The Baltimore Ravens would like to get quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice signed to long-term deals because it would lock up the team's top offensive stars. But there's other motivation -- freeing up salary-cap room.
While no team needs a great deal of cap room at this time of year, the Ravens are right up against the league limit, according to figures on the league's official website. In fact, Baltimore has the least amount of salary-cap space in the NFL right now ($606,858 under the cap). To put it in perspective, the Oakland Raiders rank second in the least amount of cap room and they more than double what the Ravens have ($1.3 million).
Baltimore can create more room by signing Flacco and Rice to new contracts, which would spread the cap hit over multiple seasons. Flacco ($8 million cap number) and Rice ($7.7 million franchise tag) currently account for 12 percent of the team's salary cap. Safety Ed Reed has an $8.5 million cap number heading into the final year of his contract.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who began the offseason in the worst salary-cap situation of any team in the AFC North, are in a more comfortable situation. They are $3.7 million under the cap, which ranks ninth in least amount of cap room.
The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals continue to rank in the top five when it comes to teams with the most cap room. The Browns are $17.7 million under the cap, and the Bengals are $16.3 million under. Two AFC South teams -- the Jaguars ($25.1 million) and Titans ($19.9 million) -- have the most cap room in the NFL.