Ravens get more clarity on financial status, but challenges linger

OWINGS MILLS — The Ravens have a clearer idea of their 2024 financial situation with the NFL announcing that this year’s salary cap will be $255.4 million, a 13.6 percent increase from last year.

The $30.6 million increase from $224.8 million in 2023 is the largest year-to-year boost in league history.

“The unprecedented $30 million increase per club in this year’s salary cap is the result of the full repayment of all amounts advanced by clubs and deferred by the players during the COVID pandemic as well as an extraordinary increase in media revenue for the 2024 season,” the league said in a statement.

The Ravens will have $12.1 million to spend, but they have numerous needs.

The first order of business will be deciding whether to use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Justin Madubuike or linebacker Patrick Queen before free agency officially begins on March 13. The tag for Madubuike will cost $22.1 million, while Queen would cost $22.8 million.

Both would be expensive investments, but the Ravens are expected to use the tag for Madubuike, who had a breakout season with 13 sacks. The Ravens have already invested $100 million on inside linebacker Roquan Smith, so there is not enough money at that position to pay Queen, and second-year player Trenton Simpson will get the opportunity to compete for a starting job next season.

In addition, the league set the fifth-year tenders on first-round picks from the 2021 draft class. The Ravens have two players eligible for fifth-year options — wide receiver Rashod Bateman and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh. It will cost the team $14.4 million to pick up Bateman’s option and $13.25 million for Oweh, according to Spotrac.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson signed a franchise-record five-year, $260 million deal last offseason. Jackson’s 2025 base salary is $20.25 million with a $750,000 roster bonus.

The Ravens also will need money to add free agents. Running back and offensive guard are the biggest areas of need on the current roster. Both starting guards — Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson — are free agents. The Ravens also have just two running backs on the roster — Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell, who won’t be available for the beginning of the 2024 season because of a knee injury.

The draft also will be vital to rebuild areas of the team. The Ravens’ brass will travel to Indianapolis this week for the NFL Combine.

The Ravens have seven selections in this year’s draft — first round (30th overall), second round (62nd overall), third round (93rd), fourth round (13oth and 133rd), fifth round (163rd), and seventh round (225th and 247th). They also will get an additional compensatory selection in the fourth round for the loss of free-agent guard Ben Powers last offseason.

“Fundamentally, we are always going to be focused on the draft,” general manager Eric DeCosta said this offseason. “I mean, look at our history. Now, in the last couple of years, we have traded draft picks for players, in some cases, but generally, we’re going to be a draft-centric team, and as we’ve said, the landscape has changed a little bit, because we’re paying a quarterback – who deserves it – a lot of money, and that’s going to have a salary cap ramification for sure.”

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