After cutting Vonta Leach and Jameel McClain, Ravens roughly $26 million under salary cap

The Ravens have carved out more salary-cap breathing room by terminating the contracts of veteran fullback Vonta Leach and inside linebacker Jameel McClain on Thursday, creating $4.95 million in salary cap space.

With the salary cap now projected to rise as high as $132 million or $133 million, the Ravens are roughly $26 million under the limit.

That includes 44 current contracts totaling $106.42 million in salary cap commitments. They carry over $1.531 million from the 2013 fiscal year.

How will the Ravens spend their money?

Their top negotiating priority right now is tight end Dennis Pitta. They are facing a Monday deadline to either lock him up to a long-term contract or make him their franchise player.

No deal is imminent, as contract proposals continue to be exchanged, but there's a sense of urgency and both sides are motivated to get something done, according to sources.

The Ravens aren't close to a deal with offensive tackle Eugene Monroe and talks haven't reached an advanced stage after meeting at the NFL scouting combine, according to sources. However, the Ravens didn't trade fourth-round and fifth-round draft picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars in October to simply rent Monroe for last season. They remain highly motivated to sign Monroe.

The Ravens weren't among the eight teams that immediately reached out to former Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, according to a source, and he has already scheduled visits with the Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans.

That could be because the Ravens have told middle linebacker Daryl Smith, their leading tackler last season, that he's a priority for them. There should be enough salary cap space to hold onto Smith, who emerged as a defensive leader during his first season in Baltimore while playing under a "prove-it" $2.125 million contract that has expired.

The Ravens' salary cap situation is definitely healthy now, but the space will be used quickly as they try to keep their top unrestricted free agents. It will cost them roughly $4 million to $5 million if they chose to tender all of their exclusive-rights and restricted free agents.

The Ravens attempted to create even more salary-cap space recently by trying to lower Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata's $16 million salary-cap figure. However, no "realistic" compromise was able to be reached, according to a source.

The Ravens aren't expected to try to make a last-minute bid to try to keep free agent defensive tackle Arthur Jones, who's regarded as far too expensive at this stage. Jones is expected to depart via free agency and be heavily compensated.

The top 10 salary cap figures on the Ravens' books are Ngata (team-high $16 million), quarterback Joe Flacco ($14.8 million), cornerback Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million), running back Ray Rice ($8.75 million), offensive guard Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs ($7.8 million), outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil ($3.375 million), defensive tackle Chris Canty ($3.166 million), punter Sam Koch ($2.8 million) and cornerback Jimmy Smith ($2.374 million).

awilson@baltsun.com
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