The Baltimore Ravens are about to enter free agency with a limited amount of cap space. While the Ravens could choose to be frugal over the coming months, Baltimore could as easily wish to make a blockbuster signing or two in an effort to better compete for a championship. But in order to do that, they’ll need to create a little extra cap space this offseason.
Though we’ve already looked at the players who would represent the biggest cap gains if cut, none are terribly likely to happen. Don’t fear, there are other options available to the Ravens, including contract restructures.
The most common type of restructuring we see in the NFL is a team converting a player’s higher base salary into a signing bonus that can be spread over a few years. For players with a few more years left on their contracts and bigger 2021 cap hits, it’s an effective way of creating immediate savings. However, it does carry some risk as it increases that player’s dead money in future years, at times ensuring the player is uncuttable.
Baltimore hasn’t often restructured contracts because it effectively exchanges current cap space for future cap space, kicking the can down the line and creating problems later in a deal. But with the salary cap expected to take a big hit due to the loss of revenue from the coronavirus pandemic, the Ravens don’t have many other choices if they need a quick infusion of money.
Let’s take a look at the few players Baltimore could ask to restructure their deals this offseason and exactly what type of cap savings the Ravens could get.
CB Marcus Peters – $5.248 million gained
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The Ravens traded with the Los Angeles Rams to acquire Peters during the 2019 season, ultimately signing him to a three-year extension that season. A restructure would free up a nice bit of cap space, but it doesn’t come without risk. Because Peters has just two years remaining on his deal, the cap savings in 2021 would hit next season. If Baltimore is confident the salary cap will return somewhat to normal next year, it might not be too bad. However, by adding $5.248 million to his cap hit in 2022 would make him the highest-paid player on the team with quite a bit of dead money, making him an anchor on the salary cap with little savings if cut.
T Ronnie Stanley – $5.208 million gained
AP Photo/Nick Wass
Players who have recently been signed to big contracts often make the best restructure candidates. They typically carry a high cap hit and with a full deal still ahead of them, any savings on the current salary cap can be spread over the remainder of the deal which won’t impact future years nearly as much. Stanley, fresh off inking a five-year extension late last season, makes all the sense in the world. Though Stanley is coming off a nasty ankle injury that put him on injured reserve, he’s cemented himself as one of the best young tackles in the league. It’s likely the Ravens will want to keep him long-term, taking most of the risk out of any restructure.
CB Marlon Humphrey – $1.803 million gained
AP Photo/Gail Burton
As I noted with Stanley, players who have recently signed contract extensions often make the best options to restructure. Unfortunately, with a $3.244 million base salary, there’s not much there to restructure, limiting any potential cap savings. While this is clearly an option for Baltimore, saving it for next year makes a lot more sense. In 2022, Humphrey has a $10 million base salary with four more years remaining, meaning the Ravens could get far more cap savings without taking too big of a cap hit in future years. I’d expect Baltimore to keep this one in their back pocket.
K Justin Tucker – $1.617 million gained
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Tucker is currently the highest-paid kicker in the league and for good reason. He shows no signs of slipping from that perch, making him an attraction restructure option for Baltimore since they undoubtedly plan on keeping him for quite a few more years. In fact, out of everyone on this list, Tucker might just be the safest option to restructure because of his consistent high level of play and how long kickers can play in the NFL.
CB Tavon Young – $830,000 gained
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The Ravens had originally signed Young to a big contract extension ahead of the 2019 season, making him the highest-paid nickel cornerback in the league at the time. Unfortunately, Young has been sidelined quite a bit by injuries, playing just two games over the last two seasons. He took a pay cut at the end of last season, saving a few million dollars against the 2021 salary cap but it effectively guaranteed his roster spot for another season. That makes a restructure pretty unlikely to happen but one that’s worth pointing out regardless.