Ravens and their “Cap” might not fit Ray’s head now

March 04, 2009 | Drew Forrester

As Silent-Ray (Day 6) rolls on, the Ravens are moving about the business of trying to find players, draft players and prepare for the 2009 team.  That would be with — or without — Ray Lewis.

The Ravens are still banking on the fact that no one else in the league wants Ray Lewis at the rate they’re willing to pay him in Baltimore.  They might be right.  They probably ARE right, in fact.

Remember, though, as I’ve said all along during this process, it only takes one team to screw it up for the Ravens.  It could be ANY team in the league throwing Ray a cash-bone.  That wouldn’t mean Ray would go play in Detroit, for example, but any offer that rivals or trumps the one in Baltimore would be a problem for the Ravens when you look at their cap situation, which I’ve chronicled below.

And if you’re sitting there right now saying, “no team in the league is going to pay for a 34-year old linebacker in the late November of his career,” might I remind you – gently – that the Minnesota Vikings could have been thinking that on Tuesday about their free-agent, soon-to-be-33-year old center, Matt Birk.  The only problem with that thought?  Birk’s in Baltimore and the Ravens might be the “one team” willing to pay him as much or more than the Vikings.

I can hear them now in Minnesota:  ”It only takes one team.”  Followed by: “Yeah, but no one in the league wants an 11-year veteran center who still thinks he’s worth a lot of money.”

Tell that to Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta.

Ray’s still holding out hope he can find that “one team” to upset the apple cart.  I’m fairly certain he’s trying to do that today, in fact, in concert with his agent, David Dunn.

Now, on to the other major issue facing the Ravens:  The salary cap.

As I wrote last week – and fielded a bunch of “expert” criticism from folks who thought my numbers were wrong (they weren’t) – the Ravens are running short on salary cap dough.

After last week’s signing of Domonique Foxworth, and the restricted free agent tenders to Landry, Koch and Williams, Baltimore’s available cap space is now a hair over $10 million for the 2009 season.  And, yes, before you ask — that INCLUDES the additional $4 million given to all the teams last week.

With roughly $10.1 million remaining to be spent, what do the Ravens do?

They can still part company with Samari Rolle and save themselves about $2 million in ’09.  They wouldn’t have to pay him the $4.1 million they owe him but there’d be a couple million in “dead money” to deal with on the ’09 cap.

Rolle spoke out last weekend about “wanting his release” from the club.  Based on every nickel counting at this point – cap wise – that might not be a bad thing.  No one else on the club is really expendable, cap-wise, without major dead-money weight to deal with in ’09 and ’10.  Willie Anderson would save them about $3 million and some change if they axe him, but the Ravens were extremely pleased with him last season and probably aren’t interested in moving him on at this point.

If you don’t think future “dead money” is something to concern yourself with, remember that this year’s cap – 2009 – features nearly $12 million in dead-money, courtesy of bonus monies paid out to Ogden, McNair and McAlister in previous years.

Back to the original question:  What are the Ravens going to do with this $10 million they have left to spend?

It appears as if the Ravens will need about $3.5 million to spend on their ’09 college draft picks.

That leaves roughly $6.5 million to spend on “players”, aka free-agents.

News item:  I’m not sure who in Baltimore first floated this mysterious $17 million guarantee/$24 million offer for Ray Lewis, but I don’t think it’s accurate.  It can’t be.  Unless the Ravens are just going to give Ray the remaining $6.5 million for 2009, somehow.  I haven’t had this confirmed by anyone in Owings Mills yet, but I’m willing to bet the Ravens’ original offer of $12mm up front and $18 million total is still their working number.  I’ll report back if I have that confirmed…or, if I’m wrong, even.

$6.5 million left to spend, give or take a hundred grand or two.  Matt Birk might eat up 75% of that today.

Where, then, would that leave Ray?  Is that original Ravens’ offer still on the table?  The Ravens are telling me “yes, absolutely.”  In fact, if history serves me correctly, I think the only offer the Ravens ever removed from the table was when Gary Baxter jerked them around four years ago and they just said, “Enough is enough…we’re haggling with a dude who is basically an average player at best.”  And, of course, off Baxter went to Cleveland for big money…but he never even approached “average” in a Browns uniform.  He was terrible there and the Ravens, it turned out, were right on that one.

Ray Lewis wants his money.  The Ravens are running out of it.

$6.5 million to spend.

It’s not a lot of cash.

Not in the NFL, at least.

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