Breaking Down 2012 NFL Franchise Tag Winners and Losers
Today was the deadline for NFL players to either sign long-term deals or get slapped with the franchise tag.
There were some huge, multi-year deals. There were also some veterans—not to mention teams—who lost out.
A couple of star running backs and their respective teams were trying to work out long-term contracts. One team was trying to keep its star receiver in town after a disappointing campaign. And the love affair between one receiver and his team apparently doesn't extend to granting him a long-term deal.
Here's a look at the winners and losers of the NFL's July 16 deadline day.
Winners: Drew Brees and New Orleans Saints
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You can make the argument that the New Orleans Saints overpaid for an aging quarterback, but it's not as much about what the Saints paid as it is about the overall value of Drew Brees to the franchise.
The Saints and Brees reached agreement on a five-year, $100 million deal on July 13, and it benefits both parties.
Brees may be 33 years old, but he's still one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. He passed for over 5,400 yards and 46 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions in 2011, completing 71.2 percent of his passes. Even in the Saints' 36-32 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs last season, Brees passed for 462 yards and four touchdowns, albeit with two interceptions.
Brees is an iconic player in New Orleans, and a deal simply needed to be done.
Losers: Kansas City Chiefs
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How do you not agree on a long-term deal with Dwayne Bowe?
Bowe racked up 995 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season for the Kansas City Chiefs, and has gone on to post three 1,000-yard campaigns in the following four seasons. He has proved his worth in the NFL, and he's unquestionably the No. 1 receiver in a mediocre Chiefs receiving corps.
Coming off a disappointing 7-9 season, the Chiefs can't afford to lose Bowe down the line.
Winners: Matt Forte and Chicago Bears
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In his first three seasons with the Chicago Bears, running back Matt Forte accounted for 33 percent of the team's total offense, according to Joe Fortenbaugh of National Football Post (via Yahoo! Sports).
That's reason enough for the Bears to sign him and for him to receive a lucrative deal.
There's also the fact that the Bears finished 8-8 last season, missing the playoffs and going 1-3 in his absence due to injury.
When Forte agreed with the Bears on a four-year, $32 million deal (per Adam Schefter of ESPN), the City of Chicago rejoiced.
Losers: San Francisco 49ers
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It's hard to call the San Francisco 49ers losers in any respect, given their remarkable bounce-back campaign last season, but it would have been nice for them to lock up safety Dashon Goldson to a long-term deal.
Goldson, 27, is entering his prime. He's always been known as a ball hawk when he's been on the field, but he recorded a career-high six interceptions with the 49ers last season. He and Donte Whitner provided a strong one-two punch at the safety spots for San Francisco.
The 49ers made headlines for having a great defense overall last season, but you have to wonder what it will look like if Goldson shows up unmotivated in 2012.
Winners: Ray Rice and Baltimore Ravens
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As one of the elite running backs in the NFL, Ray Rice certainly deserved a big payday; it was just a matter of whether he could agree to a deal with the Baltimore Ravens.
Rice has rushed for at least 1,200 yards in his last three seasons, including 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
The 25-year-old also has caught at least 60 balls for no less than 550 yards in each of the past three seasons, including 76 catches for 704 yards through the air in 2011.
This deal sets the Ravens up in the backfield for another five years and also makes Rice one lucky man.
Losers: Dashon Goldson
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You could say Dashon Goldson is going to get his money in the long run anyway, given his play when he's been on the field.
On the other hand, that's assuming he stays on the field.
Goldson missed the first two games last season with an injury, and he turns 28 years old in September. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season, but if he doesn't back it up this season or gets injured, there may not be a great market for his services in 2013.
Winners: DeSean Jackson
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It can be debated whether the Philadelphia Eagles should have signed the enigmatic DeSean Jackson to a long-term, multi-year deal on March 14.
But there's no debating that Jackson got paid this summer.
Jackson and the Eagles agreed on a five-year, $47 million deal in March (per Pro Football Talk), surprising given that it was widely expected the Eagles would franchise him.
On one hand, Jackson is one of the most athletically gifted receivers on the planet, evidenced by his numbers in 2009 and 2010.
On the other hand, he didn't exactly progress last season, and he kind of irritates head coach Andy Reid. There are also questions about him being a team player.
However, this deal may change things. He could be the greatest teammate in the world now that he's not disgruntled over his contract.
Losers: Detroit Lions
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Defensive end Cliff Avril, 26, blew up last season in Detroit, notching 11 sacks and forcing six fumbles in his fourth year in the league.
That was nothing new, of course; he racked up 8.5 sacks in 2010.
But the Lions were not able to agree on a long-term deal with Avril come deadline day, and it's going to hurt the burgeoning defense if he becomes disgruntled and goes in a different direction down the line.
Avril accounted for 25 percent of the Lions' sack total last season.
Winners: Robert Mathis and Indianapolis Colts
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Hey, the Colts won something!
Just kidding, Colts fans, don't hate me.
At 31 years of age, Robert Mathis may be a little older, but he did record 9.5 sacks and forced three fumbles last season...so there's that.
The Colts registered 29 sacks last season, tied for third-fewest in the NFL. Mathis and Dwight Freeney accounted for 18 of them.
Mathis' four-year, $36 million deal (via Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star) keeps that one-two punch in Indianapolis.
Losers: Wes Welker
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Let's be honest. Wes Welker is 31 years old now and he's not going to get any quicker. Given he's 5'9", 190 pounds, speed is certainly something he's relied on throughout the years (OK, he's a pretty good route-runner as well).
The New England Patriots could have rewarded Welker for his production in Foxboro. Then again, they are the New England Patriots and apparently like tagging star players (i.e. Logan Mankins, 2011).
The Patriots realize Welker has four seasons of 100-plus catches and 1,000-plus receiving yards under his belt. They also realize he's an aging player. I'm guessing Welker's value will drop after next season.
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