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Ravens already fighting dead money on the 2017 salary cap

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Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun

According to Over the Cap, the Baltimore Ravens are currently carrying $5.4 million in dead money on their payroll for 2017. Former left tackle Eugene Monroe’s contract accounts for $4.4 million and running back Justin Forsett’s contract for $700,000 of the dead money.

The Ravens signed Monroe to a five-year $37.5 million contract in March of 2014. He was released last June and subsequently retired from football to pursue a career in the medicinal cannibus industry. Forsett inked a 3-year, $9 million contract in March of 2015. The Ravens released him in October of 2016 after he struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness.

As always, it is best to compare the Ravens to their NFL peers. $5.4 million in current dead money for 2017 is the fourth most in the league, behind only New Orleans, Washington and Philadelphia. For comparison, the Ravens finished the 2016 with almost $15 million in dead money on their balance sheet, placing them close to the NFL’s median. In 2015, Baltimore devoted more than $25 million towards dead money due to previous salary commitments, sixth most in the league.

The Ravens will certainly add to their dead money burden before the start of free agency in March. Releasing veteran pass rusher Elvis Dumervil would create $6 million in cap space in exchange for $2.4 million in dead money. Other probable cap casualties include defensive backs Kyle Arrington, Kendrick Lewis and Shareece Wright. Releasing all three would provide $6.6 million in newfound cap space, but also add another $3.9 million to their dead money total.

To be expected with an aging roster, their are several more veterans with borderline contracts. Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ben Watson combine to offer $6.3 million in cap flexibility if they are released, the Ravens will have to weigh that against the $5.4 million in guarantees attached to their current contracts. Receiver Mike Wallace, safety Lardarius Webb and center Jeremy Zuttah may also be cut, freeing up $13.7 million in cap space, opposed to $6.5 million of dead money.

It is quite possible that the Ravens will again find themselves among the worst positioned franchises in terms of available cap space for 2017. Their past dead money figures may have been able to bridge the gap between what the Ravens felt was fair market value and what their best homegrown free agents received from other teams on the open market in recent offseasons. Their salary cap limitations due to dead money restrictions will also make it more difficult to retain their best homegrown free agents this offseason.

While coaching and drafting shoulder some of the responsibility for the Ravens recent regression, their salary cap management has been perhaps their greatest mistake. If the front office continues to overpay for leadership and utilize creative contract structures in order to sign more stopgap veterans and circumvent their perennial salary cap disadvantage, it will only result in prolonging their roster rebuilding efforts. Without a concerted effort to put themselves in an advantageous salary cap position for the future, their quest to construct a championship caliber roster will continue to flounder.