Ravens' Outlook Under New Salary-Cap Limit
The 2015 NFL salary cap has finally been set at $143.28 million for all NFL teams, which is a $10 million increase from last season.
"The Ravens needed the salary cap to rise," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson.
But even with the raise, Baltimore is still in a tight financial situation.
The Ravens' adjusted salary cap is actually $145.13 million, according to the NFL Players Association, because each club can carry over unused cap space from the prior league year. The Ravens carried over $5.79 million from last year, but also lost $3.94 million due to players triggering incentive clauses.
That leaves a petite $4.604 million available to spend when free agency opens in one week, per Wilson.
Where exactly is all that money going?
As noted yesterday, the Ravens reportedly have $12.5 million in dead money (mostly due to Ray Rice's release). Below is a breakdown of the top-15 Ravens' cap hits and the money tied up at each position, per Spotrac.com.
|Position||Players||2015 Cap Dollars||% Of Cap||NFL Rank|
We already know the Ravens have some work to do on the steep contracts of Ngata and Webb, but it's also important to note where the front office is finding good value. The Sun's Jon Meoli gave his top-5 best contracts on the Ravens' roster.
"The veteran came to the Ravens two seasons ago and has done nothing but impress as the centerpiece of the defense. His base salary of $1.6 million made him a huge value, and salaries of $3.5 million, $3 million, and $3.5 over the next three years are far from unmanageable."
"This list could feature exclusively rookie contracts, but of the best of those on the Ravens' roster, Wagner's $585,000 base salary in 2015 and a cap hit of not much more is every team's dream at the tackle position."
"It's known that Flacco's contract number gets exorbitant next season and will need a restructure. But in 2015, and through the first few years of this deal, he's delivered. His 2015 cap hit of $14.55 million is 15th highest in the league, and you could do a lot worse for that money."
"Yanda has earned four Pro Bowl berths and a Super Bowl ring in the first four seasons under his current deal, which is entering its final year. At an average number of $6.4 million, that's more than valuable production at guard."
"Like Wagner, Williams has one of the best deals in the league, because both emerged as top-level players in their second seasons. That gives the Ravens two more seasons of performance on reasonable rookie contracts, and Williams could have an even bigger role going forward."
Jacoby Jones To Visit Bengals, Titans
Are the Ravens going to have to game plan for Jacoby Jones twice next year?
They will if something comes of his visit with the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals.
Jones, who was released by the Ravens last week, is scheduled to meet with the Bengals, the team's reporter Geoff Hobson tweeted. He is also set to meet with the Tennessee Titans, according to the Tennessean.
General Manager Ozzie Newsome stated that one of the reasons the Ravens released Jones last week was because they wanted him to have time to get a new job. It didn't take long for him to find potential suitors.
"The Ravens don't face the Titans next season. But if Jones signs with the Bengals, instead of blocking for Jones, the Ravens' special teams units may be trying to stop him," wrote CSNBaltimore.com's Clifton Brown.
Will Ngata End Up With Colts?
Every time another day goes by without an extension for Ngata, pessimism grows.
ESPN's Jamison Hensley believes the Ravens can "realistically" offer Ngata a little more guaranteed money than his $8.5 million base salary in 2015, in addition to an opportunity to retire a Raven.
"Perhaps, Ngata believes another team will pay him more than the Ravens," wrote Hensley. "Perhaps, Ngata believes the Indianapolis Colts will be that team."
Hensley doesn't have any sources that indicate Ngata and the Colts have mutual interest (after all, if the two sides were talking, that would be tampering), but Hensley listed four reasons why the two would make a good fit:
1) Ngata's ties to Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano.
2) The pipeline of defensive linemen from Baltimore to Indianapolis (a.k.a. Arthur Jones and Cory Redding).
3) The sting of the AFC championship loss in New England. The Colts know it was their run defense that ruined their hopes of reaching the Super Bowl.
4) The Colts have plenty of money to spend (sixth most cap space).
Who Got Tagged, Who Didn't
Not surprisingly, the Ravens didn't use their franchise tag on either wide receiver Torrey Smith or outside linebacker Pernell McPhee.
But there were plenty of other franchise tags that could indirectly affect the Ravens and their two pending free agents.
Chiefs LB Justin Houston
Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski
Dolphins TE Charles Clay (transition tag)
Lions DT Ndamukong Suh
Broncos TE Julius Thomas
Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray
Patriots S Devin McCourty
Packers WR Randall Cobb
Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin
Bills DE Jerry Hughes
Browns TE Jordan Cameron
"Those moves might not mean a lot directly for the Ravens, but they certainly could affect the markets for two of the Ravens' primary unrestricted free agents (Smith and McPhee)," wrote The Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "If they hadn't been tagged, Bryant and Thomas would have been the top two unrestricted free agent wide receivers on the market. With them not available, Smith might become an even more attractive option for teams looking for a big and fast receiver.
"As far as McPhee, there's little ambiguity about his situation. With Houston and Pierre-Paul staying with their current teams, McPhee is considered one of the top free agent pass rushers available, and he'll be paid accordingly. It won't be by the Ravens as they are not in position to break the bank on another pass rusher."
Hensley: Ravens Establish Precedent By Quickly Cutting Hampton
The Ravens announced the release of reserve cornerback Victor Hampton after he was arrested for a DWI. His release came about a month after the team cut defensive tackle Terrence Cody, who was under investigation for animal cruelty.
These swift moves seem like no coincidence after Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the end of the season that that the "threshold of tolerance" has changed with off-the-field behavior.
But Hensley and Zrebiec wonder whether the Ravens are establishing a precedent for all future transgressors, including starters, and not just roster bubble players.
"If a high-profile player does get in serious trouble, the Ravens have to either follow their precedent or face criticism for making an exception to the rule," wrote Hensley.
- Why the Ravens should let other teams overpay for Justin Forsett and Torrey Smith. [ProFootballTalk.com]