Nearly six full days into the period for applying the franchise tag, no team has done it. One league source suggested earlier this week that teams are holding off due to concerns that the players to be tagged haven’t been fully informed of the fact that this year’s franchise tenders will be considerably lower than last year’s numbers, given the new formula for calculating the amounts.
The theory is that the agents have yet to explain the situation to the players, hopeful that a long-term deal can be negotiated and/or that the team in question will decide not to use the tag on the player. (In the case of Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, a two-year contract avoided a $4 million fight over whether he’s actually a tight end.)
But nine days remain before the tag window closes, and Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that several specific players will have their ability to hit the open market limited by the tag.
They are: Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, Patriots receiver Wes Welker, Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe (pictured), Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, Cardinals defensive end Calais Cambpell, and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
It’s widely believed that, if the Saints and Brees can work out a long-term deal, the Saints will use the franchise tag on guard Carl Nicks.
Schefter’s list of definites omits include several other prime candidates. If the Ravens and running back Ray Rice don’t work out a long-term deal, Rice undoubtedly will be tagged. Coach John Harbaugh essentially confirmed this at the Scouting Combine, saying that Rice will “be making franchise-tag numbers, at least.” Also, the Seahawks are expected to tag running back Marshawn Lynch, absent a long-term deal. Ditto for the Bears and running back Matt Forte.
There are more. It has been reported that the Redskins will tag tight end Fred Davis, notwithstanding his four-game suspension for smoking something that has more than four leaves. Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson can expect the tag if he doesn’t do a new deal, and the Cowboys could decide to use the tag on linebacker Anthony Spencer. There are conflicting reports on whether the Bills will use the tag on receiver Stevie Johnson. The Lions are expected to tag defensive end Cliff Avril, if they can’t work out a new contract.
Kickers will get in on the action, too. Matt Prater of the Broncos, Connor Barth of the Buccaneers, and Josh Scobee of the Jaguars are expected to be tagged absent new deals.
In Houston, tagging Mario Williams would result in a cap number that exceeds $21 million. Thus, the Texas are more likely to use it, if at all, on running back Arian Foster, a restricted free agent who otherwise could be had for a single first-round pick.
Other possibilities remain. Though it has been reported that the Packers aren’t likely to use the tag on quarterback Matt Flynn, the Packers can decide to pull a Matt Cassel with Aaron Rodgers’ backup at any time before the deadline comes. It also has been reported that the Chargers have told receiver Vincent Jackson that use of the tag is “improbable.”
It’s not improbable that we’ll have plenty of additional stories regarding players who are or may be or won’t be or haven’t been tagged between now and March 5.