The Baltimore Ravens' brain trust is currently at owner Steve Bisciotti's Florida home, where they will devise the team's offseason game plan. The top priority has to be creating more salary-cap space.
It's safe to say the Ravens won't have much cap room -- if any at all -- unless they make cuts, sign players to extensions or get players to agree to pay reductions over the next 33 days.
“We’ll make some big decisions there,” coach John Harbaugh said last month at his end-of-season press conference.
Based on numbers from the ESPN Stats & Information database, the Ravens are projected to have $141.9 million committed to the 2015 salary cap. That total includes the cap numbers for 45 players under contract, projected tenders for two restricted free agents, cap figures for four exclusive rights free agents, dead money carried over from 2014 and salary-cap excess carried over from 2014.
While the NFL has not announced the salary-cap limit for 2015 (teams have to be under on March 10), the estimates range from $140 million to $145 million. So, if the Ravens have $141.9 million committed, they could be a couple of million under the cap or one million over it, if those estimates are correct.
The Ravens can free up space to sign free agents by cutting players with bloated cap numbers. The team can create $11.1 million in cap room by releasing defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($8.5 million) and defensive end Chris Canty ($2.66 million).
Another way to open up cap room is signing a player to an extension such as Ngata, who could agree to a deal similar to the one signed last year by Terrell Suggs; guard Marshal Yanda, who is in his final year of current contract; punter Sam Koch, who has a $3.1-million cap number; or a restricted free agent such as kicker Justin Tucker.
All of these issues are likely going to be discussed at the Ravens' summit which typically includes Harbaugh, general manager Ozzie Newsome, president Dick Cass, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta and cap expert Pat Moriarty.
“We’ll spend a lot of time looking at the salary cap and talking about our roster going forward,” Harbaugh said. “At that point, we’ll know how we’re going to approach free agency and we’ll have the details worked out.”
From March 10 until the final major cutdown at the end of the preseason, only the top 51 cap numbers count against each team's cap. Part of my calculation was projecting that the Ravens would give a second-round restricted free-agent tender to Tucker (meaning the Ravens would receive a second-round pick if another team signed him to an offer sheet and the Ravens refused to match) and a low tender to safety Will Hill.
Here are the projected top 51 salary-cap numbers for the Ravens:
Quarterback: Joe Flacco ($14.55M)
Offensive linemen: Marshal Yanda ($8.45M), Eugene Monroe ($7.7M), Jeremy Zuttah ($3.7M), Gino Gradkowski ($1.695M), Kelechi Osemele ($1.064M), Rick Wagner ($621K), John Urschel ($546K) and James Hurst ($513K)
Linebackers: Elvis Dumervil ($7.375M), Terrell Suggs ($6.2M), Daryl Smith ($3.875M), C.J. Mosley ($1.997M), Courtney Upshaw ($1.685M), Albert McClellan ($1.2M), Arthur Brown ($969K) and Zachary Orr ($511K)
Special teams: Sam Koch ($3.1M) and Justin Tucker ($2.434M-x)
x -- Projected restricted free agent tender; y -- Exclusive rights free agent tender