Evaluating Play Relative to Cap Cost
It’s time to take stock of the Ravens roster again.
I like to split the roster into 5 qualitative categories relative to the ultimate master, the salary cap.
Note: A “*” indicates a player who is a UFA at the beginning of the league year.
Young Producers (7): Kyle Hamilton, Justin Madubuike, Odafe Oweh, Patrick Queen, Roquan Smith*, Geno Stone, Broderick Washington
These are players on their first contract who are already have a significant role (or should have one) and are playing well. A team needs as many of these players as possible to continually outperform the salary cap.
Hamilton, Queen, Smith, Stone, and Washington are all new additions since the end of the 2021 season.
Of the group, only Roquan Smith will be a UFA at the end of the season.
Developmental (7): Jalyn Armour-Davis, Malik Harrison, Travis Jones, David Ojabo, Brandon Stephens, Pepe Williams, Josh Ross
These players are all still on their rookie deals, but something is holding them back from consistent performance, a starting role, or both. We hope that most, if not all, of these players will emerge to be young producers quickly. In truth, some are running out of time to do so. By the start of next season, the Ravens will need to get younger defensively to offset large contracts that may go to Roquan Smith, Marcus Peters, and Lamar Jackson.
Let’s take a look individually at the Developmental group to see why I have tagged them as I have and what each needs to do to move up:
- Armour-Davis: He was inactive for weeks 4-7 and did not play a defensive snap against the Saints. Kyle Hamilton effectively reduced play from a 3rd CB by taking over at SCB vs the Saints.
- Harrison: His snaps are squeezed both by Bowser’s return at OLB and the acquisition of Smith. Somehow, he still started at OLB vs the Saints, but he played only 7 snaps despite the injury to JPP.
- Jones: Travis has looked the part at times, but he’s only played 157 snaps (28%) to date. The loss of Pierce robbed the team of having 2 athletic run stoppers on the field simultaneously,
- Ojabo: David has been activated to the 53 well ahead of my expectation, so he’s in a good position to gain from practice this season at a minimum. I would still categorize anything the team gets from him as a pass rusher in 2022 as gravy.
- Ross: As a UDFA, he’s a player that really needed to be ready when opportunity presented itself. The acquisition of Smith makes it less likely he’ll find an opportunity with the Ravens.
- Stephens: Despite a gaping hole, he has been unable to claim the SCB job. There may be opportunities to play down the stretch, but if no one gets hurt, he may have to wait until 2023 to play more regularly.
- Pepe Williams: He has looked good at times in terms of athleticism and playing longer than he is. That said, there isn’t anything I can pull from his coverage record (8.2 YPT, 3 TD, 0 INT) to date that is going to tell opposing OCs or QBs to stop picking on him.
The Ravens will need to have more young players step into starting roles over the next year and to that end it’s fortunate the 5 of the developmental group are rookies with Stephens in year 2 and Harrison year 3.
Veterans Playing for Market Value (10): Tyus Bowser, Calais Campbell, Chuck Clark, Justin Houston*, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters*, Michael Pierce, Jason Pierre-Paul*, Brent Urban*, Marcus Williams
A large chunk of the cap is spent on this group and these players are the ones (generally) who are worth it. This group includes 4 players who will be UFAs this offseason.
It’s a high-quality group with no more than 1 or 2 that the Ravens would not want at their current price in 2023. However, tough choices loom if Lamar Jackson plays on the franchise tag. That would probably preclude a return from Calais Campbell ($6.5M of 2023 cap savings).
Veteran Cap/Value Concerns (0):
The Ravens typically have a player or 2 in this category on each side of the ball. However, I only had to think about the applicability to Marcus Peters and Michael Pierce.
In the case of Pierce, he was so good early this season that I don’t think his 2023 salary is a cap concern at this point. Marcus Peters is not signed for 2023, so even though he is not playing at quite the level to which we have become accustomed, the Ravens have no action they can take at present. Extending Marcus may be difficult to negotiate and doing so now to create cap room for 2022 could create long-term cap risk.
Transitional (8): Vince Biegel, Josh Bynes, Kyle Fuller, Daelin Hayes, Steven Means, Del’Shawn Phillips, Kevon Seymour, Kristian Welch
I see no sure future as a broad contributor for any of these players, but it’s likely 1 or more will emerge to play somewhere. Based on a combination of need, age, and tools I think Hayes, Seymour, and Welch have the best chance to help the Ravens in 2023 or beyond.
Special thanks to Brian McFarland, to whose contract details I referred frequently while writing these pieces.