And in most contract squabbles, the Ravens have come up on the short end of the stick. The Ravens' front office ended up forcing Lewis' hand to accept a $19 million bonus, instead of the $20 million he so craved. When Roosevelt Barnes deemed that his client, Peter Boulware, was due for a bonus worth $15 million, Ozzie Newsome and Pat Moriarty blinked and gave him $13 million instead.
The Ravens have spent more time holding off negotiations for indefinite reasons over the years, than they have improving the interior of the offensive line.
So it shouldn't surprise anyone to see that the front office is in the same state of inertia when it comes to resolving a contract issue between Chris McAlister and his agent Mitch Frankel.
Considering that negotiations between the two sides is at a stalemate, it is highly doubtful that the Ravens and Frankel will agree on an extension for McAlister before 4:00 pm, which is the deadline to reach an accord with a franchise player until July 15.
If McAlister's deal is consummated between March 15 and July 15, the team will lose its right to designate another player with the franchise tag until the corner's contract runs out. The Ravens will not want to lose this right, so negotiations won't pick up until the weeks leading up to training camp.
This means that the Ravens will be under the gun to reach an accord with McAlister yet again, because the franchise player will not come to training camp without a contract in his right hand. Don't be shocked if a holdout occurs. In fact, count on it happening.
Of course, if the Ravens didn't delay their talks with Frankel for the months leading up to free-agency starting, they wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place. In fact, Moriarty and Newsome should have been hammering out an extension for McAlister back in August, as soon as Ray Lewis renegotiated his contract to free up around $4 million in cap space.
The more time they wasted placing a fair worth on the 24-year old shutdown corner, the more his price kept driving up. If a deal is agreed upon in July or August, McAlister will undoubtedly become either the highest paid corner in the league or among the highest. In all likelihood, if the Ravens gave McAlister an extension today, he will still receive the same amount of compensation that he would in the summer, give or take $1-to-$2 million in the bonus payout or the total salary.
The haggling will be for not. The Ravens know what his price is in comparison to what the other top corners in the league are currently earning, like Samari Rolle, Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison. All three players have received deals worth around $6 million per season, including bonuses in the $9-to-$10 million range.
While McAlister may not be quite as solid and polished as those players are just yet, given his age, upside and immense ability, he will receive the same level of compensation.
And in the NFL, it's a cardinal rule that cornerbacks, offensive tackles and quarterbacks always receive the more lucrative deals, because those three positions are the hardest to fill. The Detroit Lions were desperate enough to land a quality cover corner, that they grossly overpaid Dre' Bly, a player who has had one average season as a starter for the Rams last year.
In McAlister's case, if he is given a six-year deal worth $36 million, including a bonus worth $8-to-$9 million, that is a market value deal. The Ravens know this, yet they seem unaltered from working out a deal at their pace, hoping to get McAlister's price to drop in the coming months.
In the meantime, McAlister's salary of $5.9 million will loom large over the duration of the off-season. While the team has over $7 million in space, with enough room to draft and sign free-agents at their leisure, gaining another $3-to-$4 million in cap space by extending McAlister's contract would give the front office that much more money to play around with.
If you add the extra $3 million that the club will save by releasing Michael McCrary in June, the Ravens would have another $6-to-$7 million in cap space. That money will be needed to sign draft picks to extended contracts, and if the Ravens are to pluck a couple of premium players out of the June market. But at this point, if they were to make some additions, they will need to work with a tighter cap.
These concerns don't seem to shake the Ravens, though. The front office has been down this road before with a number of their star players, and they feel like they have all of the leverage in negotiations, even though McAlister will receive his due paycheck one way or another.