The AFC North champs took the NFL by storm in 2019 posting a 14-2 record but the Tennessee Titans dashed the impressive season in the playoffs. The stunning loss leaves Baltimore Ravens fans frustrated but it should thrill them with the mix of young and veteran talent. Will the Ravens be able to keep that talent while luring more talent to join the team in 2020? Will the team’s finances prevent them from making bold moves as the team aims to repeat their 2019 success?
I will break down the Ravens salary cap situation, the status of their free agents, and the draft but in a shorter version then I did with the Steelers. The NFL salary cap is like stats, just looking at a number does not tell the whole story.
Cap space: $28.9 million while OTC lists 50 players under contract. For this exercise, I will be realistic and add $510,000 for each of the three players who will end up comprising the 53 man roster.
Effective Cap Space: $27.37 million (the full 53 man roster)
Practice squad: $1.5 million
Draft picks: $3.37 million. Nine draft picks at $7.97 million. As I noted in a previous article regarding the Steelers cap, that full amount will not count because of displacement.
Cap space: $22.5 million
The Ravens are not sitting in a great spot cap wise but are far from being desperate for cap space, right now. The issue lies in taking care of their free agents. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Matthew Judon is in the same position as Bud Dupree. Franchise tag, long-term deal, or let him walk? That is the question that is haunting Ravens fans.
The team has 16 other players who will be unrestricted free agents. While most of the players on the list are rotational players, cornerback Jimmy Smith is not. The nine-year vet could come with a hefty price tag but given that he has not played 16 games in the past four years, the Ravens might let him walk. And with the plethora of draft picks, they very well may let the other rotational players walk.
The Ravens have two restricted free agents with only center Matt Skura guaranteed of receiving a tender. Skura played every offensive snap in 2018 and was on his way to do the same in 2019 when a devastating knee injury derailed his season. The torn ACL, PCL, and MCL could allow the Ravens to use an original round tender and save $1 million against the cap as other teams would shy away from such a devastating knee injury that could be viewed as career ending.
Gus Edwards is the only exclusive rights free agent who is likely to make the 2020 roster but like all ERFAs he will come cheap.
The $22.5 million will not go far if the Ravens franchise tag Judan at over $16 million but they are not painted into a corner either. Eight time Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda may retire at 35 and create a glaring hole at right tackle but his retirement would also free up $7 million. The Ravens could also move on from off-injured Tony Jefferson and nickel cornerback Brandon Carr. Moving on from the duo would net $13 million in savings. The team could also free up additional cap space with restructures of Earl Thomas and Marcus Peters.
At 87.5% this past season, the Ravens had the best win percentage of any team. Will they be able to repeat that success and repeat as AFC North champs? That will come down to offseason moves that goes hand in hand with the salary cap management. Eric DeCosta had a fantastic first season as the Baltimore general manager but can he keep that rolling in 2020?