Barring an extension this month, the Baltimore Ravens will designate quarterback Joe Flacco with the franchise tag during the designation period, which will run from Feb. 18 through March 4.
The 2013 franchise tag for quarterbacks is projected to be worth around $14.6 million, but regardless of whether or not the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome could decide to retain sole negotiating rights with Flacco by using the "exclusive" franchise tag on Flacco, notes Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com.
If the Ravens use the "exclusive" tag, Flacco's tender will be worth the average of the Top 5 cap numbers (minus workout bonuses) of quarterbacks in the NFL at the end of the restricted free agent signing period, which ends in mid-April. As Florio correctly calculated, the "exclusive" tag is currently scheduled to be worth $20.464 million, which is the average of the cap numbers of Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
That figure will assuredly go down over the next few months. Though the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have healthy cap situations and would not have to help the Ravens by rushing to restructure the contracts of Brady and Peyton Manning, the cap-strapped Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers may need to reach extensions to lessen the cap numbers of Stafford, Eli Manning and Roethlisberger to be salary cap compliant when the 2013 league year begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 12.
An "exclusive" franchise tag will be higher than the $14.6 million "non-exclusive" tag, both of which will tax an already tight Ravens' cap situation in 2013.
According to salary cap and contract data maintained by "Shutdown Corner," the Ravens finished the 2012 regular season with just around $1.2 million in cap space that the team could carry over and add to a 2013 league-wide figure that many projections have at $121 million. The Ravens currently have $10.6 million in cap space available for 2013, but that figure does not include Flacco's franchise tag or restricted free agent tenders for tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, defensive tackle Arthur Jones, offensive lineman Ramon Harewood and long-snapper Morgan Cox, which will range from the low tender at $1.323 million, to the second-round tender worth $2.023 million before maxing out at the first-round tender worth $2.879 million.
The Ravens will free up $4.35 million of cap space -- and more important, $5.4 million in cash, if Ray Lewis retires, but Newsome, assistant general manager Eric DeCosta and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarity, the club's "cap guy", are in store for a busy offseason.
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