The Baltimore Ravens placed the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker, his agent said Friday, which will keep him off the free agent market, and in Baltimore for at least one more season. Tucker’s agent, Robert Roche, tweeted the news regarding the franchise designation, according to the team’s official website.
Justin Tucker and the Ravens weren’t able to hash out a long-term deal, but they’re not ruling out that possibility either. Earlier in the week, the team’s general manager foreshadowed this move, saying, “We’ve had some discussions, but we will franchise Justin if we do not get a deal done. Even if we do franchise him, we will continue to work to negotiate to try and get a deal done,” according to a report from NFL.com. Under the franchise tag, Tucker will make $4.5 million for the 2016 season. The two sides will have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal or Tucker will be forced to play under the franchise designation.
Tucker has been one of the NFL’s most productive kickers since entering the National Football League in 2012. In his four years, all with the Ravens, he’s converted 88 percent of his field-goal attempts, and he’s never missed an extra-point attempt. The 26-year-old is the second, most accurate kicker in league history, behind only Dan Bailey of the Dallas Cowboys. The top-four most accurate are all active kickers with Stephen Gostkowski and Steven Hauschka behind Bailey and Tucker. Mike Vanderjagt is the only non-active kicker in the top five.
If history is any indication, Justin Tucker and the Ravens will eventually reach a long-term deal. The last four players to be slapped with the franchise tag in Baltimore (cornerback Chris McAlister, linebacker Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and running back Ray Rice) all signed with the Ravens to multi-year contract extensions. Wally Williams remains the only Raven in team history not to receive a contract after receiving the tag in 1998. Tucker becomes the first NFL player to be tagged this offseason, as teams have until March 1 to use their franchise tags.
According to ESPN, placing the franchise tag on Justin Tucker is a risky decision. While, yes, Tucker is as reliable a kicker as they come in the NFL, the Ravens entered this offseason with roughly $6 million in cap space. They’ll be using $4.5 million of that on one player, with that one player being a kicker. Under this current regime, the Ravens have traditionally built their team through the draft rather than through free agency. And if this moves stays as is, they’ll likely have no other choice this time around. Keep in mind, this is a team that struggled to a 5-11 record, but did suffer significant injuries to players like Joe Flacco, Steve Smith, Terrell Suggs and Justin Forsett.
Having a competent kicker can sometimes be the difference in winning and losing. As previously mentioned, Justin Tucker has yet to miss an extra point in his NFL career. That used to be a minor footnote, but 2015 saw the extra point pushed back to where it became a 33-yard attempt. Thanks to Tucker, the Ravens were one of only five teams not to miss an extra point during last year’s regular season. The Patriots, Packers, Falcons and Cowboys were the only other teams to go perfect in that category.
Justin Tucker has missed just 18 field goal attempts in his four seasons. 12 of those were from beyond 50 yards. The Ravens kicker has connected on 130 of his 148 career attempts, ten of which have been game-winners. He’s certainly clutch, but will he remain clutch in the Charm City beyond 2016?
[Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images]