Ravens need to free up more cap space to turn 8-8 team into playoff team

Cornerback Shareece Wright and safety Kendrick Lewis on Tuesday were the first cuts of the offseason for the Ravens. They just can’t be the only ones this week.

In the big picture, this was just a baby step forward for Baltimore. The Ravens cleared nearly $ 5 million in cap space and now have about $ 18 million in cap room, which still keeps them in the bottom six in the NFL.

Baltimore needs more cap dollars if it wants to turn an 8-8 team into a playoff team. The Ravens’ shopping list should include wide receiver; cornerback; right tackle, if Rick Wagner signs elsewhere as expected; safety, if Lardarius Webb is cut; inside linebacker; and perhaps running back, if the price is right.

So why didn’t the Ravens clear all that space Tuesday? The Ravens are going to exhaust all options when it comes to Webb, linebacker Elvis Dumervil, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Benjamin Watson, center Jeremy Zuttah, cornerback Kyle Arrington and wide receiver Mike Wallace.

Baltimore will look to reduce cap numbers for all of those players, whether it’s by cutting them or through pay cuts or extensions. The Ravens could be hesitant to part ways with certain players until they know they’re getting their replacement.

Here’s a look at each of those situations:

  • Dumervil has the fourth-highest cap figure ($ 8.375 million), and the Ravens can save $ 6 million by releasing him. He has dealt with an Achilles injury, which explains why he has only nine sacks the past two seasons. Dumervil might be able to stay by reducing his $ 6 million salary, but it’s unknown whether he would want to stay at a lower cost.

  • Webb had an uneven year in his first season switching from cornerback to safety. He played better toward the end of the season, but he represents the seventh-highest cap figure on the team ($ 7.5 million). The Ravens can free up $ 5.5 million by cutting Webb.

  • Pitta is being asked to take a pay cut after leading all tight ends with 86 catches. The problem is that he averaged only 8.5 yards per catch, and Baltimore isn’t willing to give him $ 5.5 million in base salary (sixth among tight ends). If Pitta reduces his salary for a second straight season, the Ravens could let go of Watson, whose release would create $ 3 million in cap space.

  • Zuttah struggled in his third season as the Ravens’ starting center, yet he was named to his first Pro Bowl. Baltimore would like to upgrade at this spot, although there aren’t a lot of options. The Ravens have been linked to seven-time Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold. The fallback option is moving backup guard John Urschel to center.

  • Arrington dropped to the bottom of the depth chart in 2015, and he spent last season on injured reserve with a concussion. The Ravens can clear $ 2.1 million in space by parting ways with Arrington.

  • Wallace is a prime candidate for an extension. The Ravens want Wallace on the team but not at an $ 8 million cap hit, which is the fifth-highest on the Ravens. It could be a win-win scenario if the Ravens can give Wallace another year or two and Baltimore receives more cap room. The other scenario is signing Torrey Smith at a cheaper price and moving on from Wallace.

After being quiet for most of the offseason, the Ravens could have a busy two days leading up to the start of free agency.

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