Despite the protests from the players' union, the NFL said Thursday marks the start of a 14-day window in which teams can use the franchise tag.
The Ravens are expected to place the tag on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, and it will be an expensive one.
The franchise tag -- which is the average salary of the five highest-paid players at that position -- is projected to escalate to around $12.5 million in 2011 -- a steep increase from the $7 million last year. The boost comes from last year's big paydays for defensive tackles like Albert Haynesworth, Vince Wilfork, Casey Hampton and Ryan Pickett.
Although Ngata is looking for a long-term deal (one that could include $40 million guaranteed), this would be a substantial raise from last season, when he made $1.7 million.
The Ravens have traditionally waited until closer to the deadline (this year, it's Feb. 24) to apply the tag. The team has used the franchise tag on three players in its history: guard Wally Williams, cornerback Chris McAlister and linebacker Terrell Suggs. McAlister and Suggs eventually signed long-term deals.