It's official: McAlister given franchise tag

OWINGS MILLS -- As expected, the Baltimore Ravens have designated Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister with the franchise tag again. He received the non-exclusive tag. McAlister will receive a 20-percent raise from his 2003 salary of $5.962 million and will earn $7.1 million next season. The tag prevents him from becoming an unrestricted free agent. "As we've said for the last year, our intent is to make sure Chris McAlister stays a Raven," general manager Ozzie Newsome said.

"The goal is to reach a long-term contract with him and his agent."

McAlister can solicit offers from other NFL teams and the Ravens would have the right to match any offer. If they opted not to, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation. "By not placing the exclusive tag on him, it helps Chris find his market value," Newsome said. The Ravens said they will continue to negotiate with McAlister's agent, Mitch Frankel.

The two sides can negotiate until March 17. If the two sides reach an agreement between March 17 and July 14, the Ravens would lose the right to franchise any player for the entire length of McAlister's new deal.

Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times.

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