Ravens Defensive Tackle Takes Pay Cut to Free Up More Cap Space: Report

Ravens DT Michael Pierce

Getty Ravens DT Michael Pierce could help replace the pass rush presence of Calais Campbell.

The Baltimore Ravens only have a few more days to get cap compliant before the start of the new league year on March 15, 2023, as a result of using the nonexclusive franchise tag on MVP-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.

They were $8.356 million in the red according to overthecap.com after reportedly agreeing to trade safety Chuck Clark to the New York Jets on Thursday, March 9, 2023.

Per a report from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, they’ve already made their next in what will likely be a series of transactions to come by restructuring the contract of veteran defensive tackle Michael Pierce on Friday, March 10, 2023.

The restructure is actually freeing up more cap space than the $2.095 million they would’ve saved had they outright cut him. Pierce was slated to have a cap hit of $5.9 million but agreed to take a pay cut of $2 million that could be earned back in incentives while clearing up $2.668 million, according to Peliserro.

Last offseason Pierce signed a three-year deal worth $16.5 million with $6.5 in guarantees to return to the Ravens who originally signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2016 out of Samford. With this most recent move, the Ravens are now $5.668 million over the cap.

Pierce is Well-Worth Keeping Around 

Being able to clear up some cap room while still holding onto such a high-quality player as Pierce is quite the steal given all that he brings from a skillset and potential impact standpoint.

The 31-year-old had the first year of his second stint with the team cut short by a biceps injury that he elected to undergo surgery to repair instead risking further injury by playing through it. However, in the three games he appeared in to open the 2022 regular season, Pierce was off to an incredibly dominant start.

According to Pro Football Reference, he recorded 6 total tackles including 4 solos, a quarterback hit, a quarterback knockdown, 2 pressures a quarterback hurry,  and a forced fumble, and was Pro Football Focus’ fifth highest-rated interior defensive lineman with an 86.9 overall grade when he went down.

There’s still a shroud of uncertainty about whether the team will retain six-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell at his current cap hit of $9.4 million per spotrac.com, barring an extension or restructure.

Keeping Pierce at a reduced salary given what he provides as a stout run-stuffer, pock-pushing interior pass rusher, and veteran leader is a well-worth investment. He’d also be able to further mentor, groom, and regularly rotate with 2022 third-round pick Travis Jones to keep both players fresh.

Ravens Comp Pick Steak Snapped

The NFL announced the compensatory picks for all 32 teams on Thursday night and for the first time in 13 years, the Ravens were awarded any. While they still lead the league with the most since the inception of the system in 1994 at 55, their streak has come to an end.

The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers tied for the league lead this year with four a piece.

The only teams that are eligible to receive compensatory picks are those that lose more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year.

Since they signed free safety Marcus Williams to a massive five-year deal worth $70 million and veteran right tackle Morgan Moses to a three-year deal worth $15 million while not losing any qualifying free agents to lucrative deals elsewhere, they weren’t expected to receive any comp picks.

Barring any trades between now and the end of April, general manager Eric DeCosta and Co. will enter the 2023 NFL Draft with the five picks listed below:

Round 1 – No. 22 overall
Round 3 – No. 86 overall
Round 4 – No. 124 overall
Round 5 – No. 157 overall
Round 6 – No. 199 overall

The Ravens don’t have a pick in the second round this year because of the midseason trade they made during the 2022 regular season to acquire First-Team All-Pro inside linebacker Roquan Smith from the Chicago Bears.

“I have to keep reminding myself that our second-round pick this year is Roquan Smith, which I can live with, but I still look at that void, and I’m like, ‘Man, I wish I had that pick,'” DeCosta said on March 1, 2023, at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

Unfortunately, this is one of the worst years for the Ravens’ compensatory pick streak to get snapped as they will have their fewest total picks since 1999. The pick they will be acquiring in the reported trade for Clark is for a seventh-rounder in 2024 so it doesn’t help them this year unless they include it as part of a package to move up a couple of spots in this year’s draft.

The Ravens will be entering the new league year with quite a few needs at key positions and not a lot of cap space to make many notable improvements in free agency unless they are able to work out a long-term deal with Jackson.

Head coach John Harbaugh vowed that the team intends to “build up” the wide receiver room this offseason and with limited cap space, the draft is the most likely and inexpensive avenue where they’ll be able to find a significant difference maker.

They could also have a need for a new No. 2 cornerback opposite three-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey. Both Harbaugh and DeCosta expressed their excitement for the depth and talent in this year’s incoming draft class at corner and they could probably still land a starter in the third or fourth round if they go receiver in the first.

“In my opinion, 10 cornerbacks that could go in the first two rounds; it’s loaded,” Harbaugh said on March 1, 2023. They’re all great players, they’re all potential starters, first-year starters.

The team also needs to add depth at running back, outside linebacker, and offensive guard to give 2021 third-rounder Ben Cleveland more competition for the starting left guard spot with Ben Powers expected to depart in free agency.