Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Baltimore Ravens

In Week 2 of our Best and Worst series we turn our attention to the AFC North and the Baltimore Ravens.

Best: Elvis Dumervil, 5 years, $26 million, $8.5 million guaranteed

While the Ravens I think struggle a bit with the contracts that they offer to homegrown talent, they generally drive great bargains with players that come from outside the organization. The Dumervil situation was one of the more unique ones and the Ravens pounced on the opportunity, really signing a great contract with a terrific pass rusher. Continue reading Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Baltimore Ravens »

Backloading Contracts and Mortgaging the Future

When teams sign a player to a certain contract value they have a general expectation of return based on that salary figure. The salary cap numbers, however, can be manipulated pretty easily as some teams will create an incredibly low cap figure early in a contract only to see that contract explode in later years even though the cash component of the contract will always remain as is.  I’ve always been of the opinion that the more cap that you can eat early in the contract the more flexibility it gives you in the future when player’s performances decline. With all the talk of restructures of contracts and their impact on the future I wanted to explore just how much teams are backloading or frontloading those deals to have that cap flexibility. Continue reading Backloading Contracts and Mortgaging the Future »

Ravens 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $4.7M ($143M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 50
Pro Bowlers: 3
Unrestricted Free Agents: 14(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 26

Salary Cap Breakdown

Ravens 2015 Salary Cap

Ravens Offensive Spending

Ravens Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

I can see a case both for and against keeping Torrey Smith, but given the Ravens other options are a 36 year old Steve Smith, an injured Dennis Pitta, and a 33 year old Owen Daniels (who is also a free agent), I can’t see them parting ways. Smith is coming off a bad season that did nothing for his free agent value, especially in light of all the big money disasters of the 2012 wide receiver free agent class. I would think that makes him affordable. This may be a “test the market” situation where the player comes back after realizing the prices may not be there for him…While there should be no expectation for Justin Forsett to have even remotely the same impact as he had last season he should provide the team some stability at the position where they can pair him with another low cost free agent or draft pick…I like the idea of bringing Daniels back who, when healthy, can be very productive. He may look to head elsewhere, such as Denver, but they should make an effort to re-sign him to a two year deal….Darian Stewart is an acceptable option at safety that can always become a role player later on if they are able to upgrade the secondary down the line.

 Free Agents to Let Walk

Pernell McPhee made the most of his walk year and probably raised his stock as much as any other player in the NFL. But the cost will too far exceed the production of someone who is probably best suited as a situational player. This is Paul Kruger all over again and the Ravens will treat him the same way.

Contracts to Modify

It is no secret that the Ravens are trying to work out some kind of new contract with Haloti Ngata to eliminate his $16 million cap hit. A lot of people are under the impression that this will result in a pay cut for Ngata but with a base salary of $8.5 million that is doubtful. His cap number is so high because of the heavy reliance on bonuses that the Ravens use in their contracts and they will most likely agree to make the $8.5M the new guarantee on a three year extension. The question is if Ngata believes he can get more money on the open market or will he be willing to take a contract similar to Terrell Suggs’ deal or maybe a more true Vince Wilfork type contract?  Since the $7.5 million proration is a sunk cost they could cut him for immediate cap relief while still working on a new deal…The contract the Ravens signed with Lardarius Webb was one of the last head scratchers at the position before the pull back in money for mid tier corners. Webb’s cap charge will be $12 million this season but cutting him will cost the team $10 million against the salary cap making that a difficult option. I’d expect them to try to cut a few million off that number….This is the final year that Marshal Yanda is under contract and he has been invaluable to the team. If they intend to re-sign him next year they should just do it now, lowering his  $8.45 million cap charge in the process, and continue the relationship with one of the better bargains in the NFL…

If Dennis Pitta will be unable to play football for the season, or for his career, I would strongly consider reworking his contract rather than retirement or cutting him. Pitta being removed from the roster will result in a $12.8 million cap charge, making that unrealistic. Pitta has a $6.2 million cap hit in 2015, which will be the cap charge even if designated a June 1 cut because of the $4 million in guaranteed salary.  The team can either prorate a portion of that salary or see if they can defer a portion of it to the 2016 season to lessen the impact on the cap this year.  For cap purposes this could turn into a situation where they keep Pitta on IR for two seasons and maintain just his $4 million guarantee over those two years if he can not play. If they did that they would essentially be spreading out a yearly dead money charge of $4.2-$4.4 million over three years.  That may not be in the spirit of the rules, but I believe it should be acceptable.

