The two-week window for applying the franchise tag reaches the midpoint on Monday. To date, no team has used it this year.
It’s no surprise. There’s plenty of time to use the tag, and the contours of the coming free-agency market don’t begin to become clear until several rounds of Tampering Club unfold at the Scouting Combine.
Last year, the number of tags applied dropped from 21 to eight. Coincidentally (or not), the free-agency market entailed dramatically reduced spending.
For 2014, the willingness of teams to use the franchise tag could depend on whether a significant increase in spending is anticipated. If not, there’s less of a reason to invest on a one-year deal an amount much higher than the market value at the player’s position.
The possibility of working out a long-term deal with the would-be franchise player provides another reason for waiting. But if the Saints or the Ravens wait until the last minute to tag Jimmy Graham or Dennis Pitta as tight ends, there would be no time to re-issue the tenders to Graham and Pitta receivers before the annual window closes.