Instead of devoting nearly $15 million to quarterback Joe Flacco as the non-exclusive franchise player (and risking losing him) or more than $19 million as the exclusive franchise player, the new deal signed by Flacco counts for only $6.8 million against the 2013 salary cap.
Which means that the Ravens have much more flexibility when it comes to keeping or signing other players.
“I know we have a lot of good players on the team, and I love to play with those guys so hopefully it works out very good for the organization and we can keep as many people as we need,” Flacco said Monday, via the Baltimore Sun. “That’s all I really know. . . . When you get to a point where you’re happy with it, then it’s all about saying, ‘All right I’m good.’ Now let’s take care of the rest of the guys.”
So what do the Ravens do?
They don’t have many unrestricted free agents, but nearly all of them are big names. Linebacker Paul Kruger, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, cornerback Cary Williams, tackle Bryant McKinnie, and defensive tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu are all unrestricted.
The restricted free agents are tight end Dennis Pitta, tight end Ed Dickson, and defensive lineman Arthur Jones. Keeping each of them for another year will be less expensive, and it will come with the ability to match any offers received elsewhere. (Besides, the restricted free agent market has dried up in recent years.)
It could be harder to keep the unrestricted free agents. Safety Ed Reed has said he wants to stay, but he’s going to want to be paid. Before he’ll take whatever the Ravens will offer, he’ll need to see what else is out there, like Ray Lewis did four years ago. (And there continues to be a belief that the Pats and coach Bill Belichick will make a play for Reed.)
As to the two linebackers and Williams, there’s a growing belief that former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will come after one or more of them, given that Pagano’s current team, the Colts, has more than $40 million in cap space.
In the end, the Ravens may decide that, even though the Flacco deal gives them plenty of cap space, it’s not worth overspending. If the Ravens decide to hold their cap space, they can carry it over to 2014 and beyond.
Actually, that could be the best option. Given that Flacco’s cap number shoots to $29 million in 2016, it’s smarter to bank it for the future than to waste it now on players who want more than they objectively deserve.