At the age of 26, Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker has accomplished more than most kickers throughout their entire 15+ year careers. He's won a Super Bowl ring, he's the second highest accurate kicker ever, he has a Pro Bowl and All-Pro designation to his name, and has been named the franchise's Most Valuable Player.
In only four years, Tucker has gone from undrafted kid out of Texas to a star in the NFL. All thanks in part to his charming personality and a monster leg. A personality that includes advertisements singing Opera, a skill that doesn't require any dubbing over as he really belts those notes out; and a leg that currently tied for the seventh longest field goal in the history of the league at 61 yards (longest in a domed stadium).
So entering the 2016 offseason, the Ravens face an interesting task of trying to resign the star kicker to a contract that makes both sides happy. He's going to be one of the highest paid kickers without a doubt, but how much can the Ravens squeeze out of him to lower his cap hit becomes the biggest question. As an Unrestricted Free Agent, the Ravens hold no leverage over Tucker as he can choose to hit the free agent market if he wishes, or force the Ravens to use the franchise tag on him.
At the top of the NFL's average salaries for kickers, you have New England Patriots Stephen Gostkowski at $4.3 million. Underneath him are a bevy of other kickers making a bit less:
Stephen Gostkowski - $4,300,000
Sebastian Janikowski - $3,775,000
Robbie Gould - $3,750,000
Blair Walsh - $3,250,000
Dan Bailey - $3,214,286
Given that Tucker's career field goal percentage is 87.838%, sandwiched between Dan Bailey's 90.566% and Stephen Gostkowski's 87.342% at the top of recorded history, you'd figure he'd make the difference between the two. I'm sure the Ravens would be happy to pay that amount as that would put him at the third spot on the list with $3,757,143 per year average. However, the last kicker in the top-five to be signed was Stephen Gostkowski and Blair Walsh, both signed in 2015.
Sadly, Blair Walsh just shanked a chip-shot kick in the playoffs that would have catapulted the Vikings into the next round and Stephen Gostkowski is the highest paid kicker in the league. With a year of inflation added to it and an easy assertion that Tucker is a more accurate kicker than Gostkowski and definitely more clutch than Blair, he could find himself signed for more than the $4.3 million the top spot would gain him. Make no mistake, if the Ravens don't want to give him that amount, there are quite a few teams that would gladly do so.
So that means, the Ravens could either pony up to their checkbooks and give him roughly around $5 million per season over four years, or they can use the franchise tag on him to get more time to negotiate a deal.
We don't quite know what the franchise tag for kickers will be yet, but it's estimated to be right around $4.118 million for a single year. That's cheaper than the highest paid kicker, but it would make Tucker the second highest by a slim margin, and for only a year without the ability to tag him the following season. The Ravens could offer him a deal that would be worth up to $5 million by was incentive laden to do so. His agent might not be all that willing to accept such a deal given that he'd be such a hot commodity on the open market, so it becomes a chess match of offers and rejections.
Regardless of what happens with the contract negotiations, the Ravens will have Tucker around in 2016. I don't think they would hesitate to use the franchise tag on him to keep him around and throw more offers at him. What happens after that is a mystery, but I think just about every Ravens fan wants Justin Tucker in purple for quite a few more years.