The NFL’s two-week franchise tag window opened on Monday and will run through March 4. Because the 2013 salary cap has not been set officially yet, the final numbers on franchise (and transition) tags are still a bit up in the air.
However, with the cap projected to settle at $121 million, franchise tags would run from close to $15 million for quarterbacks down to just shy of $3 million for punters/kickers.
Which players could wind up playing the 2013 season under a franchise tag designation? We take a team-by-team look at the possibilities:
Arizona Cardinals: Is LB Paris Lenon worth an estimated $9.5 million? How about $10.7 million for CB Greg Toler? It’s a resounding no in both cases, so the Cardinals likely will sit on the franchise tag this season.
Atlanta Falcons: CB Brent Grimes could draw a second straight tag, though the cost would be astronomical for a guy who played one game in 2012 (Achilles). The better bets are either LT Sam Baker or S William Moore.
Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore will keep the franchise tag in its back pocket, in case it needs it for Joe Flacco.
Buffalo Bills: The decision will come down to FS Jairus Byrd or G Andy Levitre. Consider Byrd the obvious front-runner to get the tag, with Levitre a fallback option.
Carolina Panthers: Of Carolina’s season-ending depth chart, only DT Dwan Edwards could be an unrestricted free agent amongst the starters. He’s not worth an $8 million-plus tag.
Cincinnati Bengals: There are multiple possibilities here, led by DE Michael Johnson and OT Andre Smith. The darkhorse is Mike Nugent, who drew the franchise tag in 2012.
Cleveland Browns: K Phil Dawson grabbing the tag for a third straight year would cost Cleveland $5.5 million. Forget that. Punter Reggie Hodges, another candidate, finished 31st in yards per punt.
Dallas Cowboys: LB Anthony Spencer was a letdown under the tag in 2012, and RB Felix Jones has done nothing to justify $8.1 million for 2013. There doesn’t appear to be a real franchise tag possibility here.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos will use the tag on LT Ryan Clady.
Detroit Lions: General manager Martin Mayhew said the Lions won’t use the tag this season. That decision puts them at risk of losing DE Cliff Avril, S Louis Delmas, RT Gosder Cherilus, CB Chris Houston and LBs Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy.
Green Bay Packers: Greg Jennings is the only realistic candidate here. Don’t count on it — Green Bay has enough depth at WR to avoid paying more than $10 million for Jennings.
Houston Texans: The price for safeties under the franchise tag is the third cheapest, behind only kickers/punters and tight ends. Thus, Glover Quin could earn that designation.
Indianapolis Colts: Two possibilities are off the board after the Colts told WR Austin Collie and DE Dwight Freeney they would not be re-signed. Punter Pat McAfee makes sense at less than $3 million.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A report out of Jacksonville Monday stated that the team is “unlikely” to hand out the franchise tag. Looking at the Jaguars’ roster, that choice appears to be a smart one.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs may wind up having to decide whether to tag WR Dwayne Bowe or LT Branden Albert. Their goal is to re-sign one so they can tag the other.
Miami Dolphins: Is LT Jake Long still worth $10 million? If the Dolphins decide he’s not, RB Reggie Bush and DT Randy Starks also could be options — the Dolphins used the tag in 2011 on DT Paul Soliai, then re-signed him prior to ’12. According to reports, the team won’t franchise CB Sean Smith.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings need to keep RT Phil Loadholt, after he and Matt Kalil combined to bookend a very good Minnesota line. Tagging Loadholt would put the Vikings in deep financially at their tackle spots.
New England Patriots: WR Wes Welker? That’s apparently a negative. So, New England can choose between RT Sebastian Vollmer or CB Aqib Talib. The latter would be a gamble, especially at more than $10 million, but he was an impact player for the Patriots.
New Orleans Saints: From a salary cap standpoint, the Saints don’t have the necessary money to tag anyone. Otherwise, LT Jermon Bushrod would be the obvious pick.
New York Giants: LT Will Beatty leads the way, though S Kenny Phillips would be cheaper. So too would TE Martellus Bennett.
New York Jets: The Jets are not allowed to tag S LaRon Landry, per a clause in his 2012 contract, and RB Shonn Greene does not deserve $8 million. TE Dustin Keller could be in play at around $6 million, though he was hurt for most of last season.
Oakland Raiders: This is a cap-strapped spot, too, so Oakland may not go the franchise tag route. If it does, TE Brandon Myers might make the most sense, both from a personnel and financial standpoint.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles reportedly will not use their tag. They have no candidates beside CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie anyway, and he has not shown any reason lately that he should receive upwards of $10 million.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Another team with salary cap problems. WR Mike Wallace and CB Keenan Lewis would be atop the tag list, if the Steelers go down that road. But don’t count on it.
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have a bunch of pending free agents that don’t really fit the franchise tag qualifications — CBs Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason, LB Shaun Phillips and NT Aubrayo Franklin, for starters.
San Francisco 49ers: The relatively low price at safety could lead to Dashon Goldson being hit with a tag. Could TE Delanie Walker, a key part of the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick-led offense, be Plan B?
Seattle Seahawks: Seattle will return most of its starting lineup next season. K Steven Hauschka is a tag possibility, given the manageable price at that position.
St. Louis Rams: Can St. Louis justify nearly $11 million for oft-injured WR Danny Amendola? RB Steven Jackson normally would be a possibility, if his departure was not so clearly set in stone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs currently have about $30 million to spend under the cap, so the tag is in play. DE Michael Bennett should be the guy, if Tampa Bay opts to use it.
Tennessee Titans: Per a report last week, the Titans will tag TE Jared Cook. Doing so may push K Rob Bironas to free agency.
Washington Redskins: Washington is down $18 million in cap space due to NFL-mandated penalties, so a franchise tag would not be the best use of cash. Luckily for the Redskins, they don’t have a lot of must-keep pending free agents — tagging Fred Davis for a second straight year, off a season-ending injury, would be nonsensical.
Be sure to check out other great articles at PhatzRadio – A New Voice In Sports Talk Radio With Rock, Jazz, Soul, R.