The Ravens used first-round tenders on three restricted free agents -- offensive tackle Jared Gaither, fullback Le'Ron McClain and cornerback Fabian Washington -- and are expected to place an additional first-round tender on wide receiver Mark Clayton, according to multiple league sources.
This essentially secures the return of these starters because another team would have to give the Ravens a first-round pick as compensation if it were to sign one of them. It also represents significant pay increases for Gaither ($2.3 million), McClain ($2.3 million) and Washington ($2.6 million).
Even before this high tender, McClain said Wednesday that he was motivated entering offseason workouts.
"I took a step back last year. I didn't carry the ball as much as I wanted," said McClain, whose rushing total dropped from 902 yards in 2008 to 180 yards in 2009. "I am working hard to come back in my best shape ever and compete."
Asked for his reaction to the first-round tender, Washington replied on his Twitter, "good to feel wanted."
Other restricted free agents who received tenders from the Ravens were: punter Sam Koch (second-round pick as compensation, $1.7 million); safety Dawan Landry (second round, $1.7 million); offensive lineman Chris Chester (third round, $1.1 million); quarterback John Beck (third round, $1.1 million); kicker Billy Cundiff (no compensation, $1.2 million); linebacker Prescott Burgess (sixth round, $1.1 million); and offensive lineman Tony Moll (fifth round, $1.1 million).
The Ravens didn't tender tight end Edgar Jones, but they could re-sign him for the veteran minimum.
No news on Mason talks
The agent for wide receiver Derrick Mason indicated there is nothing new in negotiations with the Ravens. Mason, the Ravens' leading receiver, will be an unrestricted free agent Friday.
Asked whether there was anything to report in regards to Mason, agent Lamont Smith said, "Not right now."
Mason said he would be interested in returning to the Ravens but he would need more than a one-year commitment. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said last weekend that the team would be willing to give Mason a multiyear agreement.
Marshall gets lower tender than expected
In an interesting development, the Denver Broncos placed a first-round tender on disgruntled wide receiver Brandon Marshall, according to ESPN.
This might catch the attention of the Ravens, who are looking to upgrade at wide receiver. This tender means a team could acquire Marshall by giving up a first-round pick as compensation.
The Chargers and Cowboys protected their restricted wide receivers (Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd of San Diego; Miles Austin of Dallas) with the highest tenders, which would require first- and third-round picks as compensation.
By giving Marshall only a first-round tender, it might be an indication that the Broncos would be willing to negotiate with teams on a trade.
Baltimore Sun reporter Ken Murray contributed to this article.