Here's Why Some High-Profile Ravens Contracts May Need Restructuring
Some big-name players could restructure their contracts before the start of the season to alleviate the Ravens' tight salary-cap space.
Who are these big-name players?
"The guess here (and it's just a guess) is that some combination of [kicker Justin] Tucker, [guard Marshal] Yanda and [safety Eric] Weddle would be the most likely path for the Ravens," wrote Russell Street Report's capologist Brian McFarland.
If the season started today, McFarland projects the Ravens would have less than $1 million under the cap limit. Yeesh. That's just not gonna cut it, as teams typically need to carry a healthy slush fund of at least a couple million in case of injuries.
The NFLPA currently lists the Ravens at $6.9 million under the salary cap, but McFarland says that will change as soon as Week 1 hits because:
1) The Rule of 51 ends, and all 53 players will count against the cap
2) All players on the physically unable to perform list and injured reserve will count against the cap
3) All practice squad players will count against the cap
4) Cap adjustments from 2016 should be applied appropriately
5) Assuming he makes the team, Michael Campanaro's $250K roster bonus will be applied, along with Kyle Arrington's $1.05 million injury protection benefit
"Needless to say, barring a huge surprise cut that creates an abundance of cap space, the team is going to have to rework a contract or two to create additional cap space that will be needed throughout the season for injury replacements (much less to start the season if the injury bug hits sooner)," wrote McFarland.
Plus, if the Ravens would still like to sign an offensive lineman, tight end or any other player at a thin position, they'll need additional space.
And, remember, restructures are different from pay cuts. The players' still get their money; it's just shuffled around and usually pushed into future years. While re-working contracts helps an immediate need, it could create a problem in future years, so the Ravens don't like to do it often.
"[I]t is generally players with larger base salaries who make the best candidates for restructures," McFarland wrote. "So, for the Ravens that means players like Jimmy Smith ($8.5 million base salary), Joe Flacco ($6 million), Marshal Yanda ($6 million), Terrell Suggs ($4 million), Eric Weddle ($4 million) and Justin Tucker ($2.8 million). But, teams would generally like to avoid restructuring players that (1) you've already restructured recently, (2) are older/have injury risks, (3) already have very high future cap numbers and/or (4) you might be looking to, or have the need to, cut in the near future (2018)."
As such, McFarland doesn't think Smith, Flacco or Suggs would be asked to restructure.
While Ozzie Newsome's staff has had to carefully navigate free agency and contracts with a lot of dead money taking up cap space, things look more optimistic next year.
"The Ravens are currently carrying close to $20 million in dead money, so, yes, dead money is a problem again this year," McFarland wrote. "This is largely due to the large number of highly paid players that have departed this spring – Pitta, Shareece Wright, Jeremy Zuttah, Arrington, Kendrick Lewis, Tim Jernigan.
"The good news is that for 2018, there is presently only a little over $2.2 million in dead money counting on the cap and, at least at this point, not a lot of candidates for release in 2018 are carrying a lot of dead money. As such, dead money, isn't likely to be much of an issue in 2018."
Suggs, Tucker, Smith, Williams or Yanda? Who Is Baltimore's Best Homegrown Talent?
There's a healthy list of players that have been drafted by "The Wizard of Oz" and have developed to become rock star veterans for the Ravens.
Apparently, not many other teams can say the same.
That's what NFL.com's Marc Sessler discovered when he set out to crown the best homegrown talent for each NFL franchise.
"We've scanned the rosters of all 32 teams to pinpoint their most valuable homegrown veteran player," Sessler wrote. "If you think every club has at least one obvious, rock-solid candidate – think again. A handful of rosters are stocked almost entirely with young talent. The rules: It can't be a QB, but it must be a player with at least five years of NFL experience – all with the same team."
Under these rules, Flacco can't be considered because he's a quarterback and linebacker C.J. Mosley is out because he's entering just his fourth season.
That leaves Suggs, Tucker, Yanda, Smith, defensive tackle Brandon Williams, cornerback Lardarius Webb, linebacker Albert McClellan, punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox as candidates.
That's a strong list to choose from, and I'd have a hard time not selecting Suggs or Yanda. Neither were named to the top spot, however. Tucker got the nod.
"It's impossible to ignore the incredible career of Terrell Suggs, the pass-rushing terror who nabbed Rookie of the Year honors in 2003 before becoming the Defensive Player of the Year in 2011," Sessler wrote.
"Suggs will go down as one of the nastiest defenders of his time, but he's not the most talented veteran on today's Ravens. That award goes to Tucker, Baltimore's pristine sixth-year kicker. While others were botching extra points last autumn, Tucker nailed 98.5 percent of his attempted field goals and PATs. Going 10-for-10 on kicks of 50-plus yards, Tucker was a rock. That won't change in 2017."
Steve Smith Asks Marlon Humphrey: Pick-Six or a De-cleater?
Ah, two plays that defenders live for: the pick-six and de-cleater.
Well, retired Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. caught up with first-round draft pick Marlon Humphrey in the NFL Network video to the right and asked him a series of questions, including which play he most enjoys.
Humphrey took a minute to decide, but ultimately chose pick-six because he felt it helped the TEAM more (maybe John Harbaugh was within earshot?). Smith argued for the de-cleater because it would change how receivers run routes.
Speaking of de-cleaters, it is at this point in time that I'd like to help everyone re-live linebacker Ray Lewis' massive, yet clean, hit on New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller.
We miss you, Ray.
Ravens' Sneaky Strength on Offense and Defense
Statistical analyst from Football Outsiders, Aaron Schatz, came up with a "sneaky" under-the-radar strength for the offenses and defenses of all 32 teams. Here they are for Baltimore:
Offense: Broken tackles
"Baltimore ranked second with 145 broken tackles after ranking near the bottom of the league with just 81 in 2015. Most of the change came from running backs, switching out Buck Allen (23 in 2015) and Justin Forsett (12) for Kenneth Dixon (34 in 2016) and Terrance West (49 on 227 touches in 2016 after 8 on 66 touches in 2015)."
Defense: Performance at home
"The Ravens had the No. 1 defensive DVOA in the league at home but ranked 23rd in defensive DVOA on the road. This is more of a weird fluke stat than something that will likely carry over into 2017."
- Nate Davis continues his series of positional rankings with all 32 NFL quarterback groups. Joe Flacco and Co. were listed at No. 21, which can be improved with Flacco being another year removed from ACL surgery. The top 5 quarterback groups were the New England Patriots (Tom Brady), Green Bay Packers (Aaron Rodgers), Atlanta Falcons (Matt Ryan), Pittsburgh Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger) and Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson). [USA Today]
- Baltimore was listed at No. 16 in ProFootballTalk's preseason power rankings. "John Harbaugh and [Flacco] are under pressure to win and win now, and with as many as 10 new starters, that won't be easy," wrote Charean Williams. "The Steelers and Bengals both appear to have better talent, and though the Ravens can compete for a wild-card berth, they will have to find more offensive firepower after ranking 17th in total offense, including 28th in rushing." [ProFootballTalk]