smith said. "So, I'm not going to talk to Suggs about it. He's not a ray of sunshine like he usually is."

One can only guess what Smith meant by that comment, but Hensley pointed out that Smith is already out of his walking boot while Suggs was still wearing his a week ago. Suggs injured his Achilles almost two months before Smith.

When reporters asked Elvis Dumervil about Suggs' future, Dumervil simply said, "You can ask Terrell Suggs that question."

"Suggs was among the few injured players who didn't come into the locker room after attending the Ravens' season-ending team meeting," wrote Hensley. "He hasn't spoken to reporters since he suffered the season-ending injury in the opener in Denver."

Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters two months ago that he expects Suggs to return, but reporters will likely ask for an update at the tentatively-planned season-review press conference* *Thursday.

Biggest Moves You Can Expect This Offseason

If you're hoping the Ravens make a big splash in free agency this offseason, here's a little help in tempering those expectations before you get too excited.

For starters, the Ravens don't have a ton of salary cap space. Depending on the final cap limit set by the league, Baltimore only has an estimated $5.5 to $9 million of cap space. And signing other teams' big-name free agents has rarely been the way Newsome handles business.

The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec tells us what will likely be the biggest moves this offseason.

"As the offseason began Monday following the conclusion on Sunday of a bitterly disappointing 5-11 season, many Ravens said the healthy returns of frontline players are the biggest additions the team can make over the next couple of months," wrote Zrebiec.

At Monday's locker room cleanout, Zrebiec noted that many of those injured players were in the building and will be key figures of the 2016 season.

"Flacco arrived first, walking gingerly to his locker where he was quickly surrounded by reporters," wrote Zrebiec. "Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. came in about eight minutes later and propped his right foot up on a stool as he addressed his decision to put off retirement and return for a 16th NFL season. Before too long, tight end Dennis Pitta was in front of his locker, and so were left tackle*Eugene Monroe and center Jeremy Zuttah. Running back Justin Forsett and tight end *Crockett Gillmore popped their heads in, as well.

"All seven players were viewed as key parts of the Ravens offense in 2015. Yet each one finished the year among the 21 Ravens on either injured reserve or the physically unable to perform list."

Tucker's Agent, Ravens Have Been Negotiating For Over A Year

The Ravens already got a huge head start on this offseason.

Things would be much more hectic had they not already extended contracts of guard Marshal Yanda, cornerback Jimmy Smith, safety Will Hill and punter Sam Koch before the end of this season.

The Ravens also have a head start on the contract negotiations with kicker Justin Tucker.

"My agent [Robert Roche] and these guys have been talking, on and off, for a better part of a year, year and a half," Tucker told The Sun's Jon Meoli. "At this juncture, I'm kind of letting it all just unfold how it's going to unfold."

Tucker said he's optimistic a deal will get done, but is letting his agent take care of the details while he focuses on getting better for the 2016 season. He will also spend some time with his wife, Amanda, who is expecting their first child.

"The Ravens aren't going to let the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history walk this offseason," wrote Hensley. "Baltimore will either sign Tucker to a long-term deal or place the franchise tag on him." 

Ravens Finish As Second-Best Defense In Second Half

The Ravens' defensive turnaround is kind of amazing.

It finished as the NFL's second-best defense (behind the Houston Texans) in the second half of the season. It ranked No. 24 in the first half.

The defense gave up a whopping 92.5 fewer yards per game in the final eight games to accomplish that feat.

"The Ravens made some personnel changes over that time," wrote Hensley. "Lardarius Webb* *played more free safety, and Shareece Wright moved into a starting role. But [Harbaugh] said the improvement came down to how the players executed."

Titans Making A Run For DeCosta

Another year, another team wants Eric DeCosta.

The Tennessee Titans are interested in DeCosta as they begin their search for a new general manager, according to NFL Network's Albert Breer. For the past several years, DeCosta has been at the top of many NFL teams' GM lists, but he has turned down offers and opted for the assistant GM role in Baltimore instead.

DeCosta got his scouting start in Baltimore when the franchise came to town in 1996, and he has deep family roots in the area.

"[E]very indication is that he's prepared to just hang out there and wait for Ozzie Newsome to retire so he can take over without moving," wrote ProFootballTalk.com's Darin Gantt.

"And even though the Titans job comes with a quarterback in place and the first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the uncertainty of their off-site ownership might be enough to keep him from being interested in them."

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