Teams all around the league are scrambling to free up as much salary cap space in the hours leading up to the start of NFL free agency at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. The goal is to free up enough cash to make plays at compelling free agents, re-sign their own players and get far enough under the cap to comply with league rules and sign their rookie class next month.
This morning, the Baltimore Ravens were $13.293 million under the $123 million salary cap (via The Baltimore Sun). After re-signing wide receiver David Reed to a two-year, $2.5 million deal (split evenly in half between those two seasons) the Ravens were $12.043 million under the cap (via The Sun).
Additional signings, including an exclusive-rights free agent deal with running back Damien Berry, a two-year contract for long snapper Morgan Cox and a one-year deal for guard Ramon Harewood likely put the Ravens at around $9.5 million under the cap (all signings courtesy Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun).
A subsequent signing of defensive tackle Chris Canty, for a reported $8 million over three years including $2.8 million guaranteed according to NFL Network's Albert Breer, plus the one-year deal for Ravens free agent safety and special teams contributor James Ihedigbo (again via Wilson and the Sun) likely reduces that number to around $7.3 million.
However, something weird is going on with Baltimore's money. Until Anquan Boldin can take a physical with the San Francisco 49ers, he cannot sign with them, and he's presently in Senegal. For now, that means the Ravens need to carry the full $7.15 million cap hit that Boldin represents, somewhat tying their hands.
That means the Ravens have between $1 million and $2 million in cap space presently.
Here's a breakdown as to how the Ravens got to $1-2 million under the $123 million salary cap:
March 13: Release S Bernard Pollard. $1 million cap savings; $2.25 million dead money.
March 12: Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reports that the full $7.15 cap hit for Anquan Boldin remains on the Ravens' books until he returns from Senegal and can take a physical with his new team, the 49ers, and sign. The Ravens hands are relatively tied until that happens.
March 12: DT Chris Canty, three-year deal, $8 million, $2.8 million guaranteed. 2013 cap hit: Unknown precisely at this time.
March 12: G Ramon Harewood, one-year deal, cost unknown.
March 12: RB Damien Berry, exclusive-rights free agent tender, $555,000. 2013 cap hit: $555,000.
March 11: DE Arthur Jones, second-round RFA tender, $2.023 million. 2013 cap hit: $2.023 million.
March 11: TE Dennis Pitta, second-round RFA tender, $2.023 million. 2013 cap hit: $2.023 million (via The Sun).
March 11: TE Ed Dickson, lowest RFA tender, $1.323 million. 2013 cap hit: $1.323 million (via The Sun).
March 5: QB Joe Flacco, six-year deal, $120.6 million. 2013 cap hit: $6.8 million.
While it was shocking that the Ravens traded wide receiver Anquan Boldin to the San Francisco 49ers, the salary cap savings it provided the team has already helped them.
Boldin was set to make a base salary of $6 million and had a total cap hit of $7.531 million for 2013. The Ravens wanted him to take a $2 million pay cut in this, the final year of his contract, but his refusal to do so led to the trade.
As such, the Ravens get a cap savings of $6 million for this year, augmented by $1.531 million in dead money that represents Boldin's would-be bonus for 2013.
With Boldin gone, the Ravens certainly need to shore up the rest of their receiving corps, which meant finding cash to retain their two restricted free-agent tight ends, Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson. The $6 million freed up by the Boldin trade made this much easier.
Pitta received the second-year restricted free-agent tender worth $2.032 million, while Dickson got the lowest restricted free-agent tender, worth $1.323 in 2013.
Wide receiver David Reed has yet to emerge as a reliable target, thanks to his 2011 ACL tear, but he's still valuable to the Ravens nonetheless.
Reed received a two-year deal worth $2.5 million. His 2013 base salary of $880,000 saves the Ravens over $400,000 in cap space this year as compared to giving him the lowest restricted free agent tender of $1.323 million.
Another valuable restricted free agent, defensive end Arthur Jones, also received a tender offer from the Ravens. The second-year tender is worth $2.023 million in 2013. This is yet another deal made easier by the Boldin trade.
The biggest concern for the Ravens this offseason was to sign quarterback Joe Flacco to a lucrative new deal that acknowledges his contributions to the team—including helping them win the Super Bowl this February—while also not costing them too much in terms of their salary cap.
Though Flacco received $120.6 million in his six-year deal, $52 million is guaranteed and the backloaded contract results in just a $6.8 million salary-cap hit this year.
Bobbie Williams came to the Ravens via free agency in 2012 and was a solid contributor to their offensive line. However, he was ultimately released by the team. His cap hit is just $400,000 this year, representing the dead money left on his deal, likely from his signing bonus.
With a Super Bowl victory taken care of, two of the Ravens' longtime starters, center Matt Birk and linebacker Ray Lewis, were comfortable retiring from the game.
Their cap hits are simply dead money this year, with Birk costing the Ravens $1.4 million and Lewis costing $2.95 million.
Canty had a knee injury that kept him off the field for the first seven games of 2012 but is otherwise a healthy, viable option to replace free agent Ma'ake Kemoeatu and the disappointing Terrence Cody. The price is a good one and it meets a need for the Ravens.
His true 2013 cap hit is yet unknown. He should make around $1 to $1.3 million this season, however.
The Ravens have continued to gut their veteran-laden defense, releasing safety Bernard Pollard on Wednesday. The head-scratching move frees up $1 million in cap space but also costs them $2.25 million in dead money in 2013.