Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta unveiled a blueprint for the future with the recent contract extensions of Justin Tucker, Marshal Yanda and Tavon Young one year before they were eligible for free agency.
It’s a strategy that should bode well for the franchise.
However, those three players saw the massive contracts C.J. Mosley and Za’Darius Smith were able to secure in free agency and might follow that course of action. That means betting on themselves to have huge season in 2019, which could lead to a huge payday in the open market.
It’s a risky proposition. While all three players have performed well, will teams be willing to break the bank for them?
Several other Ravens players, most notably Paul Kruger, Adalius Thomas, Duane Starks and Edgerton Hartwell, did manage to earn big contracts in free agency, but they never played at the same level that earned them those deals.
DeCosta wants to keep the franchise’s homegrown talent but he also wants to be fiscally responsible. While the team was not willing to meet the massive offers extended to Mosley, Smith and Terrell Suggs, the loss of those players still stings.
“We hate to lose good players, and this offseason, we saw that happen too many times,” DeCosta said after announcing Tucker’s extension on April 24. “We’ve tried to be proactive. It’s a mindset that we’ve tried to adopt. We thought this would really be a good time for us to get started. We talked about it at length in Jupiter, [Fla.], what our strategies would be and how we could go about getting some of our best players signed before they become free agents.
“We had Justin up in my office signing his contract, and two hours later, we had Marshal up in my office signing his contract – two of our very best players that we’ve had in the last 15 years or so. That’s a great feeling, and it helps us also plan ahead looking at next year, what our situation is going to look like, what our cap situation is going to look like, and what the roster is going to look like. So, having that ability to look in the crystal ball and see, it really helps us moving forward.”
The days of hometown discounts are likely over. That was never part of the equation for the Ravens recent signings. Tucker signed a a four-year, $23.05 million extension that includes an $8 million signing bonus, making him the highest paid kicker in the league.
However, Tucker is worth the investment because he is the best player at his position and:
— Is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, connecting on 237 of 263 field goal attempts to produce a 90.1% success mark.
— Has been selected to two Pro Bowls (2013 & 2016) and been tabbed first-team All-Pro three times (2013, 2016 & 2018).
— Scored a franchise-record 141 points in 2018 for the third-straight season, becoming the NFL’s only kicker to surpass the 140 mark in each of the past three years.
— Became the first kicker in NFL history to produce six seasons with 30-or-more field goals made. (He made 35 of 39 attempts.)
Young inked a three-year extension worth $29 million, making him the highest-paid nickelback in the NFL. He has emerged as one of the team’s top players in the secondary and had 36 tackles, two sacks, an interception and five pass breakups despite battling a sports hernia. The Ravens can also ill-afford to lose talented corners.
Yanda, a seven-time Pro Bowler, could be a first ballot Hall-of-Fame selection. The Ravens likely regret they were not as aggressive with Mosley before he reached his walk year.
DeCosta is taking the steps to make sure that does not happen again … but sometimes he simply will not be able to match an offer.
It’s always “buyer beware” in the NFL.