Well, the case of Justin Tucker vs. the Baltimore Ravens has taken a very interesting and unexpected turn. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported last night that Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is "frustrated" with negotiations on a deal with the team before the franchise tag deadline today at 4p.m ET. Tucker's agent Rob Roche says "If we don't get a long-term deal done by Friday, Justin will not entertain offers from the Ravens after the season." For the full article, click here.
Got to say, I didn't see this coming. Not only are Tucker and Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome struggling to come up with a deal, but coming down to the fact that Tucker could very well be done as a Raven after the 2016 season. Under the franchise tag, Tucker would be paid $4.5 million for the upcoming season ($5.4 million if the team tags him again next offseason), and the contract that was reportedly offered to Tucker was less than Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby was paid.
Unfortunately, for Tucker, he is dealing with the master poker player himself in Ozzie Newsome. Don't get into a stare down with Ozzie because he gets his way no matter what and the Ravens are in the right when it comes to these negotiations.
Let me start off by saying that Justin Tucker has been unbelievable for the Ravens ever since he came into training camp in 2012 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas. He wowed the coaches with his strong kicks and promptly beat out the incumbent and dead man walking starter Billy Cundiff. I'll get back to him soon. Tucker has been a key force for the team making clutch kicks to help them win games.
Who can forget his very first game-winning kick on that Sunday, September night in Baltimore against the New England Patriots on that emotional day for wide receiver Torrey Smith, his game-winning kick against the Denver Broncos to lift the team to the AFC Championship, his 61 yarder against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football in 2013. Heck, three of the Ravens 5 wins in 2015 were on Justin Tucker game-winning field goals.
So, surely the Ravens should have no choice but to reach for their wallets and pay for whatever Tucker is asking for right? Wrong. While Tucker deserves to be paid, the fact of the matter is this, he's a kicker and kickers should not be paid top dollar money in the NFL because of how easily replaceable they are. Plus, Ozzie has to be thinking "Who's more important to the team, Justin Tucker or Brandon Williams? Justin Tucker or CJ Mosely?" Those are easy answers and it's not even close.
Ozzie Newsome also has a way with learning his lessons and not repeating past mistakes. Enter Billy Cundiff. After having a Pro Bowl 2010 season, Ozzie rewarded him with a five-year, $15 million contract. Then that Championship game kick happened. Now let's fast forward to Tucker's 2015 season. Yes, he kicked 3 game winning field goals, but Tucker struggled last season from 50-yards or more, missing 6 kicks. Don't get me wrong, kicking from 50-yards is extremely hard, but that is unusual for Tucker.
We also all know that kickers have fragile minds and one miss could lead to a lot more and all of a sudden, a kicker that was once invincible, is now just a mere mortal looking for another team. What if Tucker's 2015 struggles are a sign of things to come? Ozzie knows this, so he's not going to give into Tucker and his agents demands to pay a kicker.
Justin Tucker deserves to get paid for what he has done in the NFL in his first four seasons whether it's in Baltimore or for another franchise. Always ask for what you feel you're worth, that's why I don't blame Tucker for demanding more.
I also don't blame the Ravens for not giving into Tucker's demands because they are trying to negotiate a contract that is fair. At the end of the day, if Tucker walks, Ozzie will just say "All right, I'll use that money to give extensions to more valuable players." Maybe he uses that money to sign a big-name free agent. I want to see Tucker in a Ravens uniform for a long time, but Ozzie always gets what he wants and he knows what's right for the future of the franchise. Usually, that kind of thinking by Ozzie Newsome ends up pretty well for the Ravens.
As the Ravens front office always says, "Right player, right price."