The key decision-makers of the Baltimore Ravens organization are meeting in Florida to formulate their offseason plan. That plan definitely revolves around the salary cap, so here's a slideshow to help you (and them) get a feel for how the cap breaks down by position and where the Ravens have to spend their money.
That second part is generally pretty clear. Offensive line, wide receiver and tight end are the three biggest needs, and so that's where the majority of the cap space will be dedicated.
But there are other less glaring holes that need to be addressed. For example, there is plenty of talent at the inside linebacker position, but the Ravens would sorely miss Daryl Smith if he isn't re-signed and would likely have to bring in another veteran if Smith moves on.
Likewise, the cornerback position is transformed from a team strength with Corey Graham on the roster to an alarming weakness without Graham.
Flip through these slides for a closer look at the cap, the depth chart and the future. Well, it might not be that dramatic, but it's still vital information for any Ravens fan.
Note: I've given Brian McFarland of Russell Street Report a shoutout before, but you really have to check out his work if you haven't already. He's always on top of the latest moves, and this breakdown wouldn't have been possible without his research.
|Projected 2014 Salary Cap||$126,300,000|
|2013 Salary Cap Carryover||$1,500,000|
|Adjustments for Incentives and Workout Bonuses||- $501,875|
|Adjusted 2014 Salary Cap (Projected)||$127,298,125|
|Total Cap Hits||$115,952,323|
The numbers above break it down. The Ravens have just over $11 million to reconstruct the roster, but there are also other opportunities for gaining more cap space (i.e. releasing, restructuring or extending) contracts so that number will fluctuate over the course of the offseason.
Baltimore certainly isn't in an apocalyptic cap situation like some other teams (*cough* Dallas Cowboys *cough*), but the front office has a lot of work to do.
Here's how each position on the depth chart stacks up.
|Nick Stephens (Practice Squad)||$420,000|
Joe Flacco may have had a down year in 2013, despite setting a career high in yards, but he's the unquestioned starter for the next five years.
That said, toward the end of the 2013 season, the Ravens were forced to contemplate what life would look like without Flacco. The signal-caller was taking a beating and was thrown around like a rag doll.
The durable quarterback didn't miss a snap due to injury, but the limited snaps that went to Tyrod Taylor were far from comforting.
To be fair to the Virginia Tech product, much of that ugliness was due to shoddy play around him, but where does Taylor stand among the league's backup quarterbacks?
Given the more pressing needs around the roster, it's unlikely that the Ravens eat up some of that cap space by signing a backup quarterback, but it wouldn't be surprising to see them take a late-round flier on a quarterback who slides down the board.
|Cierre Wood (Practice Squad)||$495,000|
The running backs' production in 2013 was so atrocious that it seems like a crime for the positional group to be chewing up almost $13 million of cap room. But that's how the depth chart stands, and the Ravens have to deal with the situation.
For starters, the failure to launch the running game has to be blamed on the offensive line that did more to hurt its running backs than protect them. With an improved offensive line, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce should once again emerge as one of the league's best rushing duos.
But the man who paved the way for them in their successful 2012 campaign might not be on the roster in 2014.
Vonta Leach has been a trendy pick to become a cap casualty this offseason, and it's not hard to see why. Baltimore already has another fullback on the roster, and Leach's role on the offense decreased to the point where it was a surprise to see him in the game.
Releasing Leach would create close to $2 million in cap space that could be used to patch up other holes on the roster.
Some of that money, however, could go into adding another running back. Garrett Downing of BaltimoreRavens.com reported that the coaching staff has shown an interest in adding a bigger back (in the mold of a LeGarrette Blount).
Since the Ravens only have two true running backs on the roster, they're sure to add one more for depth purposes. Whether that comes via the draft or free agency remains to be seen. Regardless, the addition will only be a minor one in terms of salary and won't make a large dent in the cap room.
|Kamar Aiken (Practice Squad)||$495,000|
|Gerrard Sheppard (Practice Squad)||$420,000|
Look at that number. Baltimore's six wide receivers only cost $3.5 million. And people wonder why the wideouts have trouble gaining separation.
In this league, production means dollars, and none of the Ravens receivers have produced consistently over their careers other than Torrey Smith (who is still on his rookie deal).
This is one of the biggest needs on the roster, but it's unlikely general manager Ozzie Newsome will attempt to solve the problem by throwing cash at it. There aren't many good receivers on the free-agent market, and the proven ones would cost too much anyway.
Instead, the Ravens will look to a very deep draft class of receivers to solve their woes. They may even take two receivers to maximize their chances of landing a starter.
This is definitely an area in need of an upgrade, but that improvement won't be made in free agency.
|Matt Furstenburg (Practice Squad)||$420,000|
|Nathan Overbay (Practice Squad)||$420,000|
As of right now, the most experienced tight end on the roster has played zero NFL snaps. That's a bit of a concern, and the Ravens are definitely going to make some moves to ensure that statement isn't true in Week 1 of the 2014 season.
