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Ravens Mulling Over Franchise Tag Options


The Ravens avoided having to use the franchise tag last season by signing quarterback Joe Flacco before the start of free agency.

They have a number of key players set to become unrestricted free agents this season, and General Manger Ozzie Newsome left the door open to using the tag to keep them in Baltimore. 

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

The top candidates for the franchise tag are tight end Dennis Pitta and left tackle Eugene Monroe.

By placing the franchise tag on a player, the Ravens prevent him from signing with another team. Players under the franchise tag then get a pre-determined salary for one season that pays them the average of the five highest earning players at his position.

Newsome said that the Ravens will discuss the topic of franchising a player next week when the brass holds its annual meeting in Florida at the home of Owner Steve Bisciotti. Newsome, Head Coach John Harbaugh, Team President Dick Cass, Assistant General Manger Eric DeCosta and Senior Vice President of Football Administration Pat Moriarty will all make the trip.

"We'll have the opportunity to go down to the principal's office this weekend," Newsome said.  "We'll know exactly what our cap situation is. We'll talk about guys that we want to re-sign, extend, whatever, release. We will do whatever it takes."

Pitta appears to be a likely candidate for the tag, as he is one of quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite and most reliable targets. He bounced back from a fractured and dislocated hip this season, and showed the Ravens that he is deserving of a long-term contract. Pitta finished the year with 20 catches for 169 yards and one touchdown.

"We saw Dennis for three weeks before we put him on the field, and he still has his skills and the skillset to be a very productive receiver in this league," Newsome said. "Going forward, we would like to have Dennis on our football team. He plays winning football for us in a lot of manners. He is a mismatch problem for defenses.

"So, yes, he is someone we will be talking about down in Jupiter, [FL] and we'd like to have him."

If the Ravens franchise Pitta or one of their other free agents, the player doesn't necessarily have to play under the tag. The tag could buy the two sides some extra time to work out a long-term contract extension before the season.

The Ravens have gone that route in the past, including in 2012 when they franchised running back Ray Rice and then worked out a long-term deal.

While franchise tagging is an option to keep one of the top free agents in Baltimore, Newsome also acknowledged that Pitta or Monroe could leave for big contracts elsewhere.

"We wanted [Paul] Kruger and [Dannell] Ellerbe back last year, and we weren't able to keep them," Newsome said.

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