Tag:2012 NFL Franchise Tags
Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:38 am
Edited on: March 5, 2012 1:04 pm
 

Bills, Stevie Johnson reach five-year deal

Johnson signs his new contract with Buffalo. (@RussBrandon, Twitter.com)
By Will Brinson

On Sunday night, the Bills and Stevie Johnson were "close" to wrapping up a five-year deal that would keep Johnson in Buffalo. On Monday morning, they closed whatever gap was missing, and the two sides agreed to a contract, the team announced.

Johnson's deal is reportedly worth $36.25 million with $19.5 million guaranteed. That's $7.25 million per year for Johnson, which is about right based on market value, and his projected performance.

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"It’s a good day for us. Our football team got better," Bills GM Buddy Nix said at the team's press conference. "One of our philosophies coming in was that we wanted to try to keep our good players here, draft good, develop them and then try to keep them and we were able to do that with Stevie Johnson. It goes without saying what he’s done in the past two years and I think it’s just going to get better. Again, playing against guys that have been here and have gotten out, one of our main goals was to keep guys like him. It took a long time and probably was going to get done because Stevie said he always wanted to be here and we always said we wanted him."

Johnson was a seventh-round pick in 2008 out of Kentucky and didn't contribute much (12 catches) in his first two years. But he exploded on the scene in 2010, catching 82 passes for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2011, he was able to repeat his success, catching 76 passes for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson is clearly the most important weapon in the Bills passing game, even if he's a bit of a prankster sometimes.

"I want to thank Mr. Wilson for taking that chance on me four years ago coming out of Kentucky and using the 224th pick on me," Johnson said at his press conference. "I want to thank him a lot, and my teammates, the whole Buffalo Bills organization for standing behind me through everything. It’s a great feeling. It’s a blessing to be in this organization. This is where I want to be. Everybody knows that.

"I want to thank my teammates who have looked out for me, basically walking me through things, even the younger guys for looking up to me. That’s pretty amazing right there."

Johnson said he's "done" with end-zone celebrations (the Bills must believe him?), but don't expect his personality to change. Witness the one hitch in his contract negotiations, which apparently involved Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's hairstyle.

"If you get a Mohawk mullet with a beard and a design on the left side I'll sign TODAY! If you don't think everyone in the billsmafia you'll be letting down ... The ball is in your court!" Johnson claims to have texted to Fitzpatrick. "Don't be selfish!"

Fortunately, Fitz found a barbershop, so Stevie was willing to get paid:

Fitzy's got a new haircut to celebrate Stevie's return. (Twitter.com)

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Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:09 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 1:19 pm
 

2012 NFL Franchise Tag Tracker

Franchise tags are coming fast and furious for some big names. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Previously I broke down what players we thought would be given the franchise tag (I nailed 11 of the 21; take out the six punters and kickers and that's 11 of 15, which isn't too shabby). You'll see many of them below, as the franchise season has now ended.

Check out our winners and losers from the franchise deadline right here and look below for the franchise tags that were put on players, in chronological order:

Team Player, Position Tag Salary Analysis

DeSean Jackson, WR $9.5 million
Jackson was one of the big names that everyone expected to be tagged. And he was hit with the tag on Thursday. The question is whether or not the Eagles will shop him or look for a long-term deal.

 Brent Grimes, CB $10.4 million
 Although Grimes had a standout 2009 and 2010, his play fell off a bit last year, and Atlanta might be worried about giving him a long-term deal.

Ray Rice, RB $7.7 million
 Rice wants Adrian Peterson money (or, ahem, $100 million), but we think he's worth closer to what DeAngelo Williams makes (five years, $43 million).

 Dashon Goldson, S
$6.2 million

 After having to sign a one-year, $2 million deal for 2012 (after turning down a five-year, $25 million offer), it seems that Goldson might have to wait a little longer before a long-term deal comes his way.

