Yesterday was a busy day in NFL circles as the old axiom that deadlines spur action was proven true once again. The 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-term extensions resulted in deals for Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
The only franchise-tagged player who didn’t get an extension was New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul and that simply wasn’t going to happen after the pass rusher was involved in a fireworks accident that reportedly resulted in one of his fingers getting amputated and put his football future in doubt.
As for the Ravens, they used the franchise tag four times in a five-year span, from 2008 to 2012. Most recently, they applied it to Ray Rice in 2012, a precursor to a long-term extension for the diminutive running back. Yesterday’s deadline didn’t immediately affect them, but the signings could have an impact down the road.
News item: Patriots sign kicker Stephen Gostkowski to a reported four-year, $17.2 million deal that makes the veteran the league’s highest-paid kicker. In a related development, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker tweeted out a news story of Gostkowski’s deal and added: “Sick!! Well-deserved!” including an emoji of a moneybag.
What it means to the Ravens: All the details of Gostkowski’s deal still haven’t come out, but the Ravens now have a pretty good idea what it’s going to cost them to make a long-term commitment to Tucker, who is a free agent after the 2015 season. Gostkowski, 31, has made more field goals than any kicker in the league since he entered the NFL in 2006. He has a longer track record than Tucker, but the Ravens kicker doesn’t take a back seat to anybody when it comes to accuracy. Tucker has converted 89.8 percent of his field-goal attempts, the best rate ever for a kicker. Tucker has been mum about his contract demands, saying only that he’d love to stay with the Ravens for his entire career. To make that happen, the Ravens will likely need to eclipse the deal that the Patriots just gave Gostkowski. Other top-paid kickers include the Dallas Cowboys' Dan Bailey, (seven years, $22.5 million, $7.5 million guaranteed) the Oakland Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski (five years, $18.9 million deal, $8 million guaranteed) and the Chicago Bears' Robbie Gould (five years, $17.925 million, $8.85 million guaranteed). Tucker will soon join that list and get a lucrative long-term deal, whether it’s from the Ravens or somebody else.
News item: Cowboys sign wide receiver Dez Bryant to a reported five-year, $70 million deal that includes $45 million in guaranteed money; Broncos sign wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to a reported five-year, $70 million deal with $43.5 million guaranteed.
What it means to the Ravens: Not a whole lot other than the fact that they now know they won’t benefit from an extended contract holdout for Thomas and not have to deal with him in the Sept. 13 regular-season opener against the Broncos. Otherwise, the Ravens don’t have a No. 1 receiver in the prime of his career who would directly benefit from the contracts given out to Bryant and Thomas. Perhaps first-round draft pick Breshad Perriman will ultimately be that guy, but the Ravens won’t have to worry about his deal for several years.
News item: Chiefs agreed to a six-year, $101 million deal with outside linebacker Justin Houston that includes $52.5 million in guaranteed money.
What it means to the Ravens: Houston is now the highest paid linebacker in NFL history, and the Ravens will have to find a way to keep him from quarterback Joe Flacco when they play the Chiefs on Dec. 20 at M&T Bank Stadium. Beyond that, the Ravens may look at Houston’s deal and realize what a bargain they have in Elvis Dumervil, who is entering the third season of a five-year, $26.5 million contract. Dumervil’s deal pays him $9.5 million in guaranteed money with an additional $9 million available through escalators and incentives. Obviously, Dumervil and Houston are in different stages of their careers. Dumervil is 31, five years older than Houston. Houston has 48½ sacks over his first four NFL seasons. Dumervil has 90 sacks over his first eight seasons in the NFL. The point is that the Ravens are reaping the rewards of the fax fiasco that ultimately resulted in Dumervil getting released by the Broncos and becoming available. In two seasons with the Ravens, Dumervil has 26½ sacks and has paired with Terrell Suggs to form one of the most productive sack duos in the NFL. Pass rushers aren’t easy to find, which is why the Chiefs went to great lengths to lock up one of the NFL’s best.