Much of the contract extension talk has gone towards All-Pro caliber guards Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda, yet many have forgotten that All-Pro Kicker Justin Tucker is also up for an extension next offseason.
Baltimore fans have grown to love their kicker, as he is probably one of the most adored kickers in the NFL. Ravens faithful have come to expect Tucker's great kicking accuracy and power every game, and are spoiled by his excellent play. Tucker came into the league as an UDFA out of Texas, and surprisingly won the starting kicking job. At the time, no one expected that he'd be the most accurate kicker in NFL history.
The first three years of his career, the Ravens got a steal on him from a economic standpoint. His rookie deal cost the Ravens an average of $480,000 a year from 2012 - 2014, the Ravens got arguably the best kicker in the league at practically minimum wage. It's time for Justin to be compensated fairly, and this offseason, the Ravens did that. The front office place a second-round tender on Tucker this March. This is essentially a one-year contract worth $2.356 million. While he may be locked down for this year, his status for 2016 and beyond is unclear. It's clear the Ravens will have to pay big to retain him, since he is one of the best, if not the best in the league, it'd be reasonable to think his salary would be one of the highest in the league at the position. Right now, Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots is the highest paid, at a $4.590 million average for 2015.
Instead of an extension, ESPN Ravens Insider Jamison Hensley believes that the Ravens may use their franchise tag on him, and it makes sense. He believes that the Ravens will opt to use that tag on Tucker because "Ravens officials probably know they're going to have to make Tucker one of the highest-paid kickers, but it could be tough to reach a deal when St. Louis' Greg Zuerlein and Minnesota's Blair Walsh are looking to cash in as well." Using the tag on Tucker may also make more sense financially, as the tag for kickers would cost the Ravens around $4.5 million, while using it on a offensive lineman could cost them in the neighborhood of $12 million. Finally, depth is important too, Hensley argues that Osemele could be replaced by depth in the form of the affordable second-year backup John Urschel. Meanwhile, Tucker's would-be-replacement is unknown, and definitely couldn't 'replace' his quality play.
However Justin's contract situation ends up, I certainly hope he stays in Baltimore a long time. He is certainly a player that I would love to see as a 'lifelong' Raven. Here's to Justin staying in Baltimore for years to come.