In just two NFL seasons, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker already ranks amongst the NFL's best. His rookie season concluded with a Super Bowl championship and his sophomore campaign finished in Hawaii after being named to his first Pro Bowl.
Unfortunately for Tucker, he's not even close to some of his peers in an area that may matter the most — his paycheck!
Prior to sending Billy Cundiff to the unemployment line, Tucker signed his first NFL contract just as many other undrafted free agents do — for the absolute least amount of money possible. Given his production the past two seasons, Tucker arguably has the best Effectiveness:Expense ratio in the league.
Fortunately for Tucker — and unfortunately for the Ravens salary cap — don't expect that to last beyond this season.
Earlier Friday, the Carolina Panthers re-signed kicker Graham Gano to a reported four-year, $12.4 million deal. Like Tucker, Gano was originally signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent.
News of Gano's extension surely brought a smile to Tucker and his agent's faces as this provides another example of the increase in kicker contracts. Gano's contract is currently the ninth-highest for total value, but that was for a kicker who was only 86.8 percent (33 for 38) during his two seasons with the Panthers.
In the past two seasons, Tucker has converted 68 of 74 total field goal attempts (91.9 percent). Not only has he been accurate, he's certainly earned the label of "clutch" after a 61-yard game winning kick last season during a Monday Night Football victory over the Detroit Lions.
I'd fully expect the Ravens to take advantage of every penny of Tucker's rookie deal as the average contract for top-NFL kickers is five-times the amount of what Tucker currently makes per season.
In 2015, Tucker will be a restricted free agent, and at a minimum would earn a second-round designation. Unless Tucker turns into Cundiff and forgets how to kick, expect the Ravens to extend him before a conversation of what tender he should receive even comes up.