Blog Entry

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:07 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 9:59 am
Brees reportedly won't be happy if he gets tagged. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

On Monday February 20, NFL teams can begin to apply the franchise tag to players. They can do so up until March 5 at 4 p.m. ET. For those that don't know, the franchise tag is a method of keeping players from hitting the open market. Previously, the franchise-tag number was generated by averaging the top-five salaries at a position to determine a number for that position.

This year, the franchise tag value will be a percentage of the overall salary cap figure for the previous five years. As such, (the league's official website, making the figures trustworthy, one would hope) the following figures, plus figures from last year that we've included:

Position 2012 Franchise Tag Value*
2011 Franchise Tag Value
$14.4 million $16.1 million
Running Back
$7.7 million $9.6 million
Wide Receiver
$9.4 million $11.4 million
Tight End
$5.4 million $7.3 million
Offensive Line
$9.4 million $10.1 million
Defensive End
$10.6 million $13 million
Defensive Tackle
$7.9 million $12.5 million
$8.8 million $10.1 million
$10.6 million $13.5 million
$6.2 million $8.8 million

*The only instances this doesn't apply: when a player already made more than the franchise-tag value, or when a player receives the franchise tag for the second-straight year, in which case tagging said player would cost 120 percent of their previous base salary.

Aside from the asterisked exception above, it's clearly much more cost effective to utilize the franchise tag on a player in 2012 than it was in 2011. Wide receivers like DeSean Jackson, Dwayne Bowe and Marques Colston might not be tag candidates at $11.4 million. At $9.4 million, they certainly are.

With all of that in mind, let's look at some possible franchise-tag candidates, in order of likelihood to be tagged.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Marques Colston or Carl Nicks

The Saints are all but guaranteed to use their franchise tag. Brees is a free agent and there is a zero percent chance that they let him walk into free agency. This is an absolute zero; losing Brees would not only be a disaster for the franchise in terms of winning, it would result in riots on Bourbon Street.

Various reports have emerged about where Brees and the Saints stand. (His agent, Tom Condon, is involved in a small contract situation surrounding Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.) As's Mike Freeman wrote last week, "the road could be rockier than initially thought" when getting Brees a new deal.

If the Saints can't get a deal done by the tag deadline, they will use the tag on Brees and sort out a deal later. If they can negotiate a deal with Brees before then, either Colston or Nicks will likely get tagged. My money's on Nicks, who could be a steal at less than $10 million given his age and his performance on the interior line the last two years.
DeSean might finally catch that money. (Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson

Reports are already rolling in that Jackson will be tagged and that the team will seek to trade him once they place the tag on Jackson. Philly better be comfortable rolling with D-Jax if they can't find a suitor, though, because the wide receiver is a good bet to swoop in and sign his tender quickly. The $9.4 million represents more than triple what Jackson's made in his entire career thus far, and you can bet he'd like to see some guaranteed money.

Worst case, of course, is that Philly ends up giving its top playmaker one more "contract year" at turning in a big performance before hitting free agency. $9.4 million is a lot to pay for a wideout, but it's better than a) doling out a big contract to someone new and/or a malcontent, or b) letting Jackson walk for nothing in return.

Chicago Bears: Matt Forte

The rumors of Forte getting tagged began long ago as the Bears said they simply won't let him get to free agency. And they can't: Mike Tice replaced Mike Martz, but that could mean Chicago becoming more dependent on Forte's skills as a rusher and pass-catcher.

Forte said he's OK with the franchise tag provided it leads to further contract negotiations. Those appear to be more successful this time around, without Jerry Angelo on the other side of the table. But if Forte struggles early in his return from injury (an MCL sprain) things could get dicey.

Regardless, he's a steal at $7.7 million in 2012.

Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice

Another no-brainer for the team here: Rice is one of the most dynamic backs in football and accounted for a large chunk of the Ravens offense. Rice's league-leading 2,068 yards from scrimmage accounted for 38.2 percent of the Ravens 5,419 yards, to be exact.

Rice lead the team in rushing ... and receptions. The Ravens need him and it's unfathomable that they'd let Rice walk. He probably won't be happy about playing for $7.7 million in 2012 and it seems obvious that Ozzie Newsome would like to lock down a guy who's averaged just shy of 2,000 yards from scrimmage in the three years he's been a starter for the team.
Will Welker's drop hurt his value? (Getty Images)

New England Patriots: Wes Welker

Welker's taken a lot of grief for his now-infamous drop in the Super Bowl. But just because the guy missed one catch doesn't mean we should forget what he's done for the past five years in New England: Welker averaged 111 catches and 1,221 yards per season since arriving from Miami.

