The subject of salary cap relief has dominated the discussion following the Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII victory as many are wondering how general manager Ozzie Newsome can keep important components of a championship team together for a bid to repeat.
According to NFL.com, the Ravens are an estimated $12.9 million under the cap for the 2013 season, but that is before addressing free-agent quarterback Joe Flacco or any other restricted or unrestricted free agents on their plate. Considering Baltimore is facing the potential need to allocate $20 million for the exclusive franchise tag to keep their Super Bowl MVP, drastic steps may need to be taken to clear enough room by the start of the new league year on March 12.
Taking a look at the Ravens’ largest cap numbers has led a few, such as Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, to suggest linebacker Terrell Suggs could be a dark-horse candidate to be released in order to provide cap relief. Suggs holds a $13.02 million cap number for the 2013 season, but releasing him this offseason would do very little to help.
Cutting Suggs prior to June 1 would create only $1.8 million in cap space as the Ravens would be left with $11.2 million in dead money due to prorated bonus money against this year’s cap. And while it’s true a post-June 1 release would create more space this year and push some of the dead money to next season, the extra cap space wouldn’t become available until June and does nothing to help you after all notable free agents — such as fellow pass rusher Paul Kruger — have already found jobs.
In other words, the Ravens aren’t going to release a cornerstone of their defense to gain a minimal amount of cap room, especially when they’re already losing Ray Lewis and facing the reality of both Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe signing elsewhere. If you’re going to release a linebacker to create space, the exit of inside linebacker Jameel McClain would make the most sense as he would also clear $1.8 million in cap room.
If the Ravens want to address Suggs’ enormous cap number, a contract restructure would be possible, but that is only putting money on the credit card and will lead to further headaches down the road. Newsome acknowledged that much in the Ravens’ end-of-season press conference last week.
“We are not going to be restructuring contracts and doing all of those different things to be able just to maintain this team to make another run,” Newsome said. “We’re not doing that. All that being said, John [Harbaugh] and I have talked about it, and we have talked to the coaches, [and] that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to try to go and repeat.”
If you take the general manager’s words at face value, the Ravens will simply need to bite the bullet with the cap numbers of both Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata ($11.5 million) for the 2013 season. Should Suggs be unable to bounce back from an injury-riddled season as he turns 31 in October, parting ways with the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year might be a realistic possibility next offseason — and would save $7.8 million in cap space in 2014 — but the five-time Pro Bowl selection isn’t going anywhere this offseason.