After a dramatic day of haggling where his roster spot was in serious danger, Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie held onto his job by accepting a restructured contract that cuts his salary by $1 million.
McKinnie signed off on a deal Tuesday afternoon that reduced his base salary from $3.2 million to $2.2 million and he can recover the $1 million if he triggers a 50 percent playing-time incentive clause, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.
"Yes, I can still make it with incentives," McKinnie confirmed in a text to The Baltimore Sun.
Six days prior to their regular-season opener at M&T Bank Stadium against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens were on the verge of releasing their starting left tackle. Instead, the former Pro Bowl blocker was retained as the Ravens created $1 million in salary-cap space.
"Bryant is with us, he's here," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I just had a great conversation with him. He's been a part of us, he never left us. I'm excited about Bryant, always have been.
"Like I told him, I've got a lot of respect for him as a football player. Love his style of play. We're going to have a strong offensive line, and he's a big part of that."
Earlier in the day, McKinnie answered affirmatively in a text when asked if he was off the team following his announcement on Twitter: "Decision is made! I'm gone!"
Roughly an hour later, though, McKinnie indicated that the situation might get resolved when he texted: "Just got a phone call, it's not officially over as of yet."
McKinnie said he was caught off guard when contacted directly by Harbaugh and informed that the team wanted to address his contract.
Harbaugh acknowledged speaking to McKinnie.
"I'm always involved with all of our players," Harbaugh said. "I had a chance to talk to Bryant. I talk to Bryant, probably every day. I talk to most of our guys every day, so nothing's really changed in that respect."
The Ravens initially requested that McKinnie take a 50 percent pay cut, down to roughly $1.6 million.
If the Ravens had parted ways with McKinnie, they would have gained $2.2 million against this year's salary cap by subtracting his $3.2 million base salary and accounting for $500,000, the prorated amount from his $1 million signing bonus paid last year, and the $500,000 roster bonus already paid to him in March.
"In the end, Bryant wanted to be there," said Michael George, McKinnie's agent. "He wanted to be on a good team that has championship potential. They're a better team with him than without him. Bryant is happy that everything has been worked out now and looking forward to the season."
From a legal perspective, McKinnie's wages are being garnished this year, in accordance with a deal he reached to repay Pro Player Funding for a loan he took out during last year's lockout. He owes more than $4.5 million and would violate the court agreement with Pro Player Funding if the Ravens stopped making payments.
Harbaugh said he wasn't concerned that McKinnie's contract situation would be a distraction for the team.
"I don't think it will be an issue at all," Harbaugh said. "Guys are pros and guys understand the business aspects of all this stuff. He's a great guy, he's a hard worker, he's a pro, he's a Raven. I'm really happy about that, and he seems very happy about it, too. So, it won't be a problem at all."
McKinnie was signed to a two-year, $7 million deal last August after being cut by the Minnesota Vikings when his weight increased to 387 pounds during the NFL lockout.
McKinnie had gotten into better shape after reporting to camp overweight and five days late, and then eventually passing the conditioning test. He was held out of a mandatory minicamp in June due to conditioning issues and asked to get down to a target weight of 345 pounds.
The 6-foot-8 lineman is listed at 354 pounds on the Ravens' official roster.
Prior to the Ravens picking up his $500,000 roster bonus in March, McKinnie met with Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and promised to report in prime condition.
McKinnie also arrived at training camp with a back injury he said he suffered when he slipped on a wet surface at his South Florida home.
The former University of Miami standout started the Ravens' third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and seemed to hold up fine.
In the locker room following the game, McKinnie said he had regained his starting job after lining up with the second-team offense during the first two preseason games.
If the Ravens had cut McKinnie, they would have shifted Michael Oher back to left tackle from the right side. That would have induced a line shuffle with rookie Kelechi Osemele taking over for Oher at right tackle.
The Ravens didn't announce if McKinnie will start against the Bengals, but it's unlikely they would have kept him as a backup. He's listed first on the depth chart at left tackle.
"Bryant is a hard-working guy, that's our expectation," Harbaugh said. "Our expectation is that guys come out and practice hard, practice fast, give us their best.
"And he's always done that. He continues to work his way back to that Pro Bowl form, he and I agreed that's our goal for him. So, he's working his way back in that direction."