Which Disgruntled Franchised NFL Stars Will Be Bolting Past 2012?
Of the 21 players that were franchise-tagged this offseason, three (Dwayne Bowe, Cliff Avril and Dashon Goldson) have yet to sign their tenders, six others signed their tenders and will play under the franchise number in 2012 and 12 others found common ground on getting deals done.
What does this mean? Nine players—Wes Welker, Bowe, Goldson, Avril, Anthony Spencer, Fred Davis, Brent Grimes, Mike Nugent and Phil Dawson—will become free agents after playing out the 2012 season under the one-year franchise tender.
Not all of the nine are happy about that reality.
In the following slides, we break down the franchised players who may leave their current teams after next season.
Wes Welker, Patriots
Possibly no failure in long-term talks was as disappointing as it was for Welker, who is now in serious jeopardy of leaving New England after this season.
And for all the talk that Welker is nothing more than a system receiver, forget it: All 32 teams in the NFL now employ strictly slot receivers. Welker is the very best at that role, probably head and shoulders above whoever is No. 2.
While Welker could still return to New England if the 31-year-old has a down season, keep in mind that he has caught at least 110 passes in four of the last five seasons. Another season of 100 or more catches will likely mean Welker walks, as the Patriots had their chance to sign him at a rate much lower than it will cost to franchise him again next season.
More than likely, the Patriots' upcoming need to re-sign tight end Aaron Hernandez played into this decision. If New England is lucky, maybe Welker returns on a short-term deal after 2012 to continue playing with Tom Brady.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
Like Welker, Bowe is probably out in Kansas City if he's productive in 2012.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports wrote earlier this week that he'd be surprised if Bowe is back with the Chiefs after next season.
I would be pretty surprised to see Dwayne Bowe back in Kansas City after 2012. The entire offense there could be in for a shakeup, the Chiefs continue to grab young receivers high in the draft and I don't see Bowe in any rush to sign his tender, which won't create great goodwill with Scott Pioli.
Considering what Bowe will cost come next summer, he's more than likely headed into free agency in 2013. Once there, he should see considerable interest as another team's potential No. 1 receiver.
Cliff Avril, Lions
The Lions may have missed out on their chance to lock up Avril, who is coming off an 11.5-sack season and is only 26 years old. The franchise tag will keep him around for 2012, but don't expect the Lions' up-and-coming pass-rusher to hurry into camp or sign a hometown discount in Detroit next offseason.
If Avril has another big season in 2012—a perfectly fine assumption considering his career path and new-found dose of contractual motivation—his price tag will likely swell out of the Lions' range.
There are precious few pass-rushers as young and productive as Avril who hit the market, so he'll see a wave of interest once he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. With the young players on the horizon for contracts in Detroit, Avril may be a lock to walk.
Anthony Spencer, Cowboys
Of the one-year franchise tenders handed out and signed, Spencer's may rank near the top in terms of franchise awareness.
While Spencer has never been a dominant pass-rusher, he does have 17 sacks in three seasons and brief flashes of brilliance opposite DeMarcus Ware. For $8.8 million in 2012, the Cowboys are getting one last look at a player that would have garnered significant interest this summer as a free agent.
If Spencer blossoms, the Cowboys should have the inside track in re-signing him. If not, the Cowboys can let him walk with the assurance that they gave him every shot to show he was worth a long deal.
Fred Davis, Redskins
The Washington Redskins made a smart decision (scary, I know) in denying Davis a long-term deal this offseason. The franchise tag seems to make perfect sense, as Davis proved to be a valuable playmaker at tight end in 2011, but finished the year on the sidelines because of a drug suspension.
Paying Davis long-term would be a risk, as another failed drug test would result in an automatic one-year suspension. On a one-year deal worth just over $5 million, however, Davis can prove he's clean and worth a longer deal next offseason.
The only way I see Davis playing elsewhere in 2013 is if another drug suspension does arise.
Dashon Goldson, 49ers
Goldson saw Michael Griffin (Titans) and Tyvon Branch (Raiders) sign long-term deals, but no agreement ever came his way before Monday's deadline.
Griffin got five years and $35 million, but the 49ers never seemed comfortable in giving Goldson that kind of money. Considering Goldson lingered on the free-agent market late last summer and only found a one-year deal with San Francisco, you can understand why there was some hesitation.
The 49ers can now get another look at Goldson for just $6.2 million in 2012, and if they want to franchise tag him again in 2013, he'll only cost just over $7 million.
The question you ask yourself is this: Would you rather pay the 27-year-old Goldson $35 million over five years, or $13-14 million over two? The 49ers obviously are comfortable with the latter option.
Brent Grimes, Falcons
ESPN's Pat Yasinskas reported before Monday that the Falcons and Grimes could find common ground on a long-term deal, but nothing ever surfaced.
Considering what kind of assets the Falcons have tied up in the cornerback position, Grimes could be on the way out next offseason. Atlanta still has a need at corner and will likely make a play to get him back, but he'll likely get a chance to scour the market next summer.
At one year and $10.28 million for this season, however, both the Falcons and Grimes appear comfortable with the situation. Next summer may be a different story.