The Baltimore Ravens asked cornerback Lardarius Webb to take a pay cut, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. This shouldn't come as a surprise because this move was expected since the season ended.
The question was never whether the Ravens would approach Webb about a pay reduction. It was whether he would take one.
The best-case scenario for the Ravens is finding a middle ground with Webb, whose $12 million salary-cap number ranks only behind defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and quarterback Joe Flacco on the team. The Ravens need the cap room because they are a projected $4.9 million over the cap after tendering their restricted and exclusive rights free agents.
In addition gaining the cap room, the Ravens want to avoid paying Webb an $8 million base salary. That ranks sixth among cornerbacks, a steep price for a middle-of-the-road cornerback. He has struggled with injuries, which have forced him to miss 13 games over the last three seasons. Injuries and inconsistent play led to a disappointing 2014 season, when he was ranked No. 78 by Pro Football Focus.
Webb knows he wouldn't make that type of money if the Ravens released him, but he also knows there's not much of a chance that the Ravens will cut him. The Ravens would only gain $2 million in cap room and carry $10 million in dead money if they parted ways with Webb. Without a proven replacement on the roster, the Ravens would also have to sign a cheaper alternative in free agency to fill Webb's spot.
One compromise is reducing Webb's salary by $2 million or $3 million to give the Ravens immediate cap relief and adding incentives that would allow him to earn it all back in 2015.
Another option is doing a simple restructuring of Webb's contract, which is what the Ravens did last season to open up $3 million in cap room. The Ravens can convert a portion of his base salary into a bonus to spread the cap hit over the remaining three years of his deal. General manager Ozzie Newsome has said that he prefers to avoid restructuring deals because it's only pushing the cap hit into future seasons.
Even if Webb agrees to a pay cut, his contract will be an issue next offseason. The Ravens can gain $6 million of cap room if they release Webb in 2016.
Webb, who turns 30 during the season, is under contract through the 2017 season. He signed a six-year, $50 million deal in April 2012 that included $15 million guaranteed.