When is it going to be done?
Even though negotiations are rarely simple, the New England Patriots and Stephen Gostkowski did a lot of the legwork for the Ravens and Tucker last week. The Patriots made Gostkowski the NFL's highest-paid kicker, signing him to a four-year, $17.2 million deal. The key figures are $10.1 million guaranteed and an average of $4.3 million per year, both of which are the new benchmarks for kickers.
It certainly got the attention of Tucker, who posted on Twitter:
Sick!! Well-deserved! 💰💰 https://t.co/9v5CZUAPAT— Justin Tucker (@jtuck9) July 16, 2015
Based on Tucker's performance in his first three seasons in the NFL, he is in position to command a top-of-the-market deal like this one. When looking at the numbers since 2012 (Tucker's first season), they're essentially the same kicker. Tucker has made 89.8 percent of his field goals, and Gostkowski has hit 90.3 percent. Beyond 40 yards, Tucker has converted 79.1 percent and Gostkowski made 83.3 percent. The only separation is touchbacks, where Gostkowski has recorded 19 more than Tucker over the last three seasons.
If everyone can agree that Tucker deserves a deal similar to what Gostkowski got, it should be a matter of time before the sides strike an agreement. How long that takes is the $10 million question.
Tucker is restricted free agent this season who is making $2.356 million, which is only the eighth-highest salary among kickers this year. There isn't much incentive for the Ravens to pay Gostkowski money to Tucker right now.
The first pivotal date is March 7. If no deal is in place by that time, the Ravens are expected to put the franchise tag on Tucker. And, just like Gostkowski and the Patriots, the Ravens and Tucker would have until next July to reach an agreement before he had to play under the tag.
The franchise tag for kickers should be around $4.5 million in 2016. A long-term deal would likely get the cap number under that mark for three years, which would give more cap room to the Ravens.
One expected difference between the deals for Tucker and Gostkowski is the length. Given that Tucker is 25 (six years younger than Gostkowski), the Ravens might seek an additional year. If that's the case, my projection for Tucker's new deal would be $21 million over five years, which would give him a comparable average per-year ($4.2 million) and include $10 million in guaranteed money and bonuses.
That would be a well-deserved reward for an undrafted player who has risen to the top of his profession.