In any other year, the application of the franchise tag to defensive tackle Vince Wilfork would mean that the rest of the Patriots’ unrestricted free agents would be certain to get to the open market, absent a new contract.
In the uncapped year, however, teams have an extra transition tag to use. As a result, they can use the transition tag twice, or one franchise tag and one transition tag.
In New England, the other unrestricted free agents this year are linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, cornerback Leigh Bodden, defensive end Derrick Burgess, running back Kevin Faulk, defensive end Jarvis Green, punter Chris Hanson, offensive lineman Stephen Neal, linebacker Junior Seau, and tight end Benjamin Watson.
The transition tag requires the team to offer a one-year contract with a salary equal to the average of the ten highest-paid players at the same position. The transition tag has been used sparingly since the current CBA, negotiated in 2006, made the salary fully guaranteed once the transition tender is accepted.
The transition tag gives the team only a right to match a long-term offer, with no compensation. The Vikings pilfered guard Steve Hutchinson from the Seahawks in 2006 via a poison-pill offer made when Hutchinson was operating under the limited limitations, making the transition tag not so tremendously tremendous.
Although Bodden’s 2009 one-year deal prevents use of the franchise tag, a league source tells us that the Patriots are not prevented from using the transition tag on Bodden. Still, it’s not believed that the Patriots will use the transition tag on Bodden or anyone else, given the absence of any compensation if he signs elsewhere — and the invitation to another interested team to use the poison pill.