Ravens' next cap move feels obvious after Justin Madubuike franchise tag

The Ravens need to make some big subtractions.

AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens
AFC Championship - Kansas City Chiefs v Baltimore Ravens / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

The Baltimore Ravens went way over the salary cap when they chose to use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Justin Madubuike. With Baltimore already $9 million over the cap and needing to free up space in the next week to chase free agents, some veterans might need to find new homes.

While restructuring big contracts for players like Lamar Jackson and Roquan Smith seems like a given for Baltimore, Eric DeCosta can (and likely will) use this as an opportunity to ditch some expensive veteran contracts given to players who aren't performing as well as they could be.

The Ravens nominally have a starting left tackle in Ronnie Stanley, but his eight-figure salary and constant injury problems could make him a logical candidate for release. With Madubuike officially back, Baltimore may be forced into a situation where they have to make this move.

Cutting Stanley, be it after or before June 1, will give the Ravens enough breathing room to retain some of their more prized internal free agents while also giving them enough financial flexibility to chase a star running back in free agency. It's a shame that Stanley's Ravens tenure could be brought to an end like this.

Baltimore Ravens could release Ronnie Stanley after Justin Madubuike franchise tag

Stanley has struggled to stay healthy after making an All-Pro appearance in 2019. Stanley missed essentially all of 2021, and his performance declined from well above-average to as milquetoast as possible. For the price tag, Stanley is simply not living up to expectations.

The Ravens may not be able to find a replacement in free agency, but the 2024 NFL Draft is full of possible upgrades. Washington's Troy Fautanu, Duke's Graham Barton, and Oklahoma's Tyler Guyton are just a few of the players who could be prime targets for Baltimore at pick No. 30 overall.

Swapping Stanley for a possible young player at No. 30 would also pave a path for Baltimore to retain free agents like Jadeveon Clowney and Kevin Zeitler, all while saving up enough room for a running back like Derrick Henry or Saquon Barkley to possibly don Ravens purple next season.

Stanley has been a paragon of solid tackle play when healthy, but age and attrition seem to finally be catching up to him. The Ravens know they need to keep their depth in place, and it will seem hard to do so unless they restructure contracts and part with Stanley.