It comes not a moment too soon, either, for the clock is already ticking; the Ravens must either work out a new deal with Flacco before March 4 or apply the franchise tag. And if they decide to apply the exclusive franchise tag, it will cost them roughly $20 million toward the salary cap. Do the math, and that leaves about $101 million for the other 50 players. (Only the top 51 salaries count toward the cap.)
That might seem doable until you realize that Terrell Suggs ($13M), Haloti Ngata ($11.5M) and Anquan Boldin ($7.5) eat up another $32 million in cap space. That leaves $69 million for the other 47 players. You can see where this is headed.
The Ravens would love to work out a long-term deal that includes a signing bonus that can be spread out over the length of the contract, which would lessen the blow in this cap year. But in any event, all teams need to be under the salary cap by March 12; free agency begins that day at 4 p.m. Here are some other key NFL dates over the next few months:
February 23-26: NFL Scouting Combine, Indianapolis
More than 300 top prospects will run, jump, throw and be tested for scouts and executives from every NFL team in what some have dubbed "The Underwear Olympics"
March 4: Franchise tag deadline day
Teams can apply the franchise tag to one player. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has said that if the Ravens work out a long-term deal with Flacco, " we will not franchise another player."
March 9-11: Potential unrestricted free agents can negotiate with other teams
In the past, no activity or dialogue between pending free agents and teams could take place before the new league year began. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, that never happened, either. Now, agents and teams can begin negotiations a few days before free agency begins.
March 12: Happy NFL New Year!
All teams must submit offers to restricted free agents by 4 p.m. For the Ravens, this applies to tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, among others. Teams must also be under the salary cap (roughly $121 million) by 4 p.m. Free agency officially begins at 4 p.m.
March 17-20: Annual league meetings in Phoenix
Owners and league officials will discuss, among other things, possible rules changes.
March 23-24: Regional combine, Ravens Under Armour Performance Center
This event is for players who were not invited to the national combine in Indianapolis. It is not open to the public.
April 25-27: NFL Draft
The first round again will be held on Thursday night, followed by Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday and the final four rounds on Saturday.
August 3: NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony
The newest class will include former Raven Jonathan Ogden.
September 5: Week 1 begins
As the defending Super Bowl champion, the Ravens will host the Thursday night, nationally-televised season opener. The opponent has not been determined yet, though the Patriots and Steelers appear the most likely candidates.