Ravens Can Begin Using Franchise Tag

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Let the franchise tag frenzy begin.

Monday is the first day that teams around the NFL can use the franchise tag designation on unrestricted free agents to keep them from hitting the open market.

Tight end Dennis Pitta and left tackle Eugene Monroe are two of the top candidates for the Ravens to tag, and General Manager Ozzie Newsome said last month that the Ravens are open to using the franchise designation.

"The possibility of using the franchise tag is something that we might have to do," Newsome said during the season-review press conference.

Each team has the ability to franchise one player. That player gets a one-year deal and a salary based on the average pay to the top-five earners at the position.

The estimated salary cap figure is $6.8 million for tight end and $11.2 million for offensive tackle. Teams have until March 3 to determine whether they use the franchise tag.

Pitta is an option for the franchise tag because the Ravens have expressed interest in extending him and he is one of quarterback Joe Flacco's most reliable targets. Pitta bounced back from a fractured and dislocated hip last season and finished the year with 20 catches for 169 yards and one touchdown.

During his four games back, Pitta demonstrated to the Ravens that he is deserving of a new contract.

"Going forward, we would like to have Dennis on our football team," Newsome said. "He plays winning football for us in a lot of manners. He is a mismatch problem for defenses."

One consideration with Pitta is that his agent could make the case that he is eligible for the wide receiver franchise tag because he often lines up in the slot. The wide receiver franchise tag comes at a much heftier $11.6 million price tag, nearly a $5 million difference. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham has discussed the possibility of challenging his designation as a tight end, and his situation could ultimately affect Pitta's status.

The Ravens have also said that Monroe has shown the ability to be a long-term solution at left tackle, and applying the franchise tag would keep him in Baltimore for at least one more season. The Ravens acquired Monroe midway through last season in exchange for a fourth- and fifth-round draft pick.

Monroe was one of the Ravens' most consistent offensive linemen throughout the season.

Even if the Ravens do opt to tag Pitta or Monroe, they could still continue negotiating a long-term contract with them. That's what they did with running back Ray Rice, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs.

The Ravens have used the franchise tag six times in the organization's history, and just once did it not eventually lead to a long-term deal with offensive lineman Wally Williams in 1998.

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