Ravens Have $28.9M in Cap Space as They Look Toward Free-Agent Market
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta walks a delicate balance.
He is trying to building a team that can win in the short-term but also has the potential for long-term success.
That strategy has been a challenge in previous years because of some massive deals.
Baltimore, however, enters 2020 with some financial flexibility with the contract of former quarterback Joe Flacco off the books. Flacco was traded to the Denver Broncos prior to the 2019 season and the Ravens are able to shed more of that dead money this year.
The Ravens are currently $28.9 million under the salary cap, according to the latest figures by Over the Cap. While that's not an overwhelming amount of available funds, DeCosta can be active in the free agent market.
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said there's no secret surrounding some of the team's most glaring needs at linebacker/pass rusher, wide receiver and on the offensive line.
“It is going to take scheme, and it is going to take roster improvement,” Harbaugh said. “Our scheme and our roster helped us to be the very best we could be this year, under the circumstances. If you step back and look at the big picture, what we have been able to do as an organization – starting with [president] Dick [Cass] and then [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] and [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and his group, and [owner] Steve Bisciotti overseeing and directing us – it has been pretty darn remarkable.”
The Ravens, however, will find tough competition in the free-agent market. The Indianapolis Colts have the most funds available under the cap with $91.8 million, followed by the Miami Dolphins ($91.4 million), Buffalo Bills ($81.8 million), Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($81.5 million) and the Dallas Cowboys ($79.5 million).
DeCosta can create more financial flexibility by releasing several veterans, including safety Tony Jefferson ($7 million in savings), offensive lineman James Hurst ($2.75 million) and cornerback Brandon Carr ($7 million).
DeCosta has already made some shrewd moves, such as acquiring and then extending the contract of Pro-Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters. The Ravens managed to win the AFC North and clinch the top seed in the playoffs despite losing several key veterans from last season, such as Za'Darius Smith, C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs.
DeCosta said during last offseason the goal was to create a team that is built for long-term success. The pieces are in place to meet that goal, especially with quarterback Lamar Jackson, an MVP candidate, tight end Mark Andrews, right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and a pair of young receivers in Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin.
The Ravens also have 13 pending free agents, including linebacker Matthew Judon, who led the team with 9.5 sacks and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He also ranked fourth in the NFL with 33 quarterback hits.
Smith, who was the Ravens' sacks leader in 2018, signed a four-year, $66 million deal the Green Bay Packers as a free agent. Judon might command a similar contract.
However, Harbaugh said re-signing Judon is a priority this offseason. The team could also use the franchise tag on him, which could cost just over $16 million.
"We're going to try to get as many of these guys re-signed as we can. Matt [Judon] is probably right at the top of the list, for sure," coach John Harbaugh said. There are a lot of things that can go into that, as we all know – the business part of it that agents and general managers that they deal with back and forth and all that.
"So, I'll stay out of that. Probably Matt will stay out of that, too, and we'll let everybody do their jobs. But, our goal will be to have Matt back. That's what we'll try to do."