With the calendar turning to July this week, the clock will really begin ticking on the Ravens and kicker Justin Tucker.
The Ravens gave Tucker the franchise tag in February, essentially signing him through the 2016 season.
They have until July 15 to work out a long-term deal or Tucker must play the 2016 season under the tag.
That would earn him a nice $4.5 million salary, but it is a one-year contract, and both he and the Ravens would do well to work out a deal that will keep Tucker in Baltimore for the foreseeable future.
There are plenty of reasons to think the deal will get done, and the best two are these: Tucker has made it clear that he wants to stay with the Ravens, and the Ravens have made clear that they'd like to keep him.
"I’m optimistic and hopeful that something will get done,” Tucker said at OTAs earlier this spring.
“As far as I’m concerned and everybody is still concerned, there’s still plenty of time to get something locked in. And that is absolutely the goal – to get something locked in.”
Tucker is the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history (87.8 percent) and has 10 game-winning field goals, including three in 2015. This past season he was 33-for-40 on field-goal attempts and made all 29 point-after kicks at the longer distance. He has never missed an extra point in his four-year career.
If past history is any indication, a deal will get done. The Ravens applied the franchise tag to Terrell Suggs (2009), Haloti Ngata (2011) and Ray Rice (2012), and in each case they were able to work out a long-term deal before the deadline
What will that take this time? Many people look at Stephen Gostkowski's contract last season as a market setter for kickers.
Like Tucker, Gostkowski -- the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history at 87.3 percent -- was given the franchise tag by the Patriots. Then just before the deadline to play under the tag, Gostkowski signed a four-year, $17.2 million deal with $10.1 million guaranteed
Tucker's franchise tag of $4.5 million all counts toward the salary cap. A long-term deal would almost certainly lower that cap for 2016, though the Ravens recently freed up more than $6 million in cap space when left tackle Eugene Monroe was released
There hasn't been much progress in the four months since Tucker received the tag, but expect that to change; deadlines have a way of making things happen.