Owner says Ravens will not be hurt by a non-salary capped year

Posted: 7:25 pm Wed, February 3, 2010
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer 

From left, Baltimore Ravens President Dick Cass, owner Steve Bisciotti, General Manager/Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh speak to the media Wednesday during the team’s end-of-season news conference.Facing the uncertainty of a non-salary-capped season, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said the team’s business is in good health and he is looking forward to the challenges next year will bring.

At the team’s season-ending news conference, Bisciotti said the team is prepared financially for a non-salary capped season in 2010 as the National Football League’s players and owners are still trying to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement expires after the 2010 season.

According to the current agreement, if a new CBA is not reached by this March, the salary cap system will not be in place for 2010. It’s a scenario Bisciotti said many owners have been preparing for and assume will happen.

And the Ravens are in a position to spend money, he said.

“It’s not going to hurt us that much,” he said. “We’ve got a budget we’re going to spend up to and we’re going to spend as much as most teams, if not all of them.”

In 2009, the salary cap was about $127 million per team. But an uncapped season will not be the spending free-for-all that some fans may by expecting because the number of free agents available — players whose contracts have expired and can sign with another franchise — will be limited. In the event of an uncapped season, the number of seasons required to become an unrestricted free agent goes from four to six.

That affects about 10 players on the Ravens roster, including defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and safety Dawan Landry, who were drafted in 2006, Bisciotti said.

Another handcuff on the Ravens in an uncapped year is the restriction on the final eight teams in the playoffs from signing free agents. The rule allows the final eight teams to sign an unrestricted free agent only if it loses one of its own unrestricted free agents to another team.

“I’m looking forward to the constraints,” Bisciotti said. “If there’s any constraints, to me, that makes your decision that much more important.”

That could mean cutting an unrestricted free agent loose, said team General Manager Ozzie Newsome.

“This is an uncapped year — there will be some real good players that are going to get cut,” he said.

Among the team’s unrestricted free agents are wide receiver Derrick Mason and cornerback Corey Ivy.

But for the most part, Ravens top brass stressed the team’s financial health, pointing to another year of a sold-out stadium and suites and stable sponsorship revenues. Bisciotti also said that the recession of 2008 has banged up so many NFL teams that some aren’t even in a position to take advantage of an uncapped year.

He noted the St. Louis Rams, which finished the 2009 season with a 1-15 record, had been for sale with no takers for more than a year, or teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, which had some home games blacked out on television last year because the team could not sell enough tickets.

“When you have teams voluntarily staying at the minimum of the salary cap just to not go upside-down, you have a problem,” he said.

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