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Late For Work 2/13: AFC North Salary Cap Projections

Steelers to cut Ward? HOF probabilities for Ravens. Don’t write off Evans.

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Monday, February 13th, 2012 at 9:11 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

AFC North Salary Cap Projections

Last week we encouraged you to “dream big” as you drooled over The Sporting News’ top 100 free agents.

This week, reality will deliver a good swift kick to the gut. Yes, there’s still a little thing called the salary cap in the NFL.

ESPN’s Jamison Hensley projected just how much space the Ravens, plus the other three AFC North teams, have to play with.

Below is each divisional foe’s estimated status, none of which have been confirmed by the teams. (These projections were made last Friday, so any releases or restructured contracts that occurred, or were rumored to occur, over the weekend are not included.)

Ravens: $10 million under cap

Baltimore’s received $1.5 million in additional space last week when running back Ricky Williams announced his retirement, according to Hensley. The ESPN blogger explained the Ravens could dip another $9 million under the cap if cornerback Domonique Foxworth and receiver Lee Evans are cut (Dan Kolko casts doubt on that idea below.).

That would put the Ravens $19 million under the cap, but that doesn’t mean all of that cash can be spent in free agency. If running back Ray Rice gets the franchise tag, an expected $8 million will go there. Plus, Hensley reports that Baltimore is expected to place a first-round tender on restricted free-agent corner Lardarius Webb, worth $2.7 million.

Steelers: $10 million over the cap

While Pittsburgh has to find ways to get rid of $10 million, they’ve already made “significant progress.” They were $25 million over the cap when the year first began. It only took four moves to free up $15.1 million by restructuring the contracts of linebackers LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons and cutting cornerback Bryant McFadden and wide receiver Arnaz Battle.

Hensley says there’s still “plenty of work remaining,” but there are at least five candidates eligible to get restructured or released, including receiver Hines Ward (more on that below, too).

Bengals: $44 million under the cap

“Cincinnati has seven of its starters entering free agency, but the Bengals are looking to upgrade at a lot of those spots on offense: wide receiver, running back and both guard positions,” wrote Hensley.

Browns: $21 million under the cap

“The Browns can spend on outside talent because they only have three of their starters heading to free agency (running back Peyton Hillis, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and safety Mike Adams, in addition to kicker Phil Dawson),” Hensley explained.

Kolko: Don’t Count Out Evans, Fox, Carr

Evans, Foxworth and Chris Carr have been the media’s most popular picks to become Ravens salary cap casualties, but MASN’s Dan Kolko says you can’t write them off just yet.

“While Evans, Foxworth and Carr will almost certainly not be brought back under their current contracts, I think it’s important to point out that it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be back at all,” wrote Kolko.

“The Ravens could approach these players and talk about renegotiating their deals, which would free up cap space and lessen the amount of guaranteed money the team would need to pay out while also offering the veterans a chance to earn back playing time and position themselves for a raise in 2013.”

Of the three, Kolko believes Evans will be the most open to restructuring his contract because, after an injury riddled season capped off by a key “drop” in the playoffs, there may not be too many suitors out there. Plus, he could still earn the No. 3 receiver position in Baltimore.

With the emergence of Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith, “There appears to be less reason for Foxworth or Carr to return to Baltimore,” writes Kolko.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up Yet – Ward Is Still A Steeler

Let’s hold off on the celebration for now.

Many of you were elated when NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora reported that Hines Ward and his smile would not be back in Pittsburgh next season. The Steelers could use the $4 million he is scheduled to make in the last two years of his contract to get under the cap.

Ward refuted the report, saying on his Facebook page that he is willing to take a pay cut in order to retire a Steeler.

“I don’t normally like to respond to rumors, but as I’ve said all along, I want to finish my career with the Pittsburgh Steelers,” he wrote. “And as I’ve already told the organization, I am willing to work with them to restructure my contract to make sure this happens.”

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that no one from the Steelers has told Ward the team will release him.

“Of course, the Steelers may still be planning to release Ward and they just haven’t said anything,” explained PFT.com’s Gregg Rosenthal.

Ward’s future in Pittsburgh may come down to how much of a pay cut he’s willing to take. Ward, who turns 36 next month, appears to have lost his starting job for next season. As such, he would become the No. 4 or No. 5 wide receiver, but that position is usually given to a younger player who can contribute on special teams.

The exact date is unclear, but a decision is required in March, reports ESPN.

Updates On Two WR Free Agents

For any of you that may have had the illusion the Ravens could somehow lure Eagles free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson to Baltimore, it doesn’t look like he is going anywhere, at least not via the free market.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports the Eagles will place the franchise tag on Jackson. PFT.com points out Philly could still see what Jackson would attract in a trade.

Meanwhile, 11-year veteran Reggie Wayne might be free to test the market. Wayne is scheduled to become a free agent next month, and he doesn’t appear happy that the Colts haven’t called to talk about a deal yet.

“All I know is the Colts,” Wayne told Josina Anderson of ESPN. “That is where I want to be. I have been there 11 years and I would prefer to end my career a Colt. However, in due time those feelings could subside. I know one thing, my phone works. I do have service and every last bar on it and their number has not come across it yet. I haven’t heard anything from them yet, so maybe I am not as important on the chain of command as I should be.”

Hall Of Fame Probability For Active Ravens

After winning his second Super Bowl ring, the chatter about whether Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a future Hall of Famer has sparked debate about other active players throughout the league.

Mike Beacom of ProFootballWeekly.com considered the Hall of Fame probability of 100 players, and here’s his take on the Ravens below:

LOCKS – linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed
MAYBE, MAYBE NOT – outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, center Matt Birk
DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH – receiver Anquan Boldin, offensive lineman Andre Gurode
NEED MORE DATA – defensive tackle Haloti Ngata

Quick Hits

  • RavensInsider: NFL teams represented at today’s NFL regional combine: Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers [Twitter]
  • The Ravens were ranked fifth in CBSSports.com final 2011 power rankings, with Pete Prisco saying: “This is a team getting up in years at some spots, which might mean the window is closing.” [CBSSports.com]
  • Flacco-Ryan debate revisited: All the talk about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III has us thinking back to the 2008 draft and a certain pair of quarterbacks. [CSNBaltimore.com]
  • In the final installment of a three-part series, Matt Vensel examines the Ravens special teams unit and how it can be improved this offseason. [The Baltimore Sun]
  • I miss her already … Whitney Houston’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to Super Bowl XXV. The single was released in 1991 and reached the Top 20 on the U.S. Hot 100 Billboard. [YouTube]

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