General manager Ozzie Newsome recently told the Baltimore Ravens' website that the team is looking to extend the contracts of cornerback Jimmy Smith, wide receiver Torrey Smith and kicker Justin Tucker.
Which one is the likeliest to happen before the start of the 2015 season? Tucker is the best bet.
Signing the Pro Bowl kicker to a new deal is a win for both sides. Tucker can get the money he deserves, and the Ravens can potentially solidify the position through the end of this decade.
There is no debate on whether Tucker should get a new deal. He is making $570,000 this season and received no signing bonus in 2012 when he joined as a rookie free agent. There are 24 kickers who will make more money than Tucker this season.
The Ravens could pay Tucker at a bargain rate for the next two seasons (he would likely make a little over $2 million in 2015 as a restricted free agent), but they can secure Tucker for the long term by doing a deal with him over the next year. If the Ravens sign Tucker to a six-year deal before the start of next season (like they did with cornerback Lardarius Webb when he was a restricted free agent two years ago), they can have him under contract through the 2020 season.
There is always some risk involved when giving any long-term deal. The Ravens signed kicker Billy Cundiff to a five-year, $15 million contract after he made his first Pro Bowl following the 2010 season. That didn't go exactly as planned. Cundiff played only one year of that contract before missing the game-tying chip shot in the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens had to carry $1.8 million in dead money last season because of that Cundiff deal.
The situation is much different with Tucker. Cundiff was a 31-year-old journeyman at the time who had been a career 74 percent kicker before joining the Ravens. Tucker is 24 and has the best career field goal percentage of any active kicker with at least 60 attempts (91.9 percent).
Tucker's leg strength and ability to deliver in the clutch make him one of the most valuable players on the team. He has missed just once on 11 field goal tries from 50 yards and beyond. Tucker not only has six game-winning kicks in two seasons but he's also 22-of-24 in the fourth quarter, including 12-of-13 in the last two minutes of a game.
A national audience saw Tucker's ability to kick under pressure last season when he hit a 61-yarder to beat the Detroit Lions on "Monday Night Football." If there is any concern about Tucker, it's perhaps that he loves the spotlight too much. Not too many kickers do a celebratory dance after big kicks or appear in soda commercials.
So how much will it take to get a deal done with Tucker? The market value for top kickers is around $3.5 million per season. There are 10 kickers averaging more than $3 million per season. The NFL's two highest-paid kickers, Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski and Chicago's Robbie Gould, are averaging $3.7 million per year.
It would be a sound investment for the Ravens and a well-deserved reward for Tucker.