The Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers are still recovering from Sunday's Super Bowl, but that hasn't stopped some from looking ahead to the teams' futures in 2013 and beyond. Despite winning the Super Bowl, the Ravens could face several issues this offseason. On the other side, San Francisco appears to be in position to retain their core and possibly add to it.
Of the many issues the Ravens face this offseason, getting quarterback Joe Flacco under contract is likely the top priority. Flacco played this season in the final year of his contract, and his superb performance during the playoffs means his price tag has only gone up. Some have speculated Flacco is aiming for a contract that will pay him $20 million per season. While keeping Flacco is an obvious priority, the Ravens will have to do some work to create the required cap space.
Baltimore currently projects to be $5 million over the projected 2013 salary cap, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Even if they used the franchise tag to keep Flacco for 2013, they would be forced to guarantee him $14.6 million. Doing so would put Baltimore $20 million over the projected salary cap. In order to get under the cap, the Ravens may need to rework some contracts or even release a few players.
Anquan Boldin was one of the best players for the Ravens during the postseason, but releasing the 32-year-old wide receiver would save Baltimore $5.5 million. It's a move they may have to make in order to keep Flacco. Jacoby Jones, who scored two touchdowns during Super Bowl XLVII, could also be a cap causality. Releasing Jones would save $3.5 million on the 2013 salary cap.
Both of those moves, as well as others Baltimore may have to make, are just to keep Joe Flacco in a Ravens uniform. Flacco, however, is just one of several contributors scheduled to be a free agent. Paul Kruger, who led the Ravens with 9.0 sacks, will also be a free agent. As one of the top pass rushers available this offseason, Kruger is likely to generate plenty of interest and could be out of the Ravens' price range.
Playoff contributors including cornerback Cary Williams and left tackle Bryant McKinnie are also scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Tight end Dennis Pitta will be a restricted free agent. This is all without getting to safety Ed Reed, who will also be an unrestricted free agent. Some have speculated the 34-year-old Reed has played his last game in a Baltimore uniform.
While the Ravens struggle to keep key players due to a lack of salary cap flexibility, the 49ers should have room to not only re-sign any of their own key free agents, but also add talent via free agency. San Francisco currently projects to be just less than $3 million under the salary cap. San Francisco, however, can free up cap room by releasing a few veterans.
Cutting David Akers would save the 49ers $3.05 million in cap room, while releasing Jonathan Goodwin would save $4.35 million. The 49ers can also gain $2.5 million in credit from Ahmad Brooks' contract, as he didn't reach several escalators this season. That's without even mentioning backup quarterback Alex Smith. Smith is owed $8.5 million next season, and while they could keep him in a backup role, San Francisco could free up considerable space by trading or releasing Smith. Those moves would put the team more than $20 million under the salary cap.
San Francisco doesn't have as many key free agents as Baltimore, but the 49ers will likely need to devote a chunk of their cap space to re-sign free agent safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson, who played this season under the franchise tag, will be an unrestricted free agent for the third straight season. If San Francisco uses the franchise tag on Goldson again this season, it would cost them $7.45 million.
Other key unrestricted free agents include Isaac Sopoaga, Delanie Walker, Ricky Jean Francois and Randy Moss. All four played significant roles for the 49ers this season. Sopoaga and Jean Francois both play nose tackle, so San Francisco will likely bring at least one back. Sopoaga is a long-time starter, but the 49ers could instead turn to the younger Jean Francois.
At this stage of his career, Moss isn't likely to command a high-priced contract as a free agent. He could also opt to retire. Walker has long been San Francisco's No. 2 tight end behind Vernon Davis, and he could decide to sign elsewhere with the hopes of earning a starting job. Either way, San Francisco should have the flexibility to be active in free agency.