Ravens Insider Notebook

The Ravens' front office would be wise to extend the contract of star running back Jamal Lewis between now and September. Although Lewis has two years remaining on his current deal, he is reportedly seeking an extension that would make him the highest paid tailback in the NFL.

The Ravens' front office would be wise to extend the contract of star running back Jamal Lewis between now and September. Although Lewis has two years remaining on his current deal, he is reportedly seeking an extension that would make him the highest paid tailback in the NFL. 

The Ravens have said that they would also like to get a deal completed for Lewis, though they aren't in a rush to do so. Still, the fact that the Ravens are actually looking to be a bit proactive in getting Lewis' deal reworked is surprising, considering that they usually drag their feet in these affairs.

The logic to get a new contract completed for Lewis makes a lot of sense for both sides. 

First off, the Ravens should look give Lewis an extension as soon as possible, in order to maximize its investment. Lewis is at the top of his game right now, is only 24 years old, and looks to have around four-to-five more solid seasons left in his career. 

If the team gives Lewis a bonus worth $10-to-$11 million this year, stretched over a six or seven year deal, he should be able to either play out or come close to playing through his new contract. At best, Lewis would be up for free agency by the time he is 30 or 31 years old, when his best days are clearly behind him.

At worst, Lewis may only give the team four more strong seasons, depending on how much punishment he takes the rest of his way, and how his two reconstructed knees hold up from the pressure of carrying the ball 25-to-30 times a game per season. If the Ravens had to release him at that point, the move would only net them a cap hit worth $4-to-$5 million, depending on how long the deal is, and how much guaranteed money Lewis receives.

With the salary cap increasing 5% each year, that cap hit should be easier to handle, especially if the Ravens are able to spread some of that money out over the next two seasons, when they have the cap room to front load some of the amount.

From Lewis' angle, you can see why he wants a new contract. He put the team on his back a year ago by a producing a 2,000 yard season, and was the team's MVP. Without Lewis, there is no telling how bad the Ravens already pitiful offense would have been…

Although the Ravens lead the league in cap space, and will have another $1.8 million to play with due to the cap total being increased for all 32 teams, they don't have as much money to spend as people think.

The Ravens have to use a good amount of that money to tender their restricted and exclusive rights free agents, and re-sign their own unrestricted free agents like Mike Flynn, Marques Douglas, Adalius Thomas, Matt Stover, Anthony Wright, Marcus Robinson and Orlando Brown.

Also, the Ravens will spend a decent amount on incentives that need to be paid out to players like Terrell Suggs, Jamal Lewis, Todd Heap and Ed Reed.

Squeezing the cap even more is Chris McAlister's franchise tag, which will be worth $7.2 million. That chunk of money will be on Baltimore's cap until it can hammer out an extension that would reduce McAlister's figure by another $4 million or so. 

If a deal is not completed by March 17 (the official deadline to get a deal completed for franchise players without losing the right to franchise some other player down the line), the Ravens will have to eat his franchise salary until July, when talks can reopen between a franchise player and his respective team.

By making these payments, Baltimore certainly won't lose all of its cap room, but the cushion will be reduced significantly, making it tougher to hand out sizeable bonuses to free agents like Terrell Owens or Warren Sapp.

For this reason, look for the Ravens to be more conservative, and sign cheaper alternatives out of the free agent pool…

One move the Ravens should make is to release veteran wideout Frank Sanders at either the start of free agency or in June. By releasing Sanders in a little over a week, the Ravens would only save $875,000, as opposed to saving around $1.44 million by releasing him in the summer. 

Either way, the savings that the Ravens would earn by erasing Sanders contract is not as important as opening up another roster spot on the team. The Ravens need to add two more receivers through free agency and the draft, to go along with Travis Taylor, Randy Hymes and Marcus Robinson, if he is brought back as expected.

With the potential of five receivers earning roster spots by the time training camp starts, Sanders won't have a chair to sit on when the music stops playing. 

Even though the former Arizona Cardinal was a great locker room influence last season, his best days as a solid possession receiver are clearly behind him, and he doesn't deserve to earn over $2 million in salary this year.


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