By Jiji Nakaba
Did the Baltimore Ravens switch their offense to optimize their use of salary cap dollars better?
In 2019 the Baltimore Ravens created a new offense based on running the ball better than any other team in the League, utilizing Lamar Jackson’s unique running talent and his threat of running, requiring defenses to pay attention to him.
This offense is ideal for optimizing the running talents of running backs, the blocking talents of Tight Ends and Fullbacks, and is sub-optimal for passing statistics. The effects: great stats for rushing attempts, poor stats for passing yards, and this style of offense keeps the defense off the field for much of the game.
Fact: QB: Ravens have one on a rookie contract for now. An extension will be signed for >40 million/year but Franchise quarterbacks take up a large percentage of the cap. There are no exceptions.
Opinion: The only way to avoid paying big for a Franchise quarterback is to have a journeyman quarterback or a good one on a rookie contract. I’m not saying I don’t want the Ravens to extend Lamar Jackson. I believe an early extension for Jackson will put pressure on the Browns to pay Mayfield too much or make him unhappy. It will be interesting to see how the Browns handle the cap trying to keep all the talent they accrued because of their losing seasons. They either franchise players, pay them too much, or let them walk starting with Chubb.
Fact: Premier Rushers are at the top of the salary scale.
Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens don’t have any premier rush ends and don’t try to sign any (after Terrell Suggs). They used a first-round pick on a pass rusher instead of going after a highly-paid veteran.
Fact: Defensive Tackles are paid less than Defensive Ends.
Opinion: Raven sign Defensive Tackles at the end of their careers, but don’t try to sign top tier Defensive Tackles, preferring to draft and develop them or add UDFA’s.
Fact: Running backs and tight ends are among the lowest-paid skill position players.
Opinion: The Ravens frequently have Pro Bowl-level running backs and tight ends and don’t need to spend first-round picks to get them. I think they were going to draft a running back in the later rounds in 2020 but J.K. Dobbins fell to them and they couldn’t pass him up.
Fact: Premier Receivers are among the highest-paid players.
Opinion: Ravens don’t have any ultra highly paid receivers and don’t try to sign any. They’ve never had a Pro Bowl receiver. The Ravens are drafting receivers every year now. Are they trying to create a succession plan of rookie salaried receivers? Will they let receivers walk after their rookie contracts?
Fact: Top tier cornerbacks are at the top of the salary scale but cheaper than Defensive ends
Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens are prioritizing cornerbacks over defensive ends because they’re cheaper – they have Pro Bowl level cornerbacks but sign them to extensions early when it’s less costly. The Ravens also always draft secondary talent every year – trying to create a cheap succession plan?
Fact: Linebackers are mid-scale salary-wise
Throughout their history, the Ravens have frequently had Pro Bowl quality linebackers. They are at the top of the league in drafting and developing Inside linebackers – it’s in their DNA.
Fact: Safeties are at the bottom of the defensive player salaries
Opinion: The Ravens’ current safeties are signed to reasonable contracts. Though they did sign Earl Thomas to a big contract, they got burned and should have learned from that.
Fact: Kickers are at the bottom of the salary scale
Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens have always had one of the top kickers in the game and develop them as well as any team in the League.
Fact: Fullbacks are at the bottom of the salary scale
Opinion: The Ravens nearly always have one of the best fullbacks in the League and let them walk at the end of their rookie year. Patrick Ricard is an exception because he’s a one-of-a-kind irreplaceable player.
Strategy or coincidence? In my opinion, I think the Ravens offense and the priorities on drafting is a salary cap strategy, not a coincidence. If the Ravens draft more receivers each year that will be strong evidence of it.
Average salaries (from a year ago, some adjustments made by me):
QB’s: 16 m
Defensive Ends: 13m
Defensive Tackles: 9.5m
Running Backs: 9.25m
Wide Receivers: 12m
Tight Ends: 7.1m
Offensive lineman: 11.4m
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