Looking at Ravens’ top 10 salary cap numbers for 2021

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Trying to build on the franchise’s first playoff win in six years, general manager Eric DeCosta and the Ravens will hope to take the next step with a young and talented roster not getting any cheaper over the next year or two.

The draft remains the lifeblood of any organization wanting to find long-term prosperity, but teams need appropriate value from their highest-paid veterans to maintain a balanced roster capable of competing for a championship on an annual basis. As of right now, the Ravens will devote just over $93 million in 2021 salary cap space to the 10 players currently holding the highest cap figures, down considerably from the top 10 at this time last year that featured four players who were no longer on the roster by Week 1. It’s a reminder of how quickly things change in the NFL.

The salary cap hasn’t yet been set for next season, but it’s expected to fall from $198.2 million in 2020 to around $180 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This is due to lost revenue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and could make for an interesting free-agent market next month.

Below is a look at those 10 highest cap figures for Baltimore:

1. LT Ronnie Stanley
2021 Week 1 age: 27
2021 cap number: $15.25 million
Synopsis: The 2019 All-Pro left tackle’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 8 put a damper on his five-year, $98.75 million extension signed days earlier and a major dent in the Ravens’ Super Bowl hopes, but Stanley is expected to be ready to go for the 2021 season. A full recovery is even more critical now with the uncertain future of right tackle and blindside understudy Orlando Brown Jr., but Stanley’s deal is quite reasonable compared to recent extensions signed by Houston’s Laremy Tunsil and Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari.

2. DE Calais Campbell
2021 Week 1 age: 35
2021 cap number: $15 million
Synopsis: Though the veteran was named to his sixth Pro Bowl in his first season with Baltimore, Campbell missed four games after having not missed a contest since 2014 and registered only four sacks, his lowest total since his rookie year. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound defensive lineman is still playing at a high level, but taking pause over the combination of his age and salary is understandable in the final year of his contract.

3. DT Brandon Williams
2021 Week 1 age: 32
2021 cap number: $14.42 million
Synopsis: Though the run-stopping nose tackle’s contract has been a topic of conversation for years, Williams accepted a pay cut with a higher guarantee for the final year of his deal last fall, reducing the likelihood of the Ravens moving on this offseason. The Ravens could create $7.5 million by cutting the veteran, but that would still leave $6.92 million in dead money on the cap in addition to a massive hole in the middle of the defensive line.

4. CB Marcus Peters
2021 Week 1 age: 28
2021 cap number: $13.486 million
Synopsis: Peters ranks in the top 10 in average annual value among NFL cornerbacks, which seems more than appropriate for the man leading the league in interceptions in 2015. DeCosta could attempt to lower Peters’ cap number by extending his contract beyond the 2022 season, but his $11.468 million salary for 2021 is guaranteed, meaning the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback shouldn’t even be in the discussion for potential cap casualties this offseason.

5. CB Marlon Humphrey
2021 Week 1 age: 25
2021 cap number: $10.244 million
Synopsis: The structure of Humphrey’s five-year, $97.5 million extension through 2026 kept his 2021 cap number in line with what he was scheduled to earn on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive back’s cap number will jump to $17 million for 2022, but his cap figure remains a relative bargain for the upcoming season.

6. CB Tavon Young
2021 Week 1 age: 27
2021 cap number: $5.988 million
Synopsis: The 2016 fourth-round pick’s career started with promise before injuries cost him virtually three full seasons in the last four years, making his $25.8 million extension signed two years ago an obvious disappointment. Last fall, Young accepted a $2.85 million pay cut for 2021 in exchange for a guarantee of his remaining $2.65 million salary, but this will be a make-or-break season for the slot cornerback.

7. TE Nick Boyle
2021 Week 1 age: 28
2021 cap number: $5.833 million
Synopsis: Baltimore recently cleared $2 million in cap space for 2021 by extending one of the best blocking tight ends in the league through the 2023 season. His value to the Ravens’ ground game is unique, making it critical for Boyle to come back fully healthy from the serious knee injury he suffered in November.

8. K Justin Tucker
2021 Week 1 age: 31
2021 cap number: $5.1 million
Synopsis: The four-time Pro Bowl selection remains the highest-paid kicker in the league and is signed through the 2023 season with a flat cap structure.

9. FB Patrick Ricard
2021 Week 1 age: 27
2021 cap number: $3.983 million
Synopsis: In an era when few teams around the league value fullbacks, the former defensive tackle and two-time Pro Bowl selection is scheduled to make $2 million in base salary in the final year of his contract. The Ravens could clear a little cap space with an extension, but Ricard being a cap casualty would be a surprise considering his role in such a run-first offense.

10. S Chuck Clark
2021 Week 1 age: 26
2021 cap number: $3.875 million
Synopsis: The strong safety doesn’t garner much attention outside Baltimore, but Clark led the 2020 team in defensive snaps and relayed calls in the defensive huddle for the second straight year. The 2017 sixth-round pick is a high-floor value player needed on a roster getting more expensive every year.

Next up:
11. OT Orlando Brown Jr. ($3.6 million)
12. TE Mark Andrews ($3.593 million)
13. WR Marquise Brown ($3.214 million)
14. QB Lamar Jackson ($3.013 million)
15. ILB L.J. Fort ($3 million)

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