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Like the rest of the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens are a little light on the wallet. Thanks to the 2021 salary cap being expected to go down for the first time in over a decade, the Ravens will have far less salary-cap space than they originally envisioned. Though Baltimore has more than about half the league, they could be looking to free up some more money this offseason.
There are a few ways the Ravens could create more cap space. They could use extensions to lower the 2021 cap hit of some players. Restructuring is always an option as well, though that tends to create more cap issues in later years. However, there’s always the pink slip option, jettisoning a player who just isn’t worth their current cap hit and has limited dead money still attached to their deal.
Today, we’re going to look at the straight-up cuts to see which players would return the most money to the Ravens’ salary cap.
*Note: I’m not saying any of these players should or will get cut. These are just the ones that have the biggest savings
CB Marcus Peters - $9.49 million gained
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The Ravens traded with the Los Angeles Rams for Peters during the 2019 season, eventually inking him to a three-year extension later that year. Given that and the team's desire to stockpile talent at cornerback, it makes it really unlikely Peters will get cut outright. Instead, a restructure could make more sense, pushing more money in the final year of his deal as a way to free up cap space right now.
DT Brandon Williams - $7.5 million gained
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Even though Williams never matched production to his contract value, he's been a key piece of Baltimore's run defense. While the Ravens had a little more success last season without Williams in the lineup than in previous years, there's still a big dropoff when "big baby" isn't on the field. However, Baltimore seems to be planning for a future when Williams isn't on the roster. They added Calais Campbell to the lineup last offseason, selected Justin Madubuike and Broderick Washington Jr. in the 2020 NFL draft, and re-signed Justin Ellis this offseason. If the Ravens can re-sign Derek Wolfe, they might feel confident enough in their group without Williams to be willing to either trade him or cut him for the cap space.
DE Calais Campbell - $6 million gained
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While it was only a fifth-round pick, the Ravens did trade draft capital away to acquire Campbell last offseason. In return, Campbell played great football for Baltimore, helping solidify the run defense and bumping up the pass rush. When you consider those facts, Campbell almost assuredly is in the Ravens' plans this season as well. Much like Williams, Campbell is in the final year of his contract, which would make a restructure impossible to pull off. But if Baltimore believes Campbell has a few more years left in him, an extension could make a ton of sense and allow the Ravens to move money into future years for some cap space in 2021.
TE Mark Andrews - $3.384 million gained
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While Baltimore could save a few million dollars by cutting Andrews, that's definitely not going to happen. He's in the final year of his rookie deal and is an absolute steal at his $3.59 million cap hit when you consider he's been the most consistent pass catcher on the team for a few years. Like several people on this list, the Ravens could use a contract extension to lock Andrews up long-term but free up some cap space this year if they wanted. However, Andrews isn't likely going to be cheap to re-sign, and pushing more money into future years when he has such a small cap hit in 2021 already could create a pretty big problem for Baltimore down the line.
LB L.J. Fort - $2.25 million
AP Photo/Nick Wass
You might think Fort makes a lot of sense as a salary-cap casualty this offseason but don't be so fast. Though Baltimore grabbed linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison in the 2020 NFL draft, Fort still got significant playing time last season as both rookies learned the ropes. While I'd expect both Queen and Harrison to improve by the start of next season, I wouldn't expect the Ravens to make any decision on Fort until they see how both young players look on the field. Fort is a great reserve option with the ability to start, and he plays on special teams which will always make coach John Harbaugh's heart flutter. Still, if Baltimore needs a few more million dollars to make a blockbuster deal happen, Fort could make the most sense to be cut.
S DeShon Elliott - $2.183 million gained
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After two years dealing with injuries, we finally got a chance to see Elliott on the field for an entire season. And just as expected, he was a thumper unafraid to lay out to make a play. However, it's also fair to point out that the Ravens now have two starting strong safeties and no free safeties on the roster. I doubt Baltimore would simply cut one of their better young players, especially since he's still on his rookie contract. But with a need for a true free safety and Chuck Clark uncuttable (he'd cost the Ravens $2.75 million against the cap to cut), Elliott could be an interesting option if Baltimore is desperate for money and they can find a ballhawk free safety to replace him.
G Bradley Bozeman - $2.183 million gained
AP Photo/Nick Wass
Like pretty much everyone on this list, it's highly unlikely the Ravens would even consider cutting Bozeman. He's been the starter at left guard for the last two seasons and while not a Pro Bowler, he's been consistent enough to keep his job, especially with other spots on the offensive line in need of help.
FB Patrick Ricard - $2 million gained
AP Photo/Nick Wass
The Ravens just inked Ricard to a two-year contract extension late in 2019, so it's unlikely they'd outright cut him at this point. His ability to play on the defensive line, line up at tight end, and his value as a lead blocker in Baltimore's run-first offensive scheme makes it even more unlikely they'd cut him. But fullbacks don't carry the value they once did and Ricard is in the final year of his deal. I doubt the Ravens would be able to find another fullback that would fit their 80/20 rule (80% of the production at 20% of the cost) but again, it's an option if Baltimore is truly desperate.
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When looking over the Ravens' roster and cap hits, there aren't many guys they could cut that would create any cap space. While Baltimore could free up some money this way, they'd have to replace that talent with someone cheaper than the savings they'd get for it to make any sense, which further complicates everything. While the Ravens don't have a ton of cap space, they can structure any free-agent deals with a lower initial cap hit to make them fit. If they still need some money, they'd likely go to guys like Peters and Ronnie Stanley to restructure first or look at extensions for guys like Campbell and Williams.