Calais Campbell, DL $10.6 million
Campbell was a top priority for Arizona to keep, and the Cardinals would like to sign him to a long-term deal. For now, though, he'll have to be content with the tag.

 Mike Nugent, K
~$2.6 million
Nugent, 30, converted 87 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2011 and added an impressive 36 touchbacks.

Phil Dawson, K 
$3.8 million

The going rate for franchised kickers is about $2.6 million but Dawson was franchised in 2010 too, so he's set to make $3.8 in '11. Seems like a high price to pay for a 37-year-old who had two kicks blocked and managed just 10 touchbacks. 

Fred Davis, TE 
$5.4 million

Davis missed the final four games of the 2011 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, but he still had a career year: 59 catches, 796 yards and three TDs in 12 games. The thinking: RG3 (or, more generally, QBs not named Rex or John) is going to need somebody to throw to, right?

Tyvon Branch, S 
$6.2 million

The Raiders informed Branch, one of the team's best players last season, that he would likely be tagged and Friday it happened. The move means that RB Michael Bush is headed for free agency.

Matt Forte, RB 
$7.7 million

No surprise here. The two sides couldn't come to an agreement before the season and then Forte went down with a knee injury late in the season.

Drew Brees, QB
$14.4 million
 This move is an utter failure in the negotiations between Brees and the Saints on a long-term deal, but both sides have to be hopeful they can still work out a deal. The problem here is that the team probably will lose guard Carl Nicks with this move.

Connor Barth, K
$2.6 million
Barth's reportedly reportedly tagged a year after knocking down 92.7 percent of his field goals for the Bucs. But yes, it's still not usually a good thing when a team has to tag its kicker.

Josh Scobee, K
$2.6 million
Scobee was the biggest point-scorer on an anemic Jags offense in 2011, and knocked down 92 percent of his field goals, making him a solid target for the tag, even if he is a kicker.

Matt Prater, K
$2.6 million
Prater only hit 76 percent of his field goals, but he nailed some long, clutch kicks for Denver. Also, he was worshipped by Jesus in a Saturday Night Live skit. That alone is worth a tag.

Cliff Avril, DE
$10.6 million
Avril would've made a fortune on the free-agent market, but Detroit isn't letting him walk. They tagged him on Monday morning and desperately need to work out an extension.

Michael Griffin, S
$6.2 million
Griffin, not cornerback Cortland Finnegan, got the franchise tag from the Titans on Monday. At $6.2 million, that's quite a nice value for the team.

Anthony Spencer, LB
$8.8 million
The Cowboys tagged Spencer late on Monday even though he hasn't been that productive of a player since being a first-round pick. However, Dallas feels that the market will be tough for pass-rushing linebackers.

Wes Welker, WR
$9.4 million
No surprise here as our Pats Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard reports that Welker got the tag. New England simply can't afford to lose their best wideout.

Dwayne Bowe, WR
$9.4 million
The expectation after the Chiefs signed Stanford Routt was that Bowe would be franchised. The Chiefs announced that he was given the tag on Monday afternoon.

Steve Weatherford, P
$2.5 million
Weatherford became just the third punter to ever receive the franchise tag when the Giants hit him with it on Monday.

Robert Mathis, DE
$10.6 million
The Colts haven't "officially" announced the move, but they've reportedly tagged Mathis and have tentatively agreed to a long-term deal.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 4:13 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 4:18 pm
 

Carl Nicks: 'I don't want to be franchised!!!!'

Nicks celebrates Brees breaking big records in happier times. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

The Saints are currently, as our own Mike Freeman reported on Wednesday, pretty far apart in their talks with quarterback Drew Brees on a new contract. This is bad news for the Saints, bad news for Saints fans, and not good news for Brees either.

But it could be good news for New Orleans All-Pro guard Carl Nicks, who would likely receive the franchise tag if the team and Brees can work out a deal. Because, if we understand him correctly, he has no interest in being given the franchise tag.

"I don't want to be franchised!!!!" Nicks tweeted on Wednesday.