Here's where it gets interesting though: Welker will be 31 when 2012 begins. He's considered a "slot" receiver. But he reportedly wants to be paid like an "elite" receiver. (It's, uh, kind of hard to blame him.) Lots of people think Welker wouldn't be as successful without the Patriots system, but how successful would the Patriots be without Welker?

In other words, we might be headed to an old-fashioned standoff, where the Pats use the franchise tag on Welker (it's all but certain they will, mainly to avoid him landing with an AFC East rival), and Welker refusing to play. Our Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard's speculated as much previously, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Welker sit out the first few weeks if the Pats aren't willing to give him a long-term deal.

Washington Redskins: Fred Davis

Davis had a big year in 2011, catching 59 passes for 796 yards in just 12 games (with Rex Grossman and John Beck throwing him the ball). He missed four games when he was suspended under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. But that actually works in Washington's favor here, since they can commit just $5.5 million to Davis without any fear of long-term blowback.

Buffalo Bills: Stevie Johnson

I spoke with Johnson at the Super Bowl and he said he'd be amenable to playing under the franchise tag in 2012. And it's hard to imagine Buffalo letting one of the more talented and underrated receivers in the game simply walk away. Johnson, depending on the market, could be one of the top wide receivers available.

Given the nature of Buffalo's weapons on offense, $9.4 million isn't all that steep for someone who's produced as steadily as Johnson has over the past two seasons. He took a small step back in receptions, yardage and touchdowns in 2011, but part of that can be attributed to the injuries to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the Bills late-season swoon.

And if he's willing to ditch the penalty-inflicting celebrations? He's worth it.

Bowe's a fan favorite in KC -- for good reason.(Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs: Dwayne Bowe or Brandon Carr

This is quite the conundrum for KC: does new coach Romeo Crennel, recently promoted from defensive coordinator, push to keep the 25-year-old defensive back, or does he sit back while the franchise lets Carr walk and hangs onto it's top wideout?

Bowe quietly put together another monster season in 2011, catching nine more balls than he did in 2010 and only three yards less. Granted, he found the end zone 10 times less this past season, but chalk that up to the Chiefs stupid-easy schedule against the pass in 2010. Oh yeah, and because he was catching balls from Tyler Palko for a quarter of the season.

Bowe's a better value at his franchise cost ($1 million less) I suppose, but Carr will be harder to retain in free agency, because of the nature of cornerbacks on the open market.

Atlanta Falcons: Brent Grimes or Curtis Lofton

The Falcons, not so quietly, have a ton of guys up for free agency this year. Grimes, Lofton, defensive ends John Abraham and Kroy Biermann and center Todd McLure lead the list. One of Grimes or Lofton surely will get the franchise tag.

For the same reason as listed with the Chiefs, Grimes makes the most sense -- he'll simply be harder to retain in free agency. Lofton would be $2 million cheaper but Grimes is more important to the Falcons defense. A logical move might be to feel out contract negotiations with both players (provided the Falcons want to keep both of them anyway), work out an extension with one as quickly as possible, franchise the other defender and look to cut a deal with them down the road.
It's hard to put a price on Avril's pass rush. (Getty Images)

Detroit Lions: Cliff Avril

Avril's made no bones about the possibility of being franchised, and isn't happy with the notion. But the franchise tag actually doesn't exist simply to keep a guy around for another year without paying him big money. It's to keep a guy around while you work out a long-term contract.

That's what Avril, who will turn 26 in April, wants, and it should be what the Lions want too, given their dependence on a strong pass rush on the defensive end of things. At $10.6 million he would provide nice value. Provided he played the whole season anyway.

Indianapolis Colts: Robert Mathis

Chuck Pagano's a defensive guy, and even though he's coming into a rebuilding project, it's hard to see he and general manager Ryan Grigson passing on a shot to keep a talented pass-rusher like Mathis around for one more year at a reasonable rate.

Mathis probably said it himself over the weekend on Twitter when he noted that "The #TAG is an honor but personally if i was tagged now id feel they didnt want me but just have not found my replacement yet." Prepare to be honored sir.

Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Spencer

According to one report out of Texas, the Cowboys are at least considering franchising Spencer. The logic isn't that the outside linebacker, drafted 26th overall in 2007, is a monster and worth $8.8 million next year. He's not.

But Spencer might be worth holding onto if the Cowboys don't believe they can fill that spot with a reliable enough player through free agency and don't want to force themselves into selecting an outside linebacker early in the draft and forcing him to play.

Giving Spencer that sort of cash at least provides a safety net for Rob Ryan's defense.

Green Bay Packers: Jermichael Finley

Finley's case is a fascinating one. At $5.5 million, the tight end is a no-doubt-about-it franchise tag choice. But what about at $9.4 million? I ask because Finley's reportedly ready to argue that he's actually more of a wide receiver than a tight end, based on the number of snaps he takes from a wide receiver position. (He may want to remove the words "best tight ends in the league" from his website then.)

The Packers don't seem ready to give Finley a long-term deal yet, but they're also not willing to let him go. That tune could change if Finley's awarded the same price as a wide receiver in arbitration.
Wallace's RFA status is a concern. (Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace

Wallace is actually on a restricted free agent, but as Wilson pointed out on Tuesday's podcast, there's been a lot of discussion in Steelers-land about the possibility of using the full-blown franchise tag on Wallace regardless of his status.

Here's some hypothetical logic: the Steelers use the non-exclusive tag on Wallace, the Patriots, with two first-round picks in the coming draft, negotiate a deal with Wallace and force the Steelers to match said deal or take one of the picks from the Pats. The pick isn't that high and Wallace is a stud, so Pittsburgh, who wants to lock down Wallace anyway, would be letting the Pats (or whomever) negotiate for them.

Lest you think this is silly, look no further than a guy we already talked about: Welker. The Patriots obtained him via trade, but only after the Dolphins used the restricted tag on Welker. After they did, the Pats negotiated with Welker to work in a provision in his contract that would include a monster bonus if he played X games in the state of Florida (AKA "a poison pill"). The Dolphins caved and simply dealt Welker to the Pats instead of trying to play chicken.

The downside is that the Steelers would be forced to paying $7 million extra in 2012 for their No. 1 wideout. The upside is not getting poison-pilled by an AFC rival who'll then hijack the Steelers for the deep threat they need. Hypothetically speaking of course.

Oakland Raiders: Michael Bush

The idea of paying Bush more than Darren McFadden's been bandied about, and it makes sense given Run-DMC's injury history. It doesn't make sense when you consider that new GM Reggie McKenzie would suddenly have a ton of money committed to two running backs. But here's an idea: tag Bush, trade McFadden and then give Bush a new contract. You keep him off the market, you recoup some of those Carson Palmer draft picks and you keep the back best suited for Greg Knapp's zone-rushing attack.

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Since: Sep 5, 2010
Posted on: February 15, 2012 4:37 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

@paul717... the Packers really don't "HAVE" to use TE's in their offense, meaning they have about a half dozen legitimate WR's currently on the roster - they will keep Driver after a pay cut - not to mention a FB and at least two RB's with good hands (think old Rams West Coast offense version under Martz).

That being said, they can go back to their use of having TE's for EITHER blocking OR receiving - ala Chmura & Jackson days.  Kids like Williams can catch while a kid like Crabtree can block (Quarless can actually do both pretty well when healthy).

Anyone who couldn't see this trainwreck coming was either clueless or wearing rose-colored glasses - Finley is pretty much a jerk even when he's wearing his non-jerk costume. Hence, TT never stopped drafting TE's.

Of course, when did Finley ever have a great year and production (that needs to be replaced)?!?!?

Since: Jan 19, 2012
Posted on: February 15, 2012 3:57 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Guaranteed contracts are an awful idea in any sport for the teams and league. The NFL just signed a new CBA, so luckily this is a moot point for 9 more years.

Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: February 15, 2012 1:36 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Great post!  Do you think D.J. Williams could potentially fill the void if needed?  Finley's case for being designated a WR is very interesting.

Since: Nov 3, 2011
Posted on: February 15, 2012 12:53 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Well, in looking at all those scheduled for the dreaded FRANCHISE TAG, why is it that I'm not a bit surprised that the Washington Deadskins Fred Davis is probably the least talented of all the choices.  I was a faithful Deadskin fan from when I was 5 years old in 1941, when I first saw them play in Chicago, until 3 years ago, but feel as long as they are under the present ownership, no matter who is coaching, they will continue to fail to even reach the 8-8 average.

