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Ravens extension for Joe Flacco could keep top lineman off free agent market

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Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency set to open in just a week, the Baltimore Ravens made a move that could allow them to hold onto arguably the most coveted offensive lineman set to hit the market.

Kelechi Osemele is expected to fetch over $10 million on the market. That's what he's been asking to re-sign in Baltimore, but up until now, the cap strapped Ravens have not been agreeable. Their most aggressive efforts to re-sign the versatile lineman have been unsuccessful.

So, with the legal tampering period set to begin first thing next week, they are taking measures to try and free up cap room.

To do that, they looked to quarterback Joe Flacco, giving him a 3-year extension. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome insists freeing up cap space was not his motivation for Flacco's extension, but regardless, freeing up cap space is a residual effect.

Flacco was to represent a $28.5 million cap hit this season. His new deal will bring his 2016 cap figure down to $22.6 million -- a savings of $6 million on the 2016 cap.

With Osemele reportedly looking for $10 million per season, the Ravens' $3 million in cap room wasn't going to cut it. Flacco extending and restructuring his contract.

Should Osemele reach free agency, he would find himself with plenty of eager teams trying to outbid each other for his services. The Raiders are expected to be among them.

Some teams may see the 6-5, 333-pounder as a guard, while others want him as a tackle. He played right tackle his first season, and left guard for the past three seasons, filling in at left tackle late last season. And he looked pretty good doing it.

The Raiders have needs at both tackle and guard, so they could have all kinds of plans for him. Most importantly, adding him would give them the option to put him at tackle or guard, depending on how the rest of free agency and the draft play out. They also may know exactly what they want to do with him, but keeping that a secret will keep other teams guessing as to what they will do in the draft.

All that sounds great, but it could be for naught now that the Ravens may have the ammo to offer Osemele the deal he is looking for to stay in Baltimore.