OWINGDS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens have hold of the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC with four games remaining, which is a remarkable feat considering the financial constraints on this team.
One quarter of the Ravens' salary cap is accounted for by players no longer on their 53-man roster. The season-ending Achilles injury to cornerback Jimmy Smith on Sunday raised the total of cap dollars invested in injured players or those who've been cut (dead money) to $44.8 million, which takes a big chunk out of the $167 million salary cap.
The cap figures for Smith, guard Marshal Yanda (season-ending ankle injury), offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (cut), tight end Dennis Pitta (season-ending hip injury) and cornerback Shareece Wright (cut) all rank among the top 20 hits against the cap in 2017 and no one from this group will be suited up Sunday night when Baltimore (7-5) plays at Pittsburgh (10-2).
In comparison, the Steelers have $10.2 million of their cap put toward players on injured reserve or who'e been released (dead money). That's a significant difference in cap flexibility when trying to build a championship team.
Still, the Ravens aren't panicking after losing Smith, the NFL's 12th-highest paid cornerback based on average per year.
"We are much better able to handle the injury to Jimmy," coach John Harbaugh said. "We are much better able to handle that than we have been in the past."
The Ravens signed veteran Brandon Carr, the most durable cornerback in the league, and used the No. 16 overall pick on Marlon Humphrey. Baltimore gave nearly $16 million in guaranteed money to bring in Carr and Humphrey, both of whom will be the starting cornerbacks for the pivotal stretch run.
"Our secondary is the strength of our team," safety Eric Weddle said. "So, we’re not going to sit back and be sorry for ourselves. [CB] Maurice [Canady] is back. Marlon has got to step up. Jaylen [Hill] has got to step up. That’s why we have so much depth. Will the guys be as good as Jimmy? No. But we’ll step up and play well in his absence."