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Ravens News 7/6: Salary cap flexibility and more

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Baltimore Ravens v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Salary cap reduction? Flat cap? Ravens are well positioned for whatever happens in 2021 offseason. - Jonas Shaffer

The financial impact of a season transformed by the coronavirus will be staggering. NFL Players Association officials reportedly told player agents last month that the league could lose about $3 billion in revenue if teams play in empty stadiums in 2020. And where the NFL’s money goes, its salary cap will follow.

When the projected cap figures of the Ravens’ unsigned draft picks are accounted for, the team’s current cap hit for next year is about $151 million. If the front office don’t spend another dollar this season, approximately $7 million in 2020 cap space would roll over to next year’s books.

However the Ravens proceed, they should have two important assets as the 2021 league year approaches: a mostly proven roster and financial flexibility. If the salary cap remains around $200 million, the team could spend $40 million next offseason — a market-setting deal for Stanley? An early extension for Andrews? New pieces at outside linebacker? — and still have some wiggle room.

And if the Ravens start to feel the squeeze, whether it’s because of a reduced salary cap or escalating contract demands, they’d have escape routes. Releasing Williams and Ingram, for instance, would create $14.5 million in cap space and $6.2 million in dead money. The front office could also restructure contracts, converting part of a player’s 2021 salary into a prorated bonus more easily dispersed over a long contract.

Ranking the Ravens biggest salary cap bargains: Lamar Jackson’s contract may be the best deal in NFL - Jeff Kerr

1. Lamar Jackson

This may be the best contract bargain in the entire National Football League, just based off how dominant Jackson was in just his second season in the NFL. Jackson is entering the third year of his rookie deal and only has a cap number of $2,583,178 in 2020. No wonder the Ravens’ Super Bowl window is the highest it’s ever been in the 24-year history of the franchise.

2. Mark Andrews

Pretty impressive Andrews’ contract isn’t even the biggest bargain on the Ravens, since he’s only Jackson’s top pass-catching target. Andrews, a 2018 third-round pick, is only on the third year of his rookie deal and has a cap number of just $959,165 this season.

32 fantasy football questions for all 32 NFL quarterbacks entering the 2020 NFL season - Ian Hartitz

BALTIMORE RAVENS: LAMAR JACKSON

Analysis: The 2019 MVP has set the NFL record for carries by a QB in back-to-back seasons. Yes, Jackson’s average of 61 rush yards per game is well ahead of second-place Mike Vick (43) on the all-time leaderboard for QBs, but he’s actually gone for 81.6 yards per game on the ground if we only include starts. That mark has only been topped by Ezekiel Elliott, Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry and Chris Carson over the past two seasons.

Additionally, referring to Jackson as anything other than a great passer is simply false. Sure, he might face simplified defenses and coverage schemes thanks to his unrivaled rushing ability, but that’s not exactly a threat that will be going away anytime soon. Jackson was a top-six QB in rating under pressure, on deep passes and when kept clean in 2019, throwing plenty of tight-window dimes along the way.

His astronomical 9% TD rate is certain to regress; eight QBs have posted a rate of at least 8% since 2000 and only Aaron Rodgers managed to surpass 6.5% in the encore.

Ravens expect heated battle to boost return game in 2020 - Todd Karpovich

“What we’d done last year, I thought our guys showed up,” special teams coach Chris Horton said. “We played hard every week, and I thought we had gotten better. We were sound earlier in the year. In the middle of the year, we had some hiccups. But I think if we’re talking about one thing that we think we all need to improve on, as coaches, just talking about it, is in our return game.”

The Ravens could get a significant boost from James Proche, who was taken in the sixth round of the 2020 draft. Last season, he led the Mustangs with 17 punt returns for 164 yards.

“I love punt return,” Proche said. “I really just love catching the ball. Anything that involves catching the ball and go make a play, that’s more what I do. As far as punt return goes, that’s something I feel comfortable [with], kind of being back there alone, having full control, judge the ball and showcase my abilities once I catch the ball.”

Matthew Judon Is the Franchise, But Can Still Level Up in 2020 - Ryan Mink

“What a great story – a Division II fifth round draft choice … And let’s just call it like we see it, he’s looking at generational wealth down the road here,” Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. “Signing that [franchise tag] just tells you where he’s at.”

“I’m excited to watch him this year,” Martindale said. “He’s ready to take his pass rushing to the next level, and I just see nothing but great things coming from Matt.”

“You all know, I’m a workaholic. I’m running; I’m working out every day – twice, three times a day,” Judon said. “When you get a break like this, you kind of try to stay away from football, but this is what we do; this is what I love, so it always reels us back in.”