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Franchise Tag Window Opens Today


The Ravens can place their franchise tag on a player beginning today.

Whether they will remains to be seen. Teams have until March 1 at 4 p.m. to do so.

Baltimore hasn't used the tag since 2012, but there's a decent chance that it happens this year.

The Ravens seemingly have two candidates for the tag: kicker Justin Tucker and left guard Kelechi Osemele. Both are one of the best players at their respective positions in the NFL.

Tucker is the more likely candidate because, as a kicker, he's much more affordable. According to media reports, franchising Tucker would cost approximately $4.5 million in 2016.

The Ravens have made it clear that they want to keep Tucker in Baltimore, and would likely tag him if they cannot reach a long-term deal.

They could also put the franchise tag on him as a first step toward a new multi-year contract, ensuring he would be in Baltimore through 2016 while they negotiate.

"We will go to work on trying to get a contract done," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said last month. "We do know what the franchise number is for a kicker, if it gets to that. But, we will go to work on that, and we want Justin to be a part of our team."

Tucker was rated as the best kicker in the league last year by Pro Football Focus (PFF). He's been clutch, reliable and a beloved part of the locker room and community. He's the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history and hampers opponents' return game with his long kickoffs.

If Tucker signs a long-term deal with the Ravens, it could be in the neighborhood of the contract inked by Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, which was reportedly $17.2 million for four years.

At the end of the season, Tucker said he wants to return to Baltimore if "all things are equal."

"At this juncture, I'm kind of letting it all just unfold how it's going to unfold, and I’m optimistic that something will get done," he said.

Osemele is a different situation.

The Ravens have also expressed their interest in retaining him, and Osemele said he and Newsome had already begun conversations before the season ended.

However, the franchise tag may be too expensive. The franchise tag doesn't differentiate between tackles, centers and guards, so Osemele would be paid as one of the top-five tackles in the league. That number is expected to be around $14 million, per reports.

Osemele played the final four games at left tackle and did well, but he hasn't proven he's a top-five tackle yet. His possible future at that position does add to his value, however, and would make him an attractive target on the open free-agency market.

Osemele was rated as the 13th-best guard in the NFL by PFF. He was tied as the fifth-best run-blocking guard. He's a mauling, hulking guard that fits Baltimore's style.

"I had a really good conversation with 'K.O.' when the move [from guard] was made," Newsome said. "But that conversation was no different than [conversations] I've had with [Marshal] Yanda and Jimmy [Smith], or with [Pernell] McPhee and Torrey [Smith] and [Paul] Kruger. We will have a chance to look at that. We have Eugene Monroe, who's under contract. We still have James Hurst."

The Ravens have used the franchise tag seven times before. They used it on offensive lineman Wally Williams in 1998, cornerback Chris McAlister in 2003 and 2004, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs in 2008 and 2009, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in 2011 and running back Ray Rice in 2012.

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