With Madubuike decision looming for Ravens, salary cap set at $255.4 million for 2024 season

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Pondering their options with an extensive list of pending free agents headlined by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, the Ravens have officially learned what the salary cap will be for the 2024 season.

On Friday, the NFL announced an unprecedented increase of just over $30 million to $255.4 million, which was markedly higher than most cap projections ahead of the new league year, which officially begins on March 13. The 2023 salary cap was $224.8 million.

According to OverTheCap.com, the Ravens rank 20th in cap space at roughly $18.5 million, but that’s before accounting for the contract structure of wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who signed a one-year deal earlier this week. That amount looks much better on paper than previous projections, but a higher cap benefits all 32 teams and will only drive up the market cost for free agents, which is why expectations should be tempered. In other words, Baltimore is still going to be dealing with a tight salary cap even with Friday’s dose of good news.

The biggest takeaway could be the cap increase making the use of the franchise tag on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Madubuike less prohibitive. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the cost of the non-exclusive franchise tag for a defensive tackle will be $22.102 million. General manager Eric DeCosta hasn’t confirmed whether he’ll use the tag if he’s unable to sign Madubuike to a long-term contract before the March 5 deadline to designate a franchise player, but it’s difficult to envision the Ravens letting the NFL’s sack leader among interior linemen (13) hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Some have projected Madubuike fetching a contract in the neighborhood of $100 million as a free agent. A 2020 third-round pick out of Texas A&M, Madubuike is one of the Ravens’ two 2023 Pro Bowl defensive players scheduled to become free agents with the other being inside linebacker Patrick Queen, who appears very likely to fetch a lucrative payday elsewhere.

“We’ll have those decisions made in the coming weeks. We’ll know what’s best for us to do,” DeCosta said earlier this month. “It’s something that we haven’t just started thinking about obviously. It’s something we’ve been thinking about. Justin had a great year as did Patrick Queen. Those two guys obviously are Pro Bowlers [who] had great seasons, and we’ll have a good plan in place for those guys.”

The salary cap being set also meant the cost of the fifth-year options for 2021 first-round picks Rashod Bateman and Odafe Oweh being finalized. The extra year would cost $14.345 million for Bateman and $13.251 million for Oweh. Teams have until May 2 to decide on those fifth-year options, which are fully guaranteed if exercised.

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