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Ravens can still put tag on Ngata next month

Teams are expected to still use the franchise tag next month, NFL officials told reporters at the league office on Thursday.

That would allow the Ravens to keep defensive tackle Haloti Ngata off the free-agent market this season. The franchise tag on defensive tackles last season was a one-year tender worth $7 million.

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Under the 2010 rules, Ngata would only be a restricted free agent, and the Ravens could use a first-round tender to protect him. But the rules that define free agents could change in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, and Ngata might be an unrestricted free agent in the new CBA.

To make sure Ngata isn't going anywhere, the Ravens could use the franchise tag on him while negotiating a long-term deal with him. Ngata is looking for a deal that is similar to the one signed by rookie Ndamukong Suh, who signed a five-year, $68 million contract with Detroit that includes $40 million guaranteed.

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The franchise tag allows team to keep their most valuable free agent off the market by paying him the average salary of the top five players at his position. Others who could be facing the tag include: Michael Vick, Logan Mankins, Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, LaMarr Woodley, Tamba Hali, Marcedes Lewis, and Johnathan Joseph.

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