One way or another, barring a surprise in a new collective bargaining agreement, Haloti Ngata will be a Raven in 2011.
The question now is whether the two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle will be starting a new long-term deal, or playing under a one-year contract which would pay him an estimated $12.5 million.
The Ravens announced today that they've designated Ngata as their franchise player, meaning that for now, he's locked in for a one-year contract which will pay him the average salary of the top five players at his position.
The team hopes, however, that they'll be able to lock Ngata up to a long-term deal once a new collective bargaining agreement is finalized.
"The tender allows us to secure Haloti as a Raven right now," general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. "As we have said, our intention is to enter into a long-term contract with him. We want him to be a Raven."
There's no certainty that the franchise tag will be a part of a new CBA, but the league has advised teams that they can tag players until Feb. 23. It's expected that the tag will be included in whatever deal is eventually worked out between the owners and players' union.
The Ravens have previously used the franchise tag on three players. They tagged guard/center Wally Williams in 1998, cornerback Chris McAlister in 2003 and 2004, and linebacker Terrell Suggs in 2008 and 2009.
Both McAlister and Suggs eventually got long-term deals with the Ravens. Ngata (and the Ravens) hope that trend continues.