2016 Cap Outlook: Baltimore Ravens

Through the 2015 NFL season, Pro Football Rumors has been looking ahead to the 2016 offseason, gauging the salary cap situation for a number of teams with significant cap charges for next season. The cap for 2016 hasn’t been set yet, but we can still assess the salary commitments made by a club and determine whether or not that club will be in good financial shape going forward.

In addition to evaluating each team’s overall cap situation, we’ll focus in on a few key players who may be candidates to be extended, restructured, or released by their current teams. These lists aren’t comprehensive, and depending on a player’s 2015 performance and health, he could drop off one of these lists – or be added to one – as the season goes on. For now though, these are some players to watch.

Using data from Over The Cap, we’re making our way through NFL teams in order of total salary commitments for 2016. Today’s team is the Ravens, who currently have the sixth-highest total for their ’16 cap.

Let’s dive in….

Top 10 cap hits for 2016:

  1. Joe Flacco, QB: $28,550,000
  2. Jimmy Smith, CB: $9,600,000
  3. Lardarius Webb, CB: $9,500,000
  4. Eugene Monroe, LT: $8,700,000
  5. Marshal Yanda, RG: $7,985,882
  6. Terrell Suggs, OLB: $7,450,000
  7. Elvis Dumervil, OLB: $7,375,000
  8. Dennis Pitta, TE: $7,200,000
  9. Jeremy Zuttah, C: $4,607,206
  10. Will Hill, S: $4,590,000
    Current 2016 cap number for top 51 players: $144,588,978

Flacco’s cap hit for 2016 is so massive compared to the rest of the Ravens’ figures that the next three highest cap numbers combined don’t even match it. There’s little question that Flacco’s deal must be addressed this offseason, but the fact that Baltimore doesn’t have any other eight-digit salaries for 2016 is a plus. It gives the team the flexibility to explore a couple different approaches with Flacco — either reduce his cap charge for 2016 significantly, potentially creating all the space you need for the year, or only reduce it a little, avoiding increasing his future cap numbers too much.

Candidates for extension:

  • Joe Flacco, QB
  • Will Hill, S

If he played any other position, Flacco would be a candidate for a restructure, rather than an extension, since he’ll still have three years left on his contract heading into the winter. But with cap hits of $28.55MM, $31.15MM, and $24.75MM, the best way to make the contract manageable in the future for the Ravens is to tack on a couple extra years, spreading a new signing bonus out over the longest stretch possible.

Flacco’s torn ACL will make negotiations a little more interesting this offseason, but we’ve seen quarterbacks return successfully from that injury in the past, and it’s not as if Flacco relies heavily on his ability to run. The veteran signal-caller is currently set to earn a base salary of $18MM next year, so – between guaranteed salary and bonus money – the Ravens will have to exceed that figure on any new deal. It’ll be an interesting situation to watch.

Elsewhere, Hill is on track to earn a fraction of what Flacco will make in 2016, but his performance in the secondary since joining the Ravens has been excellent. He’ll be due for a raise, so it might be tricky for Baltimore to lower his $4.59MM cap number at all, but some creative financing would at least help the team avoid increasing that figure.

Candidates for restructure:

  • Daryl Smith, ILB
  • Terrell Suggs, OLB
  • Lardarius Webb, CB

Out of this trio of players, Webb – who has been solid, but not spectacular this season – looks like the most logical candidate for a restructure — with Jimmy Smith‘s extension set to kick in, I don’t know that the Ravens will want to pay a $5.5MM salary for Webb, whose $9.5MM cap hit projects to be the team’s third-highest. Giving Webb a modest signing bonus, plus the ability to earn that full $5.5MM through bonuses and incentives rather than a guaranteed salary, might make sense for Baltimore.

As for Suggs, he’s 33 years old and will be coming off a torn Achilles, so there’s a good chance he won’t be the same player he was before the injury. But the dead money left on his deal ($8.85MM) outweighs his 2016 cap hit ($7.45MM), so if they think he has something left in the tank, the Ravens will likely explore a restructure rather than considering releasing him.

The third veteran defender listed here, Smith might have the easiest contract to restructure, since it doesn’t feature nearly as much prorated bonus money as Webb’s or Suggs’. In each of the next two seasons, Smith is owed a $3.5MM base salary and has a $4.375MM cap hit. The club may not require the modest savings that restructuring Smith’s contract would provide, but doing so could free up about $1.25MM in space for 2016, without creating major problems for 2017.

Candidates for pay cut or release:

It’s worth noting that just because a player is a “candidate” to take a pay cut or be released, that certainly doesn’t mean it’ll happen. But it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Pitta avoids that fate — 2015 was his second straight lost season, and his ongoing hip issues make a comeback an uphill battle. Even if the Ravens do want to keep him on the roster, they won’t want him at his $5MM salary, which is non-guaranteed.

Two other offensive playmakers currently on the injured reserve list earned spots on this list, but if Smith wants to continue his playing career, the Ravens will almost certainly welcome him back for the last year of his current contract — he and his $3MM base salary would only be removed from the roster if he decides to retire. Forsett is a good bet to be back as well, but if Javorius Allen excels down the stretch, the Ravens would have to at least briefly think about moving on from the veteran, who will also make a $3MM salary and wasn’t as explosive in 2015 as he was in 2014.

Canty, Arrington, and Elam are all on the books for cap hits between $2-3MM, so cutting them wouldn’t create a ton of savings. Canty has been effective enough that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Baltimore keep him at his current price for one more year, though Arrington has seen his playing time slashed in recent weeks and may be expendable. Given the extra draft picks they always have at their disposal, the Ravens could identify younger, cheaper replacements for those veterans.

Elam, meanwhile, is a former first-round pick entering the fourth year of his rookie contract, but he struggled in his first two seasons and missed his third with a bicep injury. While he’s cheap enough that the Ravens could keep him around for one more season and turn down his fifth-year option for 2017, he has been surpassed on the depth chart, and his upside is dwindling.

Contract information from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.

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