That mission starts with signing Dennis Pitta to a long-term deal. Regardless of whether or not that happens, the Ravens are going to spend a decent chunk of their cap space on a tight end.
If it's not Pitta, there aren't many receiving threats at the position on the market (no, the Ravens will not sign Jimmy Graham), so Baltimore may spend a high draft pick on the position.
However Newsome addresses the position, it will cost a sizable amount of money.
|David Mims (Practice Squad)||$495,000|
|Reggie Stephens (Practice Squad)||$495,000|
This is the position where the Ravens are going to spend the most money this offseason. That's good news for Baltimore fans.
The offensive line was embarrassing for most of 2013, and there could be as many as four new starters (with Marshal Yanda being the only guaranteed player to return).
Baltimore's offseason revival starts with left tackle Eugene Monroe. There has been plenty of interest from both sides, so it's just a matter of whether the numbers match up. As a top-tier left tackle, Monroe is sure to earn quite the payday, so he may be too expensive for the Ravens' tastes.
It doesn't matter who the players are, but two starting tackles are required as well as a center to push Gino Gradkowski.
That's going to cost quite a bit of change, but it's a necessity if Baltimore wants to rejoin the ranks of the contenders.
|Cody Larsen (Practice Squad)||$420,000|
And the award for highest cap figure on the team goes to...Haloti Ngata! Considering his talent and size, that $16 million tag might be just right, but he hasn't been a consistently dominant force worthy of that exorbitant salary.
Ngata has been discussed as a potential candidate for an extension which would lessen his cap number this year, but the Ravens would have no leverage in those discussions since there is no risk of him being released.
After the big fellow, the rotation is somewhat intriguing. All of the players have potential to see significant playing time, but the defensive front might be underwhelming without extra help.
The biggest loss will be free agent Arthur Jones, who is widely considered to have played his way out of the Ravens' price range.
There is talent on the depth chart, but the front office would feel a whole lot safer with a proven player to round out the line.
As strange as it may sound, the biggest factor in whether the Ravens sign a defensive lineman might be Kapron Lewis-Moore. The Notre Dame product didn't play last year because of a torn ACL, but he was a dominant lineman for the Fighting Irish. If he can regain that form, the Ravens may already have their replacement for Jones.
If not, they'll have to dig into their savings to shore up the position.
The linebacker position is without a doubt the most stacked position on the roster, and everybody is relatively cheap apart from Terrell Suggs.
If everything goes according to plan, Suggs may not be so expensive either.
Sizzle's name has been thrown around as a possible cap casualty because his release would free up close to $8 million of cap room.
The more likely outcome is that both sides reach an agreement on a contract extension that would decrease Suggs' cap hit and ensure he finishes his career as a Raven.
One addition the front office is interested in making is re-signing Daryl Smith, but that wouldn't be too expensive (hopefully).
Given the talent at the position, it's very possible that the Ravens actually gain more cap flexibility here this offseason. In addition to Suggs, Jameel McClain could be cut which would generate $3.2 million of cap savings.
McClain started this year (when he returned from injury), but he was fairly average, and head coach John Harbaugh told BaltimoreRavens.com's Garrett Downing he expects Arthur Brown to earn the starting job
If Suggs leaves Baltimore, a suitable replacement would have to be found, but that's the only scenario where the Ravens would have to spend a lot of money at the position.
Ozzie Newsome has his eye on one cornerback who's on the market: Corey Graham. If Graham is re-signed, then the position is set, and no more work needs to be done with a trio of cornerbacks that is among the league's best.
If Graham leaves, reinforcements are needed. That could come through the draft or through free agency, but Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson can't be relied on to step into thee nickel-corner role.
Graham shouldn't receive a lucrative deal, however, so the Ravens should do as much as possible to keep him in Baltimore.
That's right, there's only one safety on the roster at the moment. That won't remain the case for too long, however.
The Ravens have options when it comes to acquiring another starting safety. Re-signing James Ihedigbo is a nice Plan B, given his stellar 2013 season and familiarity with the Baltimore defense. On the other hand, it seems as though the front office is more interested in getting a rangy free safety, per a report by Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun.
Either way, the Ravens aren't going to spend much money on the safety position, despite the need to fill out the roster.
Special teams was the biggest strength of the 2013 Ravens, and that's largely due to the performance of these three gentlemen.
It's safe to say Justin Tucker isn't going anywhere after two phenomenal years as the Ravens' place-kicker.
Sam Koch, on the other hand, is a very realistic cap casualty—not so much for his performance, but because of his salary.
Quite frankly, it would be fairly easy to replace his production with a cheaper player, and that's just what the Ravens might do this summer.
This is another position where the Ravens will actually save money rather than spend it.