Ravens Will 'Exhaust Every Avenue' To Gain Salary Cap Space


The Ravens have less than two weeks to stock their piggy bank for the NFL's annual spending spree.

Free agency opens with the new league year on March 10, and the Ravens have several critical decisions ahead of them over the next 11 days.

"We will exhaust every avenue that we have to use and to get as much cap flexibility as we can, so that I can, hopefully, have us set up to move toward the draft with the best football team that we can have," General Manager Newsome said.

Reaching an extension with veteran tackle Haloti Ngata is at the top of the list.

The Ravens have made it clear they want to keep the "iconic" defender in Baltimore for his entire career, and reaching a new deal would significantly lower his reported $16 million salary cap hit for 2015. But the two sides first have to agree on a deal, or the Ravens could decide to part ways with Ngata to save a reported $8.5 million in cap room.

"That's Ozzie job to negotiate the nuances of those contracts that allow us to get some cap relief and give Haloti a chance to stay here," Owner Steve Bisciotti said.

Once Ngata's contract situation is resolved, then the Ravens will have a much clearer picture of their spending money to negotiate with free agents like wide receiver Torrey Smith and running back Justin Forsett. 

The Ravens reportedly have between $3-5 million in cap space currently available, which is the sixth-fewest in the NFL. The exact cap figure for the upcoming season has not yet been determined, but projections estimate that it could exceed $140 million after a jump of about $8 million.

Being pressed against the salary cap is a familiar situation in Baltimore, as the Ravens routinely spend to the limit to retain and acquire players.

"There are a lot of teams out there that don't spend to the cap, and we do," Bisciotti said. "I'm always envious of those teams right about this time of the year, and then they're envious of me when we are in the playoffs. So, we're going to keep doing what we do, the way we do it."

Part of creating and maintaining salary cap space is the reality that the Ravens will have to let some of their free agents walk in free agency. Newsome made that clear when asked about keeping outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who could cash in with a huge deal similar to what the Ravens have seen with other key defenders over the years.

"We can't pay everybody market value, because it would hurt our roster overall in trying to retain other guys and then go out in the market and get other guys," Newsome acknowledged.

Another reality is cutting veterans who still have years left on their contract.

Newsome is known for having a shrewd business sense when it comes to player contracts, and the Ravens have shown they are willing to part ways with big-name players to save money. That process started Wednesday by cutting wide receiver Jacoby Jones and continued with the release of defensive end Chris Canty two days later.

"We like to retain our football players, and we also like to be able to create some cap room," Newsome said.

The Ravens aren't known for breaking the bank during the initial spending spree in free agency, but Newsome does have a history of getting creative to pull off deals.

Last year, he found the money to extend Terrell Suggs, re-sign Eugene Monroe, Daryl Smith, Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones, and still add veteran Steve Smith Sr. when he hit the market. The previous year, the Ravens freed up the money to sign Pro Bowl pass rusher Elvis Dumervil to a five-year contract when he unexpectedly became available.

Newsome and cap specialist Pat Moriarty will methodically work through the cap possibilities over the next two weeks, and the Ravens plan to be in a favorable position when the free agency doors open March 10 at 4 p.m.

"We've been working at it," Newsome said. "We're working very hard to gain a lot of cap flexibility so that we can retain our guys and be able also to go out and get some."

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