Players to Consider Releasing

Chris Canty is set to count for $3.33 million against the cap. Releasing him creates $2.66 million in cap room.  Canty was injured for a good portion of the year and is more suited for a close to the minimum contract. The team may wait to see what happens with Ngata before making this move…Cutting Albert McClellan saves the team $1 million.  He only played in 42 defensive snaps last season and that is too much to invest in a special teams player…Releasing Gino Gradkowski will create around $1.5 million in cap room.

Offseason Plan

That had to be a very difficult ending of the season for the Ravens in 2014 as their season ended on the combination of a bad QB decision and poor effort by a wide receiver on the same play after playing the Patriots better than anyone else in the AFC playoffs.  There is no reason to think that they can’t get back there next season which makes this an offseason where they have to avoid subtracting from the roster and finding ways to add despite not having largest amount cap space.

In many ways I feel that this is the last season for the Ravens before they begin to feel the impact of the Flacco contract. Flacco’s cap charge this season is just $14.55 million but will jump up to $28.55 million in 2015 due to the structure employed by the Ravens. They have no wiggle room in that deal to suggest any pay cut and the most they can do is push more money out. In 2015 they will also have to work out an extension with Jimmy Smith and Kelechi Osemele, so they can get tied up very quickly if they play their hand wrong.

The Ravens are rarely active in free agency and will usually focus on player released from other teams. They have done well in that regard in recent years with the signing of Elvis Dumervil and S. Smith. Given that McPhee will likely net them a 3rd round compensatory pick I would expect them to follow that same philosophy this year.

If they don’t bring back T. Smith, and maybe even if they do, I would definitely look at them as a landing spot for any player cut at that position. Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Marques Colston, Percy Harvin, etc… could all be available and help them at the position at least in the short term. This seems to be the most obvious position where they may be able to find players released that can play a role. Running back should be another spot where they can find a released player to fill a role just as they found Forsett last year.

This looks to be a poor year for free agent players in the secondary so I would expect players who are released to either not be worth a look or end up for going for too much relative to their performance level. I would expect the team to want to find both a cornerback and safety in the draft this season. Getting more help along the defensive line will be a priority especially if Ngata does end up leaving the team.I

In general the Ravens philosophy seems to pay very high on younger homegrown talent and then find a more mutually beneficial solution for their older veterans or bargain bin free agents.  It can be a very fine line to walk as any bad decisions, such as the Ray Rice contract or even a lesser extent the Ngata one, back you into a corner but it aso can help maximize the cap room required to re-sign your key players and avoid overpaying your rotational guys. If they can find that right mix of talent this offseason they should be a playoff team again, but keep an eye out for how their cap looks moving forward with the deals they do sign.

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Baltimore Ravens


Up next in our look at the best and worst contracts on each roster are the Baltimore Ravens.

Best Contract: Marshal Yanda

Marshal YandaA good contract is often a gift that keeps on giving. Even as the guard market has eroded somewhat, the deal signed by Yanda three years ago affords the Ravens top-level play at a price millions below the top of the positional market. This holds true in terms of this year’s cap cost, cash cost, and average salary per year.

The deal offers a good example of the effect that draft status as a rookie has on later contract negotiations. Yanda, a former third-rounder, hit unrestricted free agency and commanded notably less than his linemate Ben Grubbs—a former first-rounder, but of no greater accomplishment or acclaim—managed a year later.

Worst Contract: Ray Rice

Ray RiceFrom a purely contractual standpoint, quarterback Joe Flacco retains the title of worst contract in Baltimore. All of the circumstances that led to his predictably getting wildly overpaid don’t change just how badly mismatched his compensation now is with the level of play that he routinely provides, nor how handcuffed the Ravens have left themselves moving forward with the structure of the deal. It’s in contention for the worst active NFL contract, period.

But off-the-field circumstances have shed light on another problematic Baltimore contract. Ray Rice was fortunate to sign a new deal seemingly moments before the bottom completely dropped out of the running back market. At the time, he felt that he was being unfairly squeezed to take only $35 million over five years, but in retrospect the deal proved to be head, shoulders, and probably also waist above just about every subsequent contract given out to a running back.

In exchange for what he believed at the time to be a paltry average per year, Rice received an exceptionally favorable payout structure. It has been common among Baltimore’s big deals to front-load the payout via big signing and option bonuses, while back-loading the cap hits, and Rice’s deal was probably the most extreme example. Through a $15 million signing bonus and a $7 million year-two option, the contract paid out more than 71% of its total cash value in the first two years, while accounting for less than 31% of the resulting cap consumption.

