The Ravens overhauled their defense this offseason, without being awash in salary cap room.
They did it by knowing when to let go, trading expensive-but-old Anquan Boldin, cutting Bernard Pollard and holding the door open for free agents Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed and Cary Williams.
And with more big moves on the horizon for next offseason, the Ravens are already looking ahead at another sticky cap situation.
According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, the Ravens have nearly $71 million of next year’s cap committed to six players (that would be 58 percent of this year’s $123 million limit, and the cap isn’t expected to rise dramatically).
That includes a team-high $16 million for Haloti Ngata, and $12.4 million for Terrell Suggs, both of whom are coming off injuries which limited their effectiveness last season.
So even though they’re looking at another crop of key free agents (Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Michael Oher, Arthur Jones, Corey Graham), they’re confident about being able to keep the right parts together.
“I think the thing we want to do is just live in the moment right now,” assistant G.M. Eric DeCosta said. “Those guys are under contract. They’re all outstanding players. They’re some of the very best players at their position in the league. We just want to play this year. We’ll let those decisions wait until the future.
“We have a lot of flexibility with the cap. [Negotiator] Pat Moriarty and Ozzie do a phenomenal job of making tough decisions. We’ve made a lot of tough decisions over the last couple of years. They’re hard decisions to make. Any time you have to cut a player or let a player go in free agency because of the salary cap, it’s tough to do that.”
Having so many key players hit free agency at the same time is the bane of drafting well. But as the Ravens have shown this offseason, they’re not above letting guys walk and drafting a replacement, or plugging one in whom they drafted a year ago.
That kind of year-ahead thinking and successful drafting is the reason they won a Super Bowl, but have remained competitive for more than one season at a time.