Predicting Every NFL Team's Most Likely Franchise Target
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With Super Bowl XLVII officially in the books, the NFL turns all its attention to the 2013 offseason. One area of keen interest is to determine how many teams will employ their franchise tag in 2013, and which players will receive it.
At first blush, it appears there will be fewer franchise tags in 2013 than the 21 that were applied in 2012. If 21 seems like a lot, remember that six of them went to either a kicker or a punter.
The first time that a team can place the franchise tag on a player is on Feb. 18. Teams have until March 4 to finalize to whom they are awarding the franchise tag.
After removing the players with the franchise tags, NFL teams can begin negotiations with the agents of the remaining free-agent players during a three-day window that runs from March 9-11.
When free agency begins for real at 4:00 p.m. EST on March 12, the agents will already have a decent feel for what kind of potential offers will be available for their clients. That is why you saw a number of deals go down in the first day of free agency in the 2012 offseason.
While most teams have a number of players that will become free agents in March, our goal here is to identify the one key free agent that they will most likely target with a franchise tag. If the team doesn't appear to truly need to use the franchise tag this year, we will acknowledge that as well.
2013 Franchise Tag Breakdown Figures by Posiiton
Any WR with franchise tag will earn over $10 million in 2013.
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March 12 is the day that every team will have to be below the $121 million salary cap, which is why you will continue to see a number of roster-tweaking moves between now and then.
The NFL came out with preliminary franchise-tag compensation levels for all positions back in December. These numbers are due to be finalized at the annual team owners' meetings in Dallas next month.
From an article by NFL.com writer Ian Rapoport:
The 2013 salary cap is tentatively slated to be at or just below $121 million, according to NFL sources.
The values for restricted free agent designations and franchise tenders have also been set. Below are the tentative franchise tag and transition tag numbers for each position, in millions.
If you are curious to see how the franchise tag numbers have either grown or declined over the past few years, here is a story by Will Brinson from CBS Sports which highlights the franchise-tag numbers by position for 2011 and 2012.
By plugging in the information from the stories by Brinson and Rapoport, here is an overview of how each position has been compensated for franchise tags from 2011-13. All figures are listed in millions of dollars.
Quarterbacks: 2011 - $16.1, 2012 - $14.4, 2013 - $14.642.
Running Backs: 2011 - $9.6, 2012 - $7.7, 2013 - $8.079
Wide Receivers: 2011 - $11.4, 2012 - $9.4, 2013 - $10.357
Tight Ends: 2011 - $7.3, 2012 - $5.4, 2013 - $5.962
Offensive Linemen: 2011 - $10.1, 2012 - $9.4, 2013 - $9.660
Defensive Ends: 2011 - $13.0, 2012 - $10.6, 2013 - $10.984
Defensive Tackles: 2011 - $12.5, 2012 - $7.9, 2013 - $8,306
Linebackers: 2011 - $10.1, 2012 - $8.8, 2013 - $9.455
Cornerbacks: 2011 - $13.5, 2012 - $10.6, 2013 - $10.668
Safeties: 2011 - $8.8, 2012 - $6.2, 2013 - $6.798
Kickers/Punters: 2013 - $2.926. We only have figures on kickers and punters for 2013.
As you can see from the above numbers, compensation by position went up slightly for every position compared to the figures for 2012. There was a significant cut in 2012 compared to 2011, so it was expected to see some sort of correction this year. Safeties, tight ends and kicker/punters are still the biggest bargain for NFL teams.
Don't expect the Cardinals to use franchise tag in 2013.
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Arizona Cardinals 2012 Franchise Tag - DE Calais Campbell
Arizona Cardinals 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used
With Bruce Arians coming in as the new head coach and with new coordinators on offense and defense, it will be interesting to see how many Cardinals players from the 2012 roster are retained for the new season.
After all, Arians witnessed the Indianapolis Colts' transformation, as they brought in 33 new players for the 2012 season. The wholesale changes helped the team land a postseason berth.
