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Franchising Kelechi Osemele is a luxury the Ravens can't afford

In this Aug. 3, 2015, file photo, Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele lines up for a play during training camp in Baltimore.
In this Aug. 3, 2015, file photo, Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele lines up for a play during training camp in Baltimore. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

In a perfect world, the Ravens would be awash in salary cap space and have the luxury of using the franchise tag on offensive guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele.

But that's far from their current reality.

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Starting today and continuing until March 1, teams have the option of using the franchise tag to keep a prospective free agent off the open market.  As I wrote in a story in today's print version, the Ravens will likely use the tag on kicker Justin Tucker if the two sides are unable to agree on a long-term contract extension over the next two weeks.

Tucker is one of the game's best kickers and he also nullifies opposing return games with his long kickoffs. If he plays the season under the franchise tag, he would make approximately $4.5 million in 2016. It's a steep price, but it wouldn't hamstring the Ravens to the point where they'd be unable to make any other moves to upgrade the roster.

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Franchising Osemele, on the other hand, would be a backbreaker. The franchise tag for offensive linemen doesn't differentiate between tackles, guards and centers. As a result, the current figure for offensive linemen will likely approach $14 million.

Even if the Ravens view Osemele as their left tackle of the future, that's far too much money, given the team's salary cap situation.

"You don't have a tackle let alone a guard making $14 million a year. That's a huge windfall," said Joel Corry, a former NFL agent who writes about the salary cap and business of football for CBS Sports and National Football Post. Osemele's "not a franchise tag candidate. They don't have the cap space to do that."

Thus, Osemele is expected to hit the open market on March 9, barring a contract extension with the offensive lineman over the next three weeks.

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