If you follow the NFL, you’ve heard of Justin Tucker. Arguably the best kicker in the league, who plays for the Baltimore Ravens. They have literally won games on his foot alone (remember that, Lions fans?). You’re also probably aware that he was placed on the franchise tag at the end of the 2015 season, and has been attempting to work out a long-term deal to stay in Baltimore. As of yesterday, it has been reported that he will not entertain offers from the Ravens after the 2016 season if he does not have a long-term deal by the deadline (tonight, at 4PM).
That statement has led the Ravens fanbase and the NFL into upheaval, with cries of ‘Sign him!’ all over social media and the news. However, I’m here to tell you why the Ravens are not in the wrong by holding out a little while longer. I’m here to give my opinion on the matter, as I am wont to do lately.
Let me start by saying that Tucker has been amazing for the Ravens, and by no means do I want my beloved team to put us in a situation where we have to rely on anything less than a kicker of his caliber, especially given the way that the Ravens’ offense has been playing as of late. He is one of the best undrafted free agents that the Ravens have ever had the foresight to grab.
With that being said, the Ravens should surely come out of pocket and pay the man, right? WRONG. As a kicker, you cannot demand top money in the NFL, because of how easily you can be replaced. Let’s take Billy Cundiff, for example. (Ravens fans are probably twitching, reading his name.) He had a Pro Bowl season in 2010, and he was handsomely paid for it, to the tune of $15 million over 5 years. Then he let the team down, chipping a Championship Game kick that kept us from the Super Bowl.
When we take a look at Tucker’s 2015 campaign, we see three game winning kicks, but all six missed kicks from 50 yards or more. As a caveat, 50 yards is a difficult kick to say the least, however, we’re talking about a guy that nailed a 61 yarder against the Lions. So 6 missed beyond 50 yards is unusual for him, and can show a decline. Kickers are known to have ‘fragile’ minds, so repeated misses can cause that mistake to be repeated, and the Ravens don’t want to make the same mistake that they made with Joe Flacco (paid him an enormous amount of money for success, only to watch him decline afterwards).
Do I blame Tucker for asking for money, after his success in the league thus far? No, not one bit. Do I blame the Ravens for not wanting to bend to his demands? Not at all. ‘Right player, right price’ has always been their mantra, and I see no reason for this to change. Worst case scenario, Tucker finds a franchise willing to pay him based on his Baltimore success, and Ozzie Newsome uses the money to give extensions to more important players, or even sign a big name free agent at a position of need.
At the end of the day, if Tucker really wants to play for a contender, where he can have continued success, he will compromise with the ‘Wizard of Oz’, and remain in Baltimore for years to come. If it doesn’t happen, I guess it’s a good thing that I didn’t shell out money for his Pro Bowl jersey.