Combined with low base salaries throughout, the result is a deal that doesn’t offer a cap benefit to terminate, shockingly, until 2016, the last of the five covered years. Even in year four, $9.5 million in potential dead money looms. This especially poses a problem in a situation like that in which Rice found himself recently, in enough legal trouble to reflect poorly on the organization, but not enough to actually let them off the hook from their contractual obligations to him. Of course they ultimately stood behind him; they couldn’t comfortably afford to cut him, so how much choice did they really have?

2013’s Best and Worst Steelers Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Marshal Yanda (see above)

2013 Worst Contract: Joe Flacco (still on roster; contract still bad)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!




Free Agency Thoughts: Baltimore Ravens


Key Additions: Steve Smith ($3.5M per year), Jeremy Zuttah ($3M), Darian Stewart ($1.3M), Owen Daniels ($1M)

Key Re-Signings: Eugene Monroe ($7.5M per year), Daryl Smith ($3.4M), Jacoby Jones ($3M)

Key Losses: Art Jones (Colts),Michael Oher (Titans), Corey Graham (Bills), James Ihedigbo (Lions),

Major Cuts: Vonta Leach ($1.8M cap savings)

Free Agency Thoughts:

The Ravens had their usual offseason with some key re-signings and bringing in new faces that were somewhat on the outskirts of free agency. The big move was keeping LT Eugene Monroe, which was a necessity. While his guarantee compares favorably with that of Will Beatty and Sam Baker, who both signed last season, I felt it pushed a little high for the Ravens especially in light of giving him a large signing bonus. That said losing him would have been a disaster.

The signing of Steve Smith, released by the Panthers, should help improve the Ravens offense. As long as Smith accepts the role of number two they can get good value for the price. Smith has performed at a better level than his salary but his earning potential is compromised by his age.  The Ravens need for a wide receiver at a lower cost made him a perfect fit.

Re-signing Daryl Smith was also a given. He played an important role for the defense last season and the contract is certainly nothing that is going to significantly hurt the team in the future. Linebackers can be effective in many ways for a long time and if you can get a good price on one they are rarely contracts that will be regretted later on.

The acquisition of Jeremy Zuttah and signing of Owen Daniels could both be good moves for the team. I especially like the Daniels signing. Daniels is always an injury risk, but a very capable player when healthy.  Both should improve the offense.

Arthur Jones was the biggest loss on defense but they have the personnel to absorb that loss better than they would have losing Monroe. Once the Colts get involved on a player it will be difficult for a team with cap constraints to match. Michael Oher’s time was done in Baltimore and he received a very generous contract from the Tennessee Titans. The biggest loss might be James Ihedigbo who did not sign a big contract in Detroit. The Ravens got the one year deal that perhaps they wanted with Darian Stewart rather than a two year deal Ihedigbo was seeking, but I thought Ihedigbo was a solid player for the team.
Overall Grade: B-

The Ravens are rarely going to hit a home run in free agency because their strategy is to almost exclusively avoid unrestricted free agents and to let players go if they deem the anticipated draft compensation enough. Given their self imposed constraints they did well for themselves in helping to improve the offense and give QB Joe Flacco as much help as possible to live up to the lofty contract he signed in 2013. I do think the Ravens rely a little too much on the signing bonus, but that is the way they have done business for years and been relatively successful with it. With the cap issues they have I am not sure if there was another way to do things anyway. The bottom line is they kept who they needed to keep and got slightly better at a few spots with some upside to be much better if they all work out.




Large cap savings could force Boldin out of Baltimore


After hauling in 22 catches for 380 yards with seven touchdowns this past postseason en route to helping the Baltimore Ravens win Super Bowl 47, one would think Anquan Boldin was a new franchise hero assured of a roster spot for 2013. Well, if you were one of the many who thought that, you may be very wrong.

After being dealt from the Arizona Cardinals to the Ravens in March 2010, Boldin signed a four-year deal that’s set to expire after this upcoming season. In 2013, Boldin is set to earn a non-guaranteed $6 million base salary, with $1,531,250 left from his signing bonus proration. This equals a total 2013 cap hit of $7,531,250. Since that’s the only dead money left to count against the cap, the Ravens would achieve a net cap savings of $6 million by releasing Boldin rather than letting him play out the final year of his deal.

Baltimore is currently right in the middle of the pack in terms of available cap space, they’re an estimated $12,664,866 under the cap (16th most cap space in the NFL). Thus, releasing Boldin would certainly give them a nice chunk of space. Since joining the team in 2010, Boldin has been a solid, but not spectacular, receiver. However, after his memorable postseason, many Ravens fans would be sad to see him go. We’ll see if the parties can reach a solution to keep him in a Ravens uniform.