Just when it looked like the Ravens would be relieved from a hindering amount of dead money, they might have to deal with a decent amount again in 2016.
The reported $24 million of dead money incurred in 2015 season was the sixth most among all 32 teams. Cutting Ray Rice ($9.5 million) and trading Haloti Ngata ($7.5 million) made up 70 percent of that figure.
With those two player contracts, and others, completely off the cap books in 2016, the Ravens have the second-least amount of scheduled dead money heading into 2016. But General Manager Ozzie Newsome and his team have yet to make decisions about potential cap casualties this offseason, which will drive up the figure.
One cap casualty could be tight end Dennis Pitta, who isn't sure whether he will ever be cleared by doctors to play football again.
"We had dead money with Ray [Rice] last year. There's no doubt," Newsome said at Thursday's end-of-year press conference. "I don't know what the situation is going to be with Pitta. That means there could be some more dead money."
If the Ravens release Pitta, they will reportedly incur $6.6 million of dead money. If they designate him as a post-June 1 release (each team can give two players such a designation), they could spread his cap hit over two years – $2.2 million in 2016 and $4.4 million in 2017. A common misnomer is that if Pitta retires, the dead money would disappear. But the same cap implications stand with releases, retirements and trades.
The cap implications likely mean the Ravens, doctors and Pitta have to decide by June whether he will play football in 2016.
"It's not entirely my decision," Pitta said last week. "Certainly, I have a lot of weight in what my future holds, but [it is] not totally in my hands. We'll give it some time this offseason, and I'll certainly do some thinking and testing my body and hip, and we'll see."
The Ravens are also entertaining the idea of re-signing Kelechi Osemele this offseason as a tackle, instead of a guard, the position he's played a majority of his NFL career. But, it's unlikely the team will pay two franchise tackles. If Eugene Monroe were to be released or traded, the Ravens would incur another $6.6 million in dead money next season, or $2.2 million in 2016 and $4.4 million in 2017 as a post-June 1 cut.
Overall, the Ravens don't have a ton of cap space as it is.
It's hard to know exactly how much room they have to work with until the league announces the 2016 cap limit, but Spotrac.com estimates Baltimore will have just under $8 million to spend. Of course, the Ravens will likely clear more space with moves this offseason.
The good news is Newsome has already laid a huge chunk of the ground work.
He's already agreed to extensions with franchise cornerback Jimmy Smith, the NFL's top guard in Marshal Yanda and Pro Bowl punter Sam Koch. All three were scheduled to become free agents in March before inking their new contracts, and that doesn't even count safety Will Hill who signed a two-year deal.
Now, the Ravens are faced with only addressing contract situations with three starters, including Osemele, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and cornerback Shareece Wright.
"We took the opportunity to sign three players during the season, or since the draft," said Newsome. "And when you sign players like that, that affects your cap going forward. I don't think we'll be as busy as some teams are in March. We never have [been]."
But will the Ravens have enough cap space to sign other free agents as they become available?
"When there is a player we think can come in and improve our football team and help us, then we will have the cap room capable of being able to get that player signed," Newsome said.