BALTIMORE — Matt Elam was handed a one game suspension by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Elam is on injured reserve, so his suspension won’t hurt the Baltimore Ravens this season. The only harm that it causes this season is to Elam’s bank account. He will lose one game check because of the suspension.
Former Ravens beat writer Aaron Wilson reported that the suspension will cost Elam $60,010 of his $1.02.82 million guaranteed base salary.
Elam was placed on injured reserve after tearing his biceps during training camp. He had been working to recover from the season ending injury. The violation is something that the Ravens organization apparently knew about.
“We have been aware of this situation for a while,” the Ravens send in a press release. “Matt has been in our building rehabbing his injury on a regular basis, and he will continue to do so.”
The second part of that statement stands out. The organization said that Elam will continue to rehab from the injury, but does that mean that Elam will be back next year?
The suspension will surely raise some eyebrows, but things were not looking good for Elam prior to the injury. Poor tackling and coverage issues have hampered Elam over the last two seasons. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome publicly said that the 2015 season was one that Elam needed to show that he can play up to his first round draft pick status.
Elam is due $1.327 million in base salary next season. A portion of his money this year is a signing bonus valued at $825,364. If the Ravens decide to move on from Elam, it will only cost them the signing bonus which is under one million dollars. If they keep him, his cap number is $2.15 million.
John Harbaugh said that Elam appeared to be in the best shape that he has ever been in during training camp. The Ravens were looking forward to seeing the strides that Elam made in training camp.
“I feel bad for Matt [Elam] just because he was doing so well. I think he really had been determined to change, improve [on] some things he wasn’t doing quite as well. The No. 1 thing was tackling,” Harbaugh said. “We were both excited to get out there in pads and see him tackle, because I thought he was really preparing for that well.”
The message was clear to Elam, “Show us why we used a first round draft pick to make you a Raven.”
The Ravens selected Elam with the 32nd pick of the 2013 NFL Draft. He was viewed as one of the top safeties in the 2013 class. Elam was a first team All-American in 2014. He was known for making electrifying hits and being the emotional leader of the Florida Gators defense.
That leadership and playmaking ability is exactly what the Ravens thought they were acquiring when they drafted him. Elam has not delivered on the promise that he showed in college.
Elam’s rookie season was a promising one. He took over as the starting strong safety and notched his only career interception that season. He had 77 tackles and three of his seven pass breakups in his career.
It was the acquisition of another Florida safety that hurt Elam. Will Hill was released by the New York Giants soon after it was announced that he had to serve a suspension during the 2014 season. The Ravens scooped up Hill and got him up to speed with their scheme before he served the suspension.
Hill took over for Elam at strong safety when he returned from the suspension. Elam was relegated to a nickel role which allowed him to cover slot receivers.
The future of Elam with the Ravens is a cloudy one. The team is in position to move on if they want to. Terrence Brooks is a less expensive option that can give them the same skill set. Brooks was a third round pick in 2014 and played some cornerback while he was at Florida State.
The Ravens could have some cap issues because of Flacco’s cap number that is said to approach $25 million. They may not be afforded the luxury of having a $2 million backup safety.