Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is set to become a free agent in March, but he said on Monday that his agent and the Ravens have been working "on and off" on a new deal for months.
Tucker has said more than once that he hopes to remain with the Ravens, and as players cleaned out their lockers on Monday, he said, "I’m optimistic that everything will get sorted out when it’s supposed to get sorted out."
Tucker is one of the Ravens highest-profile free agents, along with offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele and linebacker Courtney Upshaw. Tucker earned $2.356 million this year after the Ravens assigned him a second-round tender as a restricted free agent, and he figures to get a sizable bump from that salary.
For comparison's sake -- and surely this has come up in discussions -- Stephen Gostkowski last summer signed a four-year, $17.2 million deal with the Patriots, with about $10 million guaranteed. The Patriots had initially applied the franchise tag to Gostkowski before working out his long-term deal, and the Ravens might go that route as well.
The tag for kickers is expected to be about $4.5 million, and the Ravens could tag Tucker in February and then work until July 15 to sign him to a long-term deal. After that date, any player who is tagged must play under the one-year tag.
Tucker said his agent and the Ravens "have been talking on and off for the better part of a year, year-and-a-half. 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."
For now, Tucker said, he's focused on his family; his wife, Amanda, is pregnant with the couple's first child.
Tucker struggled from long-distance this year but remains one of the most dependable kickers in the league. He finished 33-for-40 on field-goal attempts, including the game-winning kick on the final play in three of the Ravens' five wins.
He ranks second in NFL history in field-goal accuracy (minimum 100 attempts) at 87.8 percent (130-for-148), but his seven misses this year represented a career-high, and he was just four-for-10 from 50 yards or farther this year. Tucker was one of the few kickers who didn't struggle with the longer extra-point kicks; he was 29-for-29 and has made all 139 PAT kicks in his career. In addition, Tucker ranked fourth in the league with 63 touchbacks.
He also remains one of the more popular Ravens off the field; he often invites fans to help retrieve balls at offseason kicking workouts at Patterson Park, and he put his considerable opera skills on display as a guest soloist at a recent holiday concert.
"I know I’m going to end up wherever, God-willing, I’m supposed to end up," Tucker said on Monday, "but the only thing I can take care of is my own personal business, and that’s making myself the best kicker possible.”