Note: All salary cap and contract information listed below can be found on overthecap.com
Baltimore, MD – Heading into the offseason the Ravens will have a few key decisions to make. The first decision was made earlier this week when head coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ front office elected to keep all of the coordinators in place for next season. Looking past the draft in the coming months some key roster decisions will need to be made.
As Ravens fans know, in recent years the team has been limited in the moves that they are able to make in free agency. This can be attributed to the massive contract given to quarterback Joe Flacco. Given his recent struggles, many fans have been begging the organization to either trade or release Joe, and draft a quarterback in the draft. Well, I have some bad news for those people: The Ravens will not be releasing Flacco anytime soon and I cannot imagine that any team in the league would want to take on his contract. So unfortunately the team is stuck with him and all of the consequences of his deal.
Heading into this offseason it is projected that the per-team salary cap will jump from $155.27 million in 2016 to $166-170 million in 2017. As some know, only the top 51 salaries on each team are counted against the cap, which brings the Ravens current 2017 cap number to roughly $152.3 million. With that number, there is only about $14-18 million available to sign free agents and get deals done with their 2017 draft picks. For reference, the rookies on the 2016 active roster took up just over $8.5 million of the cap. There is no way that management will be able to improve the team for next year with only $6-10 million to spend in free agency. So after throwing all of these numbers at you, lets take a look at some of the players currently on the roster that I feel could be potential cap casualties. This could be either during the summer or during training camp.
CB Kyle Arrington
Arrington has been a disappointment ever since he came to Baltimore before the 2015 season. He has dealt with multiple injuries over the past two seasons, which has resulted in him seeing the field in only 10 games during that time. During those 10 games Arrington has left a lot to be desired with his production, as well. Recording only 22 solo tackles, six assists, three pass deflections, and a forced fumble during that time. With a strong rookie season by Tavon Young, the Ravens trust him to take over a starting role heading into 2017. It also allows them to cut Arrington, after June 1, resulting in $2.1 million in cap savings for the 2017 season. Look for the Ravens to address the cornerback position in both the draft and in free agency.
Likelihood of being cut: 85%
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro
Taliaferro was a 4th round pick of the Ravens in the 2014 draft and was expected to be a potential back of the future. However, he has dealt with numerous injuries and been relatively ineffective during his time in the NFL. Looking at the backfield as a whole, Taliaferro seems to be the odd man out. Kenneth Dixon has a very strong hold on a starting position with Terrence West becoming a free agent. Do not be surprised if the Ravens bring back West on a new contract. Buck Allen has shown flashes of productivity when he has gotten an opportunity and is younger than Taliaferro. By cutting Taliaferro it would save the Ravens $690 thousand in 2017.
Likelihood of being cut: 80%
S Kendrick Lewis
Lewis is another player who has not lived up to expectations since his arrival in Baltimore. Like Arrington, he has dealt with injuries over the past two seasons resulting in only 44 solo tackles, 23 assists, five pass deflections, and two forced fumbles in only 20 games. Cutting Lewis would free up $1.8 million worth of cap space for 2017. This is another position that we can expect the Ravens to address this offseason with both 2016 starting safeties approaching the end of their careers. The biggest thing that could keep Lewis in Baltimore is the lack of depth at safety.
Likelihood of being cut: 70%
OLB Elvis Dumervil
Unlike the first three players mentioned, Dumervil has been very effective in his four seasons for the Ravens. He appeared in at least 13 games in each of his first three seasons before having an injury plagued 2016 season in which he only played in seven games. His 2014 season was by far his best season in a Ravens uniform (15 games). During that season he registered 17 sacks, which was third in the league, only behind Justin Houston (22) and J.J. Watt (20.5). There are three reasons for Dumervil landing on this list. This first reason is his declining health. He is currently 32-years-old but will turn 33 later this month. His body has been taking a beating for years and it is starting to wear down. The second reason is the fact that by cutting Dumervil after June 1, the team would save $6 million in cap space for 2017. That is a very large number for a team desperate for cap space. Of the current players under contract with the Ravens, Dumervil’s $8.375 million cap number is the fourth highest. The third reason is that the Ravens have been addressing the pass rush needs over the last few drafts and will certainly be addressing it again this year. The Ravens need to get younger and cutting Dumervil will help do that along with freeing up a lot of money.
