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As deadline for franchise tag passes, Ravens' C.J. Mosley moves closer to free agency

The Ravens declined to place the franchise tag on C.J. Mosley by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline, leaving the team with just over a week to sign its All-Pro linebacker before he hits free agency.

General manager Eric DeCosta was not expected to tag Mosley, as the Ravens would have owed about $15.4 million in 2019 to the team’s top free-agent target. DeCosta said at the NFL scouting combine last week that the Ravens’ preference “would always be to do a long-term deal with a player like C.J. He’s a great player.”

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But other teams are allowed to contact Mosley starting Monday, and free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. March 13. There would be significant interest outside Baltimore in the 26-year-old, who has earned second-team All-Pro honors in four of his first five NFL seasons and has missed just three games over that span.

The Ravens have done little to hide their interest in re-signing Mosley. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said last season that he’d choose to have Mosley in his defense over Carolina Panthers star Luke Kuechly, the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker ($12.4 million annually). Coach John Harbaugh has said the Ravens want Mosley back, and that the former first-round pick wants to be back.

Still, Harbaugh acknowledged that there “are limitations with money.” Contract negotiations will be a test case for DeCosta, who has emphasized the importance of retaining young talent and managing the salary cap prudently.

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