And as much as I love the new Dallas Cowdung stadium, and wish we had one in San Diego that was anywhere near as good, I think that ownership in Dallas will continjue to hinder, not help Prairietown to succeed.

Now, I'd really like for Los Angeles and San Antonio to be the next two teams to join the NFL.  I think the Alamodome is perfect fpr a smaller franchise, and remember IF Los Angeles does get a team, no one shows up until after the first quarter and most leave before the start of the forth quarter so the concession sales are only impacted for half a game.

Just venting,  In reality I'm in deep mourning and will be until the August pre season games.

Ken Bower
75 years old and dumber than dirt
CEO, Oceanside CA Church of the NFL 

Since: Dec 7, 2011
Posted on: February 15, 2012 1:09 am

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

new orleans has a dicision to make. they cannot replace drew brees. if they cannot come to an agreement with him. they will puy another person at quarterback and they w ill be a mediocre team.

Since: Jul 6, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:42 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

this is why i stopped posting, because when you say something that no one wants to admit is right your score is always lower than some lame post blaming someone else for the stars failure. funny when peyton couldnt win against the pats it was because tom was better than peyton. the fact its peyton never had a good defense to stop tom and his offense. The pats have always had a better defense than the colts so now since the pat def resembles the colts d from years ago its another excuse for tom's failure,this is twice now he couldnt beat eli so does that make eli better than tom. you win as a team or you lose as a team i guess unless your tom brady apologist

Since: Jul 6, 2008
Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:35 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

tired of the crying by patriots fans for welker not making that one catch and brady having a lack of talent. funny when they wre winning their championship thats what te media was claiming why brady wass so great, names like branch, troy brown,watson and whatever crap they had. face it that had moss(scored 23 tds)and brady couldnt get it done. the year before going for the game winning drive he threw a pick against the colts in the afc championship, wgen manning did that in the super bowl hes a bum. the fact is that brady was off wuth his passes down field(including that pass to welker, could it been caught yes. however , all  eli mannings passes were dead on and he drow his team for the winning touchdown not once but twice. funny that something tom terrific has never done in the so called big game game winning drive getting the ball in the end zone, like ben, eli, montana, elway have done, tom has always relied on adam vinitieri, i wonder how jim kelly would feel if he had adam instead of scot norwood. so which is it is tom the qb that makes  the guys around him better or he needs better recievers. or is it that gronkowski so good, perhaps brady is a little pumped up on the greatness scale. time to say, this game was on brady, like it comes down when any elite qb fail he takes it on him dont let welker bail you out like adam v has done so many times 

Since: Mar 19, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2012 8:22 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

I agree to some extent, as they do need D, but the lack of WRs is also what cost them in a few games, SB included. Welker is a slot receiver, Branch is sorry and the closest thing to a "deep threat" they have. Ocho?:). The at the Giants WRs and difference they made, they caught balls that I were nearly uncatchable extending drives. The D is short a good corner and D end for sure, with Carter back they may make strides on D if they work free agency well/draft.

Since: Mar 18, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2012 7:50 pm

Brees a No-Brainer

There is no way that Brees will be slapped with a Franchise Tag.  Every number cruncher and financial analyst on staff in New Orleans will be doing whatever is necessary to ensure that Brees signs an extension well before the sharp edge of a Franchise Tag axe get wielded.  I guarantee it.  Members of the Saints, and most importantly, the people of New Orleans will never tolerate Brees not being a part of their team and their city.  It will get done and Brees will spend the remaining days of his career in New Orleans.  He and Payton and the rest of the Saints, each and every one of them, will be remembered as people who restored that glimmer of hope and were the pride of the area in the wake of Katrina.  New Orleans will never forget that.  Brees could run for Governor of Louisiana in the next election and win (and he has the smarts to do it).  Saints fans - you have nothing to worry about, as Brees will be around for a long, long time.

Since: Dec 4, 2011
Posted on: February 14, 2012 6:47 pm

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

Who would the Chargers franchise?? They are going to let V-jax go, and nobody is really worth putting the franchise tag on. Look for them to use the $10 mill they saved on V-jax they most likely will cut McNeil, and Dielman and Nick Hardwick might retire, so they are looking to spend alot of money in FA.

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