Do you hear that? Didn’t think so. There’s not a whole lot going on around here in Baltimore Ravens country, and if you’re one of those fans that might be getting a bit antsy at the lack of free agency movement, there’s a perfectly good reason for the uncomforting silence.
The numbers are in and as reported by Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times, the Ravens currently have $4.664 million of available cap-space which includes Ray Rice’s $7.7 million tag, Matt Birk’s new contract, and the tenders extended to all restricted free agents such as Lardarius Webb ($2.6 million) and Cary Williams ($1.9 million).
As you can see, the Ravens aren’t in a position to enter into any bidding wars over the top-tier free agents. The limited cap-space could also have led to the Ravens not being able to strike a deal with guard Evan Mathis who eventually signed a 5-year $25 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Ravens do have the ability to restructure contracts throughout their roster as a way to "manufacture" additional cap-space, but the Ravens’ main rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, should serve as a cautionary tale of why not to restructure contracts as a way to create immediate cap-space. By restructuring some of the more highly paid players on the Ravens’ roster (Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata), the Ravens could quite possibly create millions of dollars of cap-space…but at a price. You can’t just throw money to the side and forget about it, and as we’ve seen in the past this practice can come back to bite you two or three years down the road when you suddenly owe several players their money that you "set aside" which can lead to: releases of other veterans, more salary cap problems and is generally another way of "mortgaging" your future for the hopes of gaining something positive in the here and now.
While the Ravens’ salary cap might be in a bad-way, the Ravens as a team and franchise are just fine. As long as the Ravens can keep their core of players intact, which they can and are, the team will be just as good as it’s always been.
Don’t despair, Ravens faithful. This organization doesn’t truly need any high-priced free agents to make a difference. Most of the Ravens’ biggest off-season additions to add depth and strengthen positions like the offensive line and the safeties will be made in the NFL Draft next month. And in all honesty, GM Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ front office have rarely, if ever, made any moves that should lead fans to doubt their capabilities of maintaining the Ravens as a competitive organization.