Don't blame Flacco for overhaul

Don't blame Flacco for overhaul
March 19, 2013, 1:30 pm
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John Harbaugh on the Ravens' roster turnover

The talk radio lines are still buzzing over the Ravens roster turnover, and fans are likely to remain in a state of shock over the revolving door at the Castle as the Ravens remake the roster just a month or so after winning the Super Bowl.

One prevailing thought among fans is that the departure of Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe and Bernard Pollard and Cary Williams and maybe even Ed Reed are all the result of Joe Flacco's huge contract. It's an understandable knee-jerk reaction: Giving Flacco all that money means they don't have any more lying around to pay these other guys.

It also happens to be completely wrong.

Flacco's deal has virtually nothing to do with the roster turnover this offseason, and the Ravens -- and Flacco -- made sure of it.

By signing his huge six-year, $120 million deal, Flacco actually made it much more likely for the Ravens to retain or pursue players. To be sure, money will become an issue at some point; in the end, $120 million is $120 million, and the bill will come due. But not this year.

Flacco's previous contract counted $8 million toward the salary cap last season. His new deal was structured in such a way that it counts about $6.8 million toward the cap next season. In other words, in the calculus of the NFL salary cap, Flacco is actually cheaper this year than he was last year.

That will certainly change over time; by 2016, Flacco's deal will count $29 million toward the cap. You can bet that will never happen; there will be a restructuring before the Ravens agree to that whopper of a bill.

But for this season, Flacco, as franchise quarterbacks go, is relatively cheap.

The Ravens were already up against the salary cap before Flacco's deal. That was in part because just five players -- Terrell Suggs ($13 million), Haloti Ngata ($11.5 million), Marshal Yanda ($7.4 million), Lardarius Webb and Ray Rice (over $5 million each) -- take up roughly one-third of the roughly $123 million cap.

The major reason those other players are gone, frankly, is that the Ravens didn't want to pay them as much as other teams did.

Kruger and Williams hit the market and commanded high prices at positions where the Ravens felt they had suitable and much cheaper replacements. And cost is always an issue in a sport ruled by the salary cap.

The Ravens would have liked to keep Ellerbe, but they obviously had a ceiling for what they would pay him, and the Dolphins shot right past it, offering Ellerbe a reported $35 million over five years. You can bet the Ravens wouldn't have paid Ellerbe that whether or not they had re-signed Flacco.

Pollard's release was somewhat surprising, but with a cap hit of about $1 million, it was about more than the money.

So linking the departure of Pollard, or any of the others, to Flacco's contract is misguided.