A small primer on the Ravens Salary cap status

I've seen a lot of people talking about what's going on with the Ravens roster, and who will be cut, traded, etc. for next year.

There's been a lot of suggestions and posts made that, because of the way the salary cap rules, aren't realistic.

So, here's some basic facts about the Ravens cap for 2014:

- As of right now the Ravens only have 37 players from the active roster under contract. 17 each for Offense and Defense, with 3 special teams players.

- The salary cap for next year is likely to be about 128 million.

- The Raven's current players account for just under 107.5 million.

- There is just over 4.4m in 'dead money'. (Dead money is a salary cap hit a team takes as a result of cutting OR TRADING a player that they gave a signing bonus to before the contract expires. Normally the salary cap hit of any signing bonus is spread out among the first 5 years of a contract. But if you trade or cut the player before the end of that contract you take an immediate cap hit equal to whatever the remaining bonus value would be. So a 5 year, $10m contract with a $5m signing bonus means you have $1m of 'bonus' spread out per year. But if you cut the guy after 3 years, the last 2 years of $1m hits both come up right away in year 4 for a $2m cap hit)

- You need somewhere in the 4-6m range to sign your rookies. (The 'Rookie pool' and 'Rule of 51' and all that jazz are only really important during training camp. Actual salary impact when the season starts is usually 4-6m)

- You want to have about 4-5m minimum to deal with injury settlements, practice squad (which does count against the cap!), and signing guys to replace injured guys.

After all that the bottom line is this:

The Ravens have 128m to spend, are on the hook for 107m already, and need to keep about 10m aside to sign rookies and miscellaneous.

That leaves them having just around 11m or so to fill out the roster - and they're 16 people short!

Who can we cut?

What you'll see thrown around a lot is a list of people with the highest cap numbers:

Ngata - 16m

Flacco - 14.8m

Suggs - 12.4m

Webb - 10.5m

Rice - 8.75m

This is NOT a very helpful list. Because of the 'dead money' issue, those aren't the numbers you want to look at. For instance, here's the actual 2014 cap gain you'd make for a cut/trade of those players.

Ngata - 1m

Flacco - NEGATIVE 23.4m (38.2m total)

Suggs - 7.8m

Webb - 0.5m

RIce - NEGATIVE 5.5m (14.25m total)

As you can see, it's actually cheaper to KEEP Ray Rice no matter what his production is. Talk about trading or cutting him are absolutely pointless, because it's MORE EXPENSIVE to do either of those things!

So who on the team has the highest Salary cap SAVINGS - the important number to look at? The top ten on the team right now are:

Suggs - $7.8m

McClain - $3.2m

Yanda - $1.96m

Canty - $1.83m

Leach - $1.75m

Koch - $1.6m

Smith (22) - $1.39m

Ngata - $1m

Smith (82) - $0.84m

Cox (Long Snapper) - $0.73m

As you can see, cutting Suggs and McClain would nearly double the cap room the Ravens have, but after that, cutting the next 8 guys COMBINED doesn't add up to much more.

What does that mean?

It means that any realistic discussion of what to do with the Raven's 2014 salary cap has to start with what you do with the top five guys on that list. And Yanda is pretty much guaranteed a spot given how awful the O-line was this year.

Does it mean any one of those guys individually is out? No, of course not. Any of them could be deemed by the front office as worth the cost. They are all close to the end of a contract and could negotiate an extension.

Where all this gets really interesting (and fun in my mind) is when you start looking at not only how much you could save cutting guys, but also take into account what it would cost to replace them (or try to).

So as you take a minute to look at where the team goes from here, I hope this helps direct your attention to the very difficult work that Ozzie and company have in front of them - having to sign some VERY key pieces and rework a terrible offensive line with limited money and not a lot of places to cut.

It's got the making of an off-season almost as eventful as last year's!

The opinions posted here are those of the administrator of this blog and his loyal readers. They are in no way official comments from the team, and should not be misconstued as such, even though he thinks he could do just as well or even a better job!

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