The Future of the Baltimore Ravens will be decided over the next 72 hours. No, I’m not trying to be dire or forecast an enormous drop-off in competitiveness by the team. Nothing like that. This is all just fact. The Baltimore Ravens have just under 72 hours to sign Ray Rice to a new contract. If they fail to do so, it will dramatically change the immediate future of this football team.
This isn’t about Ray Rice, or Joe Flacco or anyone else. This is all about the cap.
The Ravens have essentially $600,000 in cap space right now. If they fail to re-sign Ray Rice, that is the number they will have to operate under for the foreseeable future. Its possible that the Ravens could re-work a few contracts or cut some players with cap numbers higher than their value, but generally speaking that is not the Ravens do business. Re-worked contracts just create bigger issues down the line and there isn’t a player on the roster who has a really bad cap number so i just don’t see it.
The good news is that as bad as that $600,000 number sounds, it isnt the end of the world. the 2012 roster is essentially completed already so anyone the Ravens were to sign moving forward is just a bonus. The Ravens still have flexibility and there are a thousand ways to get around having little or no cap space.
The Bad news is that the Ravens would enter 2013 with Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Bryant McKinney, Ed Reed, Ray Lewis (retirement), and Cary Williams all possibly leaving the team through free agency (or retirement). If Ravens thought this off-season was bad, just wait and see the results of that offseason. The Ravens would likely lose either Flacco or Rice, whichever one they did not Franchise, as well as McKinney, Lewis and either Reed or Williams.
If the Ravens franchised Flacco next year, which barring a new contract is an absolute lock to happen, he would have a 1 year contract with a cap number exceeding 17 million dollars. That would cripple the Ravens cap space. The Ravens would be lucky to make it through that offseason with a 9 win caliber roster. That future can not be allowed to play out.
This brings us back to Ray Rice. with no new Rice contract, the Ravens will likely have to wait to re-sign Flacco because his increased contract size isn’t going to be easy to fit under $600,000 in cap space (Its possible to do don’t get me wrong, it just puts some major restraints on the bargaining process). The Ravens could work on Ed Reeds new deal, but in all honesty, if im the Ravens, I’m waiting for Reed to call me. If he wants to hold-out, let him. When he starts getting fined $500,000 a day for missing training camp, we will see if he wants to talk. The Ravens have bigger issues on their table right now.
So how would things be different if Rice signs?
A new Rice deal would probably free up anywhere from 2-4 million from the cap. I would assume Joe Flacco gets a deal by week 3-4 at the latest. The Ravens have the flexibility to work with Reed a bit, maybe give him an incentive based package similar to what the Giants gave Osi Umenyiora before the 2011 season, I would make the first bonus based on games played. Lewis is still probably going to be gone, but The Ravens would have a good shot at keeping either McKinney (based on his play this year) or Cary Williams. All that would still leave the Ravens with enough cap space next year to make a couple moves.
Are the Ravens going to suddenly turn into the Browns if they can’t re-sign Rice? Of course not, don’t be silly. But for better or worse, the Ravens next two seasons will hinge greatly on the actions they take over the next 72 hours.