As the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Ravens had an extremely eventful offseason where they overhauled their roster and dealt with a tight salary-cap situation by making a series of tough decisions.
That included trading veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, cutting strong safety Bernard Pollard and allowing linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger, free safety Ed Reed and cornerback Cary Williams to depart as free agents.
Another potentially difficult offseason looms for the Ravens in 2014.
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata carries a team-high $16 million salary-cap figure next year, and Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has a $12.4 million salary-cap figure for a combined $28.4 million in cap commitments. Both players, especially Suggs (partially torn Achilles tendon, torn biceps), are coming off seasons hampered by injuries and are expected to bounce back this fall.
The other high salary-cap figures on the Ravens' books for 2014 include: quarterback Joe Flacco ($14.8 million), cornerback Lardarius Webb ($10.5 million), running back Ray Rice ($8.75 million) and offensive guard Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million). So, six key players count for a combined $70.9 million in salary-cap space for the 2014 NFL fiscal year.
The Ravens have 53 players under contract for 2014 for a total salary-cap commitment of $120.788 million. The NFL salary cap limit for 2013 is $123 million, and the salary cap is expected to remain relatively flat for the next few years.
With pending free agents like tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, offensive tackle Michael Oher, defensive lineman Arthur Jones and cornerback Corey Graham, a lot of potential change shapes up for 2014.
During a recent Baltimore Sun Sports Forum, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta expressed confidence that the Ravens are prepared to handle the challenge of personnel and salary-cap decisions that await them. And he emphasized that the Ravens are well-equipped with general manager Ozzie Newsome and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty leading the AFC North franchise's contract and salary-cap responsibilities.
"I think the thing we want to do is just live in the moment right now," DeCosta said. "Those guys are under contract. They're all outstanding players. They're some of the very best players at their position in the league. We just want to play this year. We'll let those decisions wait until the future.
"We have a lot of flexibility with the cap. Pat Moriarty and Ozzie do a phenomenal job of making tough decisions. We've made a lot of tough decisions over the last couple of years. They're hard decisions to make. Any time you have to cut a player or let a player go in free agency because of the salary cap, it's tough to do that."
During an offseason where linebacker Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk retired, the Ravens reinforced the team by signing Pro Bowl outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, free safety Michael Huff, defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears and retaining offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. They selected Florida safety Matt Elam and Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
"We talk a lot about these decisions," DeCosta said. "We spent a lot of time talking about what our offseason was going to be during the season and right after the season and we try to do what's best for the Ravens in the short term and also the long term. So, we'll see how it plays out."