Naturally the response from Nicks' followers (he only has 800 as he joined just five days ago) was to assume he wants to hit the free-agent market and leave New Orleans. He says that's not the case.

"So I guess people are getting hot so I'll just say this... I want to be a saint but I want what's fare... Be mad... If u don't like it...Don't follow me!!!!" Nicks tweeted.

Nicks also has a slew of tweets on his page about a countdown. That's a countdown to March 5, when the Saints face a deadline for utilizing the franchise tag. Nicks tweets that his "anxiety is on a hundred thousand trillion!...march 5 is a big day!!??"

If New Orleans can't reach a deal with Brees between now and March 5, they will use the franchise tag on their quarterback. If the Saints can work out a deal with Brees, either Nicks or free-agent-to-be wideout Marques Colston will likely receive the franchise tag. Nicks is the best guess since he's a young, interior offensive lineman with an All-Pro award and two Pro Bowl appearances. He would be extremely difficult to re-sign on the open market.

Speaking of difficult to sign, if the Saints allow both Colston and Nicks to leave via free agency, it's not going to make Brees any happier about signing his new deal either. It's quite the conundrum for New Orleans right now.

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Posted on: February 21, 2012 10:04 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:08 am
 

Report: Bills won't franchise tag Stevie Johnson

Johnson could be a free man if he and Buffalo don't work out a deal. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Stevie Johnson's an interesting test case for the wide-receiver market in 2011; he and the Bills are reportedly exchanging numbers, but they're also reportedly "far apart" in contract negotiations.

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And now, the Bills reportedly won't be using the franchise tag on Johnson if they can't reach a long-term deal before March 5. That's according to Rodney McKissic of The Buffalo News, who reports that the "franchise tag option hasn't been discussed during negotiations" between the team and Johnson.

As we noted previously, Johnson's in a weird spot when it comes to his market value. $9.4 million -- the guaranteed money involved in the franchise tag -- seems like too much for Johnson. But he's certainly not a $5 million per year wide receiver.

And much of what he could get on the open market depends on how other situations play out. If, hypothetically, Marques Colston, Dwayne Bowe, DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker (to name just a few) all hit the market along with Johnson, his stock will drop faster than a potential game-winning catch against the Jets.

Then there's the fact that the Bills would hurt themselves in negotiations if they discussed the franchise tag. Should Johnson's camp believe the tag is an option, it a) reduces the rush to get a deal done before March 5 and b) means the Bills are automatically negotiating from a bare minimum of $9.5 million in guaranteed money.

The only surprising thing is that Buffalo is apparently willing to let their biggest playmaker in the passing game walk; without Johnson, the 6'5" David Nelson steps into the role as top playmaker, barring the Bills being able to bring another high-end free agent into Buffalo.

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Posted on: February 20, 2012 1:13 pm
 

Report: Lynch, Seahawks 'deep' in contract talks

Seattle and Lynch are reportedly 'deep' in contract talks. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

In 2011, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had the most productive season of his career, rushing for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns on 285 carries. Despite that, it's been thought that Seattle wouldn't use the franchise-tag on the impending free agent.

A report from Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network significantly changes the perception of Lynch's future in Seattle, as LaCanfora writes on Monday that the two sides are "deep" in contract talks and could use the tag if a deal isn't completed.

"The Seahawks are deep in talks with running back Marshawn Lynch on a long-term deal, which could well be completed before the March 5 deadline. If that somehow falls apart, the Seahawks are prepared to tag Lynch, according to a source with knowledge of the situation."

There's reason to be optimistic about Lynch's future. Though he didn't produce his best cumulative season, he was absolutely dominant down the stretch in 2011, rushing for 941 yards (78.2 percent of his season total) over the final nine games of the season.

And maybe this tag is an obvious one to some people, but there's a reason we didn't list Lynch when we ran down a list of guys we thought would be likely to get franchise-tagged: he's got some serious mileage and some serious question marks.

