INDIANAPOLIS — The Ravens' decision to use the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker was viewed as little more than a formality. It appears their effort to extend quarterback Joe Flacco's contract and lower his 2016 salary cap number could be nearing that territory as well.
There is mounting optimism from Flacco's camp and the Ravens that they'll reach agreement on a new contract comfortably ahead of the March 9 start of free agency. Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, and Ravens senior vice president of administration Pat Moriarty have had productive talks at this week's NFL scouting combine, and sources familiar with the negotiations believe they'll be able to soon finalize a deal.
One source described the deal as "close." Linta and Moriarty planned to meet again over the weekend here, but significant progress has already been made in the talks.
Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday that he'd be "really surprised and disappointed" if the sides couldn't hammer out a deal.
Flacco, 31, is entering the fourth season of a six-year, $120.6 million deal that he signed after leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl victory to cap the 2012 season. His salary cap number rises to $28.55 million this season, which would be prohibitive for a team that has several needs to fill.
While general manager Ozzie Newsome has been adamant that the Ravens don't have to address Flacco's deal, the need to create salary cap flexibility became even more important Friday, when the organization informed Tucker's agent, Robert Roche, that the kicker would get the franchise tag.
Talks between Moriarty and Roche this week didn't come close to bridging the gap on a long-term extension for Tucker, and Roche announced on Twitter on Friday morning that the Ravens will tag his client. The Ravens did not confirm his announcement, but Newsome said Wednesday that Tucker would get the franchise tag if a new deal isn't reached before Tuesday.
The tag would put Tucker in line to make $4.5 million in 2016, and it buys both sides time in negotiations on a long-term deal. The Ravens have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal with Tucker, or he'll play the season under the franchise tag.
The last four players whom the Ravens have tagged — Chris McAlister, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Ray Rice — ultimately signed long-term deals.
End zone: Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper, a Baltimore native and former City standout, said he met with the Ravens this week and sensed the team is very interested in drafting him. Tapper says he models his game after Suggs. … UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, a potential target for the Ravens with the sixth overall pick, said he feels 100 percent healthy after a knee injury. He's hoping to get medical clearance soon.