Ravens Cap Room Doubled. Trade Talk Swirling, What's Ozzie Newsome up to?
The reported restructured contract of cornerback Jimmy Smith essentially doubled the Ravens' salary cap space.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said the team won't be able to keep all of its talented defensive linemen, and expects the phone to start ringing from teams interested in a potential trade.
There's chatter of negotiations "heating up" (see below) to reinforce the injury-riddled offensive line.
The climate is ripe for General Manager Ozzie Newsome to make a move.
"The Ravens doubled their cap space with this restructured deal and now have a little more than $10 million in cap room," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "This can allow Baltimore to make one or two additional moves."
Per multiple reports, Smith's 2017 base salary went from $8.5 million to $775,000, with the $7.7 million difference being converted into a signing bonus, and immediately creating $5.15 million in cap space. While the NFLPA lists the Ravens as $10.196 million under the cap, that number will shrink when the rule of 51 disappears at the start of the regular season. Prior to restructuring Smith's contract, there were reports that the Ravens would start the season more than $1 million *over *the cap.
To balance the budget, $2.75 million was added to Smith's 2018 and 2019 cap hits, making them $15.675 million and $16.175 million, respectively. Those are the highest cap charges for any Ravens player besides quarterback Joe Flacco.
"Smith does not lose any money in this reworked contract. He just gets it faster, and the Ravens push the cap hit in future years," Hensley explained. "This is the second straight year the Ravens have restructured Smith's contract. Baltimore also did so in March 2016."
"The Ravens needed more salary cap room to potentially add to their roster later this summer or just to maintain the flexibility to make roster moves during the season," added The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "Restructuring contracts is always the last resort for the Ravens because it adds money onto future salary caps."
The day after the restructured contract was reported, the Ravens announced wide receiver Tim White (thumb) and left guard Alex Lewis (shoulder) will undergo season-ending surgeries.
The Ravens have plenty of depth at receiver to absorb the loss of the undrafted rookie, but the offensive line was already thin, and losing Lewis for the season makes it even thinner.
There are a couple ways the Ravens can bolster the unit. One is a trade. The Ravens could take from their deep defensive line, and turn that into trade bait for an offensive lineman.
"It's a great problem to have," Harbaugh said Saturday of his deep defensive line. "We have a lot of really good D-linemen, and they can't all make the team, probably. But we have depth, and I'm really excited about those guys. That competition makes everybody better. We're going to have a heck of a group, and I'm sure people are going to be calling us here shortly with some of our guys. We just have to see how it plays out."
The other avenue is to keep an eye on training camp cuts by other teams …
Negotiations With Center Jeremy Zuttah 'Heating Up'
Could the Ravens bring back center Jeremy Zuttah* *just five months after trading him to the San Francisco 49ers?
After the 49ers cut Zuttah last week, negotiations have "heated up," according to The Sun, and the folks at Baltimore Beatdown are split on whether bringing back the nine-year veteran is a good idea.
"A good pick-up, but only for the right price," wrote Kyle P. Barber. "The Ravens are tight against the cap, and with Zuttah being cut only five months after being traded away from the Ravens, he'll need to settle for some low-dollar money to sign with Baltimore. The acquisition could help the Ravens on many levels."
Barber points to Zuttah's intimate knowledge of the Ravens' system and personnel, even if there have been some changes to the blocking scheme with Greg Roman in town. Barber says it would allow Jensen to play guard (where it is particularly thin with Lewis and Nico Siragusa being lost for the season), and Zuttah could be cheaper than other options like Nick Mangold.
Barber's colleague, Logan Levy, doesn't like the idea of reuniting with Zuttah, however.
"Putting aside how poor Zuttah performed last season for Baltimore, the Ravens have two major reasons why they should not add him," Levy wrote. "1. Ryan Jensen has been performing well as the team's starting center and he continued to prove that during Baltimore's first preseason game. 2. Matt Skura, Jermaine Eluemunor or James Hurst could be solid starting guards.
"The Bottom Line: Baltimore does not need a center. If anything, they need another guard. Who they decide will be their starting guard will be determined later, but it will be in the Ravens' best interest to wait to see what other veterans become available later in the preseason."
On another note, here's an encouraging development from Sunday's practice. We saw how dominant the defensive line was during Thursday's night preseason game, and apparently the offensive line more than held its own against it.
"Offense wins blocking drill," wrote The Sun's Edward Lee. "During a one-on-one blocking exercise, the offense won seven consecutive matchups before a battle between tight end Nick Boyle and outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith ended in a stalemate."
Common Sense Says Ravens Didn't Stash Tim White
There was a looooot of debate among fans over the weekend as to whether White's season-ending thumb injury was legitimate or the Ravens' way of "stashing" or "redshirting" the undrafted rookie on injured reserve for the year.
Both Russell Street Report's Brian McFarland and Zrebiec shot down the idea.
McFarland pointed out that White is scheduled to have surgery. Players don't have surgery just to be "stashed." He also said the cap is too tight to redshirt an undrafted rookie in favor of a more expensive player. And finally, there is still a month left of the preseason, which White could've used to develop. Removing him from the field *now *isn't beneficial to anyone.
"How does that make sense?" McFarland asked.
Joe Flacco's Biggest Challenge Will Be Chemistry With Receivers
You'll be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with the Ravens' decision to hold Flacco out of all of the Ravens' preseason games. There's no need to put his back at risk while the offensive line continues to experiment with who the five starters will be.
As a 10-year veteran, Flacco knows what he's doing. That said, it will create a challenge for him once he does step on the field for the Week 1 showdown against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's understandable the Ravens want to play it safe with Flacco, but this increases the challenge of Flacco building chemistry with his receivers, which is an issue this year in particular," wrote Hensley. "Flacco has not played more than 17 games with any of his top three wide receivers (Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman), any of his tight ends or his best pass-catcher out of the backfield (Danny Woodhead). While practice will be beneficial, Flacco already has been sidelined for two weeks of training camp and essentially will miss four to five quarters of preseason action that could have helped in building rapport with his targets.
"Flacco needs all the work and as many throws to his targets as he can get. When Flacco returns -- whatever day that might be -- he will be in catch-up mode."
"Ravens injury [Sunday] report: S Eric Weddle left practice about 30 minutes early," wrote Hensley. "He walked off the field with a trainer, but he wasn't favoring anything. OL Jermaine Eluemunor also left the field. … The Ravens have already lost three linemen for the season since camp began. Three Ravens were out Sunday after practicing the previous day: WR Jeremy Maclin, OT Ronnie Stanley and LB Tyus Bowser. The only other starter sidelined is QB Joe Flacco (back)." [ESPN]