Likelihood of being cut: 65%
C Jeremy Zuttah
Jeremy Zuttah was acquired through a trade back in March 2014 from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Zuttah has been relatively durable over the last three seasons, starting all 16 games in both 2014 and 2016. Zuttah’s biggest problem has been his penalties, especially in 2016. Zuttah accounted for six penalties this season, which isn’t an outrageous number. However, it seemed like he was always getting flagged at key moments in games. Look for the Ravens to add a center in the early to middle rounds of the draft this offseason. Having a rookie center is not necessarily something the team or Flacco would like to see so John Urschel could be in line to start if Zuttah is cut. By cutting Zuttah, it would save $3.5 million in cap space. This would have to be done after June 1.
Likelihood of being cut: 55%
TE Ben Watson
When the Ravens signed veteran Ben Watson last offseason they expected him to be a valued asset in the offense. However, father time had other plans. Watson tore his achilles tendon on the first offensive snap he played as a Raven in the preseason. Coming back from an achilles injury is tough for any NFL player much less a 36-year-old player. Watson is known around the league as one of the best locker room guys to have. He is very active in the community and is a guy you like to see in Baltimore. It is very possible that Watson calls it quits this summer and decides to retire. The team could also decide to cut Watson and save $3 million on the cap. With Dennis Pitta seemingly back to full health, Nick Boyle hopefully past his PED usage, and Darren Waller being effective at times in 2016 the Ravens might decide to cut ties with Watson. Crockett Gilmore and Maxx Williams will also be coming back from injury which will make tight end a position battle to watch come training camp.
Likelihood of being cut: 50%
CB Shareece Wright
You may be surprised to see Shareece Wright on this list after signing a three-year extension back in March. This potential cut would be all performance based. Wright played pretty well after the Ravens brought him in during the 2015 season to replace the injured Will Davis. The 2016 season was not as pleasant. He played in 12 games, racking up 44 tackles and a fumble recovery. When Jimmy Smith was injured, Wright was forced into the number one cornerback role, which is not a role that he should be filling. When Smith was healthy, Wright still struggled in coverage at times in the number two cornerback role. The nickel corner position is probably the best fit for him. Again, Tavon Young’s very strong rookie season could make cutting Wright an easier decision. By cutting the cornerback after June 1 it would save $4 million for the cap.
Likelihood of being cut: 30%
P Sam Koch
Cutting Koch could potentially be the biggest surprise cut by the Ravens in years if it goes through. Koch has consistently been one of the league’s best punters over the last several seasons. Koch is known around the league for having many different punt techniques that he uses depending on several factors which results in the Ravens being one of the best punt coverage teams year after year. The 34-year-old punter should be able to keep punting at a high level until his contract expires after the 2020 season. By cutting him after June 1, the team would save $2.3 million in cap space. They could then bring a rookie punter into camp, which would cost the team a lot less money if he makes the team. This is definitely a case where, if Koch is cut, it will be one of the last to happen at the end of camp.
Likelihood of being cut: 25%
Look for the Ravens to try one of two things with the following three players.
Restructure a current contract
Ask the player to take a pay cut to stay in Baltimore
TE Dennis Pitta
After his record setting 2016 season, it is unlikely that management asks Pitta to take a pay cut. It is very possible that they restructure his deal by giving him a large signing bonus and back-loading the new contract. Pitta is owed $7.7 million in 2017 and $7.7 million in 2018.
S Lardarius Webb
At 31-years-old, Webb is getting closer and closer to retirement each season. His coverage ability has been declining the past few seasons, which led to the coaching staff moving him to safety at the end of the 2015 season. His transition has worked out so far for both sides. The team would like to keep Webb in Baltimore opposite Eric Weddle but he is currently owed $7.5 million in 2017. Webb has taken pay cuts in the past so he could do the same heading into next season.
OLB Terrell Suggs
The 34-year-old Suggs will be a Raven for life. Don’t worry about him leaving. The issue here is that he is owed $6.95 million in each of the next two seasons. Suggs surprisingly played very well this season coming off an achilles tear in the 2015 opener. Hopefully he can continue to play at a high level the next two seasons to make his current deal worth the money they are paying him. If management doesn’t feel confident in that happening, they may try to get Suggs to take a pay cut.
The Ravens definitely have some key roster decisions to make heading into the offseason. It is sure to make for an eventful and exciting eight months.
Let us know who you feel are the most likely to be cap casualties. Do you agree with the players listed above or disagree?