In a 20-minute interview on Day One of the NFL scouting combine, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed one thing that was widely expected. If the team hasn't reached a long-term extension with Justin Tucker by March 1, the Ravens will place the franchise tag on the kicker.
"We’ve had some discussions but we will franchise Justin if we do not get a deal done," Newsome said. "Even if we do franchise him, we will continue to work to negotiate to try and get a deal done.”
The franchise tag for kickers will likely be $4.5 million. Ravens senior vice president of administration Pat Moriarty will likely meet with Robert Roche, Tucker's agent, this week to try and bridge the gap in the contract negotiations.
Newsome said Moriarty will also meet with the representatives of five of the team's current players this week to discuss potential new deals. Joe Linta, the agent of quarterback Joe Flacco, will be one of them.
However, Newsome again downplayed the importance of reworking Flacco's contract, which currently carries a $28.55 million salary cap hit for 2016. The Ravens have the second-smallest cap space in the league behind the Buffalo Bills and a new deal with Flacco is viewed as the most logical way to open up some flexibility.
"Just as I stated at the end-of-season press conference, we are in a position that we can be very active in free agency without having to get something done with Joe. But if that possibility happens, it will be good both for the Ravens and for Joe Flacco,” Newsome said. "I want what’s fair. I think any time you’re dealing with a player, I have the best interests of [owner Steve Bisciotti] and the Baltimore Ravens and the player has the best interest of himself and we have to find that happy medium. When we do, it works out good for everybody.”
Newsome acknowledged that the team will have to make some roster cuts before March 9, the first day of free agency. He wouldn't specify, but the most logical candidates include middle linebacker Daryl Smith, defensive end Chris Canty and cornerback Kyle Arrington. The Ravens also have decisions to make on tight end Dennis Pitta and left tackle Eugene Monroe, but both are more likely to be post-June 1 cuts to better absorb the dead money that their releases would leave on the salary cap.
"I saw [Los Angeles Rams head coach] Jeff Fisher made this comment last week: This is the time of year we make tough decisions," Newsome said. "Between now and March 9, we will make some. I don’t know who they are or who they’re going to be, but we do have to make some decisions.”
Newsome said that cornerback-turned-safety Lardarius Webb, who has been mentioned as a candidate to be released because he carries a $9.5 million salary cap number for 2016, will be back under his current number.
"If you watch some of the numbers that some of the safeties are going to get in free agency, you’ll realize that we’ve got him at a very good number,” Newsome said.
In other news, Newsome said that wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. and Terrell Suggs, who are both coming off Achilles surgery, are making progress.
"I fully anticipate by the time we play our first regular-season game, that they’ll both be ready to go,” Newsome said.
The news wasn't as encouraging on last year's first-round pick, Breshad Perriman, who missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury. Newsome said that Perriman hasn't yet been fully cleared for a return.
"I saw him in the facility before I left. He has a smile on his face and I’m hoping that he can continue to improve in his rehab and once the offseason program gets here, we’ll get a chance to see what he can do," Newsome said.