Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $3.8 million
Expected 2016 Cap Space: $16.3 million
Estimated Rookie Cap: $8.584 million
Players Under Contract: 55
Pro Bowlers: 2
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(2 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 6
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Justin Tucker should become the highest paid kicker in the NFL and I believe the Ravens will either use the franchise tag on him or sign him long term…Kelechi Osemele may prove to be too expensive to retain especially if he fields offers as a tackle, but the Ravens should look to keep their offensive line intact if possible…Expect Shareece Wright, Morgan Cox and Albert McClellan to stay on low cost contracts.
Free Agents to Let Walk
Courtney Upshaw never lived up to the Ravens expectations and a mutual parting of the ways is best for both sides…The Ravens should be able to find a better backup than Matt Schaub and Jimmy Clausen next year.
Contracts to Modify
Given the Ravens poor salary cap situation all eyes will be on Joe Flacco’s contract with a $28.55 million cap figure. Flacco’s contract was a byproduct of the Ravens being in a difficult salary cap position following their Super Bowl win and the team kicking the cap charges three years down the line. They can create around $11.4 million by doing a simple restructure but that would leave Flacco with a $36.9 million cap charge in 2017. Given the contract leverage he already has because of this current contract and the uncertainty of his injury the Ravens may be better off riding the season out and then working on an extension next year, though I’d guess a restructure is more likely… Eugene Monroe has missed 15 games in the last two seasons and should be a prime candidate for a “pay cut or be cut” offer. Id venture that they could save close to $3 million…Marshal Yanda would be the safe bet to restructure for cap relief.
Players to Consider Releasing
The Dennis Pitta contract was a risky one when signed given that he was coming off of injury and general lack of production over any meaningful sample. He’s only played 7 games in the last three seasons and his career could be over. They will only save $600,000 by cutting him because of his contract structure which makes him a likely June 1 designation candidate. By designating him a June 1 cut the Ravens will open up the cap space in June that will be needed to sign draft picks or and UFA’s that no longer count towards the compensatory equation…If Monroe refuses a pay cut they would save $2.1 million which could help retain Osemele…The Ravens used one of those “try to game the compensatory picks formula” option years with Chris Canty and not exercising that option creates $2.15 million in cap room…Kyle Arrington may remain due to the lack of secondary depth and the fact that he only saved $1.4 million on the cap, but he’ll likely have to fight for a spot all summer…Matt Elam may be in the same situation as Arrington. Elam is coming off a biceps tear and has been a disappointment thus far in his career.
A lack of salary cap flexibility certainly does not doom a team, but it is not ideal for a team coming off of a 5 win season. The Ravens will have to release players currently on the roster in order to seek upgrades during the offseason, but the team only possesses the 26th most True Cap Space to work with. While the Ravens can maintain a large chunk of True Cap Space by restructuring Joe Flacco’s contract, doing so would further limit the team’s flexibility in 2017 and 2018, possibly resulting in the highest Commitment Index score in the league. Given the team’s strong history of recent success, kicking the metaphorical salary cap can down the road for another season may be the best approach, but the team is in a tenuous situation moving forward. Absent particularly strong drafting over the next several seasons, the Ravens may find themselves without the salary cap flexibility to both replace departing/aging players and improve roster weaknesses.
Expected Contract Termination Outcomes – Expected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions. The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016. A pay cut is treated as a termination. We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options. Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.
|Player||Position||Expected Outcome||Expected Savings|
|Expected Change in Cap Room||+$12,536,704|
True Cap Space – Realizable Cap Space depicts the total amount of salary cap space potentially at the team’s disposal in 2016, and True Cap Space makes further adjustments to take into consideration amounts that are accounted for in practical terms. Most True Cap Space will be used on players currently under contract as a result of the team choosing to not release them.
|True Cap Space (2016)|
|Adjusted Salary Cap||$151,633,944|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||($42,989,442)|
|Realizable Cap Space||$108,644,502|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||($15,854,704)|
|Minimum Salary Cap Holds||($21,600,000)|
|True Cap Space||$71,189,798|
Commitment Index – Commitment Index identifies the degree to which a team has “mortgaged its future” by measuring its net future salary cap commitments as a percentage of the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams. A Commitment Index Score of 100% is average, and a negative Commitment Index Score indicates that the team has more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments.
|Commitment Index (2017+)|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||$60,936,026|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||$2,844,759|
|Current Cap Space||($1,944,966)|
|Commitment Index Score||358%|
|League Rank (1st = Most Committed)||3rd|
The Ravens look to be in that position that almost every successful franchise will face at some point. In order to keep their playoff window open Baltimore has leveraged themselves with signing bonuses and backloaded contracts for aging players which creates a difficult decision for Ravens management. The salary cap savings created by releasing those players doesn’t come close to covering the cost of replacing the player which likely means the Ravens will have no choice but to come back with the same team next season and hope that the injuries don’t occur and that father time doesn’t impact anyone’s play. Restructuring most contracts is not the answer as it only hurt the salary cap in the future and right now the Ravens are near the bottom of the league in projected future cap room in 2017.
In some ways the Ravens are better equipped to deal with the cap issues than others only because they typically are inactive in free agency in hopes of gaining compensatory draft picks, though the quality of free agent that have this year won’t give them much in the way of comp picks. This might have been one of the rare seasons where they would have gone into free agency with a thought of looking at true free agents.
They certainly have plenty of needs to fill. They need a major upgrade at receiver. Steve Smith indicated he’ll return but he’s playing on borrowed time at this point. Could they look to sign a Vincent Jackson or Mike Wallace type if released as a band aid player? I guess they could but that is not a long term solution. The fact that they let Torrey Smith walk last season tells me that this will be a draft fix because none of the free agents this year are any better than Smith and most will be overvalued.
Cornerback is another significant need for the team. They are compromised a bit there financially with some big contracts to Webb and Jimmy Smith, neither of whom lived up to the numbers. There may be a few players out there who could help, but given their cap situation and overall investment I think they would be looking low tier veteran ($3Mish per year) rather than a $7 million player who projects to start.
Alongside cornerback would be Safety. They don’t have much there and I dot think they will rely on Elam to grow into the role at this point. If there was a position to invest in in free agency I think this would be the one where you can often find decent players at reasonable prices, I just dot know if they plan to look at UFAs or not.
The Ravens need more youth in their linebackers. Terrell Suggs is nearing the end of his career and Elvis Dumervil is probably close too. Daryl Smith is well into his 30s as well. You may get one more season out of these players but they need to get the transition plan in place to have more players ready to step in over the next two years. Their defensive tackles may be in the same boat.
After making the playoffs in 6 of 7 seasons and being one of the most consistent teams in the NFL, I think the Ravens may have reached that point where they likely will fall down for a year or two before coming back up. Having an older team coming off an injury riddled bad season combined with a tight salary cap is rarely the sign of a contender. They have the good general manager and coaching staff to get back on track sooner rather than later, but they will need to do a lot more than just finding a few guys off the scrap heap and hoping draft picks develop quickly if they want to get back to the playoffs next year.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.