Ravens will franchise McAlister again

OWINGS MILLS – The Baltimore Ravens are expected to designate Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister as their franchise player before today's deadline for the second consecutive year. The two sides are far apart in negotiations for a long-term contract extension, according to McAlister's agent, Mitch Frankel. The tag prevents McAlister from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

It grants him a 20-percent raise from his $5.962 million salary last year, the average of the top five cornerback salaries, for a one-year, $7.1 million tender.

And the tag ensures that the Ravens would be compensated with two first-round draft picks if another club signed McAlister, 26, to an offer sheet and they opted not to match.

If the Ravens assign the costly exclusive franchise tag to McAlister, no team would be allowed to negotiate with him.

That's an unlikely scenario, which means the AFC North champions will be able to retain McAlister regardless of the outcome of talks.

The Ravens wouldn't be penalized if they reached a long-term accord with McAlister before March 17. If the Ravens sign McAlister to a new deal between March 17 and July 14, they would lose the right to use the franchise tag for the entire length of his contract.

General manager Ozzie Newsome said through a team spokesman that he would make an announcement regarding McAlister's status before this afternoon's deadline.

Newsome is attending the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

McAlister has said he wouldn't mind the franchise tag and would like to finish his career in Baltimore.

Frankel declined to confirm or deny whether he's seeking a signing bonus between $16 and $19 million.

NOTE: All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis didn't have his right shoulder examined Monday because of a charity obligation. The shoulder, which required a shoulder harness for the final month of the season, is scheduled to be looked at in the next 10 days.

It's not the same shoulder that required surgery in 2002 when Lewis finished the year on injured reserve.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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