For starters, Lynch's career-high yards-per-carry total is 4.2, which he posted in 2011. It's also easy to laud his numbers from 2011, but remember, through the first seven weeks of the season, Lynch was averaging 3.55 YPC and just 44 yards per game. That's not the sort of performance that warrants a big-money, long-term investment and it might not be the type of performance worthy of an $8-million-ish payday just for next season either.

Especially when you could just pay him in Skittles.

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Posted on: February 20, 2012 10:20 am
Edited on: February 20, 2012 12:22 pm
 

Report: Rice wants a 'Peterson type of contract'

Rice is good, but is he worth 'AP money'? (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

One guy we expect to see franchised over the next fortnight or so is Ravens running back Ray Rice. Rice is an unrestricted free agent, is just 25, and is one of only 16 NFL players since the merger to accumulate multiple seasons with 2,000 or more yards from scrimmage. But we also expect Rice and the Ravens to work out a new long-term deal; Rice said he's OK with the tag provided it leads to such a deal.

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But his expectations might be too high: Peter King of Sports Illustrated writes Monday morning that he's hearing Rice "wants an Adrian Peterson-type of contract" for his next deal.

Unfortunately, that's probably not happening. Prior to the 2011 season, Peterson signed a seven-year deal worth up to $100 million, with $36 million guaranteed.

That's "best running back in the NFL" money, and Peterson might be lone exception when discussing running backs who are worthy of that kind of cheddar. (Of course, Peterson spent much of 2011 dealing with a high-ankle sprain that Leslie Frazier later parlayed into a torn ACL by rushing his franchise player back onto the field too quickly.)

Rice, as talented as he is, isn't worth that much money. The Ravens know this and they won't give Rice "AP money." King writes as much, saying that he "doesn't see them going anywhere near that for Rice," although he believes that Baltimore will find a way to get Rice his cash.

A closer approximation to what Rice could get? The deal the Carolina Panthers handed DeAngelo Williams after the 2011 lockout. Williams got a five-year, $43 million deal with $21 million guaranteed.

Rice is more valuable than Williams (the stats bear that out, particularly in 2011), but Williams deal was -- and remains -- a straight-up overpay. The Panthers threw the market for "franchise running backs" out of whack, and now guys like Rice and Matt Forte, who run a lot of risk by only playing for a one-year guaranteed deal in 2011, will suffer because of it.

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 11:11 am
 

Report: Matt Prater 'likely' to get Broncos tag

Britton Colquitt is VERY excited about Prater staying in Denver. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

We spent an inordinate amount of time putting together a list of players likely to receive franchise tags this offseason earlier today and, of course, we forgot someone. But it wasn't necessarily an obvious name: the Broncos are reportedly "likely" to use their franchise tag on kicker Matt Prater.

That's according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, who writes that it "wouldn't be surprising" if the Broncos used their franchise tag on Prater in order to keep him from hitting the market and pay him a guaranteed salary of $2.6 million.

Prater was pretty stout in 2011, hitting 76 percent of his field goal attempts, including three of four from beyond 50 yards.

His accuracy inside the 40-49 yard range -- just three of seven -- left something to be desired. But his big leg saved the Broncos more than once and he helped get Tim Tebow's legacy really cranked up. (Don't worry: the Big Guy gives it up for Prater.)

If the Broncos franchise Prater, it'll be the first time they've used the tag on a kicker in 10 years, as they hit Jason Elam with the franchise tag in 2002.

And lest you think that franchise-tagging a kicker signifies a team on the decline, the Broncos actually made the playoffs in 2003, 2004 and 2005

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 9:07 am
Edited on: February 21, 2012 9:59 am
 

What players will get franchise tagged in 2012?

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, NFL.com (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
Quarterback
$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
Linebacker
$8.8 million $10.1 million
Cornerback
$10.6 million $13.5 million
Safety
$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 CBSSports.com'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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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com