Counting down to the official start of the new league year on Thursday afternoon, the Ravens will need to make some moves to increase their amount of salary cap space for the beginning of free agency.
According to the NFLPA, Baltimore entered Monday with 54 players under contract — the offseason allows for a 90-man roster — and $13.801 million in cap space when considering only the top 51 cap figures. The “rule of 51” officially goes into effect at 4 p.m. on Thursday and applies until just before the start of the regular season, meaning all teams must be under the league’s $167 million salary cap for 2017 later this week.
Nearly $14 million in cap space may sound like a lot for general manager Ozzie Newsome, but resources will be needed just to tender restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players, which will exhaust a great deal of that space. That means at least a few cap-related releases, extensions, or pay cuts are all but guaranteed to occur to create room to re-sign some of their own unrestricted free agents and to pursue outside free agents.
“We’re bringing everybody back until we’re not,” head coach John Harbaugh said last week. “I think circumstances dictate that, so every one of those guys is in a little bit of a different position and different story.”
To be clear, the Ravens are currently in compliance with the cap and technically won’t need to make any cuts by a certain deadline, but any effort to improve the roster in a meaningful way will require some difficult decisions with veteran players over the next few days. It remains to be seen just how radical those changes might be for a team hoping to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.