Before the start of the new league year (March 10), the Baltimore Ravens have to decide whether they want to tender their restricted free agents, and at what level.
A restricted free agent, who has three accrued seasons in the NFL, can receive one of three tenders: first round ($3.347 million), second round ($2.356 million) or the low tender ($1.542 million).
If a team signs a restricted free agent to an offer sheet, the Ravens have the right to match the deal or receive the designated draft pick from that team as compensation. The low tender awards a draft pick corresponding to the round in which the player was originally drafted. If the player originally went undrafted, the team receives no compensation if that low-tender RFA signs elsewhere and the team decides not to match it.
Here are my predictions for the Ravens' three RFAs ...
K Justin Tucker: Second-round tender ($2.356 million). This is a no-brainer. The Ravens can't give him a low tender, because another team would jump at the chance to sign the most accurate kicker in NFL history to an offer sheet. Tucker went undrafted, so the Ravens would get no compensation if another team signed him to a deal that the Ravens couldn't match because of their limited amount of cap space. A second-round tender is steep enough to discourage teams from going after Tucker. This tender is a bargain for the Ravens. Tucker will rank No. 9 among kickers in salary in 2015.
SS Will Hill: Low tender ($1.542 million). Some might argue the Ravens need put a second-round tender on Hill to stop another team from signing away the team's starting safety. Like Tucker, Hill went undrafted and there is no compensation at the low tender. I'm guessing it's a risk worth taking because of the Ravens' cap situation and Hill's track record. The Ravens have to create cap room before March 10, and they can't afford the additional $814,000 for a second-round tender. In addition, Hill has been suspended twice, and that will likely scare a team away from signing him to an offer sheet. Even at the low tender, Hill would get nearly a $1 million boost in salary from last season.
DB Anthony Levine: No tender. The Ravens really like Levine as a core special teams player and versatile defensive back. But giving him $1.542 million for one season is a luxury the Ravens can't afford with their current cap situation. Levine falls in the same category as linebacker Albert McClellan, a standout special teams player who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent last offseason. Instead of giving McClellan a $1.3 million tender in 2014, the Ravens signed him to a two-year, $2.2 million deal that included a $400,000 signing bonus. McClellan's cap hits in two seasons ($1 million last year and $1.2 million this year) were lower than his one-year RFA tender. It could play out the same way with Levine.