Ray-Week, Day 3 – “Money too tight to mention?”

February 25, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Hang in there gang, we’re almost to Friday.

That’s when the fireworks REALLY begin.

Beginning this Friday, if Ray Lewis really does reach 12:01am without a signed contract in Baltimore, he’ll hit free agency for the first time in his career.

I assume, by the time I make it to the air at 6:07 for a Friday morning edition of the wildly popular “Comcast Morning Show”, Ray will already be in the news somehow, someway.  Even if no team makes him a bonafide offer in the wee hours of the morning, I’m quite certain someone from his camp will float one out there.

Yesterday, reports circulated that Ray was offered a significant amount of money from the Ravens on Tuesday.  

The only issue with that?  The Ravens might not have “significant money” available to them at this point. 

Why let that important fact get in the way, though, right?

Last August when the Ravens rebuffed Ray’s counter-offer of $20 million, they might have known then that they’d be tight-against-the-cap in February/March of 2009.  

They’re not able to be free spenders this off-season.  They’ve already shelled out $10,170,000 to Terrell Suggs.  They’ve handed over a little more than $1.5 million to defensive lineman Brandon McKinney and a million bucks to Dwan Edwards for 2009.

The Ravens have roughly $123 million to play with (cap-wise) in 2009.  Right now, they’re closing in on $113 million, by my estimation, give a million or so either way.  

If, in fact, they’re $10 million to the good under the cap, what do they do with it?

I know what they CAN’T do with $10 million.  Sign Ray, Bart, Jason and Jim.  In fact, with $10 million, it’s likely they can’t even sign TWO of those guys, unless it’s Leonhard and Brown, the most likely combination that could be pulled for $10 million in cap expense for 2009.

OK, then, who goes in order to make more room under the cap, if that’s even necessary?

And, remember, you can’t be over the salary cap after this Friday at 12:00 am.  In other words, by Thursday at 11:59pm, you need to be under the cap and STAY under the cap throughout 2009.  

So, between now and Friday, the Ravens would have to part company with some significant players – and salaries – in order to fit a few of the “most-wanted” into the 2009 scheme.

Who goes, then?

Trevor Pryce ($1.75 million saved if released before 6/1)?  Samari Rolle ($4.1 million)?  Is it right to release Kelly Gregg after he spent ’08 on the injured list ($1.1 million)?  Frank Walker ($1.6 million) could be expendable but with CMac’s departure, every veteran defensive back could be valuable in ’09.

That eight million sure would help.

Where’s the defensive end pass rush going to come from in ’09?  There’s no Trevor Pryce waiting in the wings, with all due respect to Marques Douglas.

And, with the departure of Chris McAlister, the Ravens are already somewhat hamstrung experience-wise in the defensive backfield.  Losing Rolle wouldn’t HELP the situation back there, that’s for sure.

But, that $8 million would sure help.  

Or, do the Ravens just go ahead and sign Jason Brown, and Jim Leonhard and squeeze the two signings into the roughly-$10 million they have to left to play with?  They could probably get Brown for a $7 million signing bonus over four years and another $2.5 million per-year…and Leonhard would cost them roughly $1.5 million a year for three years.  In other words, they could sneak those two in for ’09 and fit them under the $10 million they have left.  Keep in mind, too, my numbers are more rounded off than they probably should be…the Ravens might be working with $8,882,019 dollars for all I know. In other words, every dollar counts.  

By the way, the Ravens need $5 million or so to sign their draft picks.  Anyone know how they’re going to do that?  Yeah, me neither.

Keep in mind, the Ravens haven’t even perused the free agent list yet to see who might be available on Friday morning.  And they have their own contributors hanging out there as well:  Matt Stover is wondering if he’s coming back – and getting paid.  Same for Dan Wilcox.  And Kyle Boller.  Let’s take a truth-pill here.  As hard as it is to swallow, if there’s no money for Jason Brown and Bart Scott (not to mention Ray Lewis), there’s certainly no money for Stover, Wilcox and Boller.    

It’s all coming clear now:  Unless Ozzie and DeCosta make some dramatic moves over the next 72 hours, they aren’t going to have enough money for their own players, let alone guys parading around the league for a new deal.  

I’m glad I’m not making the decision(s).

And, it’s not Fantasy Football either.

Most fans just say, “Give Ray and Bart the money and get it over with already, would ya?”

It’s just not that easy.

Sports is weird.  

The Orioles have gobs of money to spend and don’t want to spend it.

The Ravens would love to have an unlimited amount to spend, but they can’t.

It sure is fun to talk about, though.

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