Coming into this offseason, the Arizona Cardinals are less than $1 million above the 2013 salary cap. Due to that major stumbling block, the Cardinals aren't in a great position to be entertaining the idea of placing the franchise tag on any of their 2013 free agents.
When you look at the existing group of free agents, there really isn't any one player that stands out from the rest of the crowd screaming "don't let him leave the team!"
The Cardinals free agents include: DB Michael Adams, T D'Anthony Batiste, DL Nick Eason, LB Quentin Groves, DL Vonnie Holliday, DB Rashad Johnson, LB Paris Lenon, T Pat McQuistan, G RIch Ohrnberger, DB James Sanders, RB La'Rod Stephens-Howling and DB Greg Toler.
Groves came up with four sacks on the year. Lenon made 102 tackles but is getting up there in age (35) and has trouble shedding blocks. Out of Lenon's 102 tackles, only one of them went for a loss.
Stephens-Howling led the team in rushing, but that isn't anything to write home about. He only had 357 yards on the season, averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per rush.
Even though the Cardinals did use the franchise tag on DE Calais Campbell in 2012, it would be considered a surprise if they used the franchise tag in 2013.
Sam Baker is one of the Falcons' 2013 free agents.
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Atlanta Falcons 2012 Franchise Tag - CB Brent Grimes
Atlanta Falcons 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used
The Atlanta Falcons used their franchise tag in 2012 on CB Brent Grimes, but that investment failed miserably when Grimes was lost for the season during the first game of the year.
Entering 2013, the Falcons only have about $1.7 million in salary cap space to play with, so they will have to start doing some creative financing before they can even think about giving any player a franchise tag.
Out of their existing free agents, the most important players to retain are T Sam Baker, CB Brent Grimes and S William Moore. The Falcons would have to pay Grimes 120 percent of his 2012 salary if they franchised him, so he isn't a likely option for the franchise tag this year.
Atlanta will probably ask a number of veteran players to help the team out by restructuring their contracts. Some other veterans that don't offer a good return on value will be released to free up additional cap space. One such example could be DE John Abraham.
So, if the Falcons aren't able to reach a long-term agreement with Baker or Moore, is either player worthy of a franchise tag? In the final analysis, the answer is no. The Falcons will try to reach a new deal with both, but don't expect them to use the franchise tag this year.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Ravens use exclusive tag on Joe Flacco.
Baltimore Ravens 2012 Franchise Tag - RB Ray Rice
Baltimore Ravens 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - QB Joe Flacco
When NFL teams known to be looking to add a starting quarterback assess the ranks of the free-agent pool and 2013 NFL draft class, the one name that will stand out above the rest is Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco's performance down the stretch run in the playoffs solidified that he is an elite quarterback and is somebody that can lead a team to the title. Few quarterbacks can demonstrate proof of that, and are available in free agency to boot. So, Flacco would be in high demand if he were to ever be allowed to test the market.
The Ravens have no interest in letting him ever test the market. If Baltimore were to slap the franchise tag onto Flacco, that would still allow teams to negotiate with his agent for a better deal. Flacco could sign a contract for as much money as he wants, and the Ravens would receive two first-round draft picks for losing him.
As important as quarterbacks are (recall what Washington gave up to get Robert Griffin III), trading away two first-round picks for a proven champion like Flacco is a no-brainer.
So to prevent that potential disaster, the Ravens have to either sign Flacco to a long-term deal before the start of free agency, or they can simply apply the exclusive franchise tag on him. The exclusive tag would completely remove Flacco from free agency. It also means that the Ravens would be committing roughly $20.4 million to Flacco for 2013.
That move allows the Ravens to take their time and iron out a long-term contract with Flacco. It also means that they would likely have to release several veteran players to free up $20 million in salary-cap space.
It is bad enough to have the soul of your team retire, as the Ravens will have to replace Ray Lewis. But if they were to lose Flacco as well, that would take years for the franchise to recover. The front office won't allow that to happen.
Free agent Jairus Byrd is one of the top safeties in the NFL.
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Buffalo Bills 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Buffalo Bills 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - S Jairus Byrd.
One thing that has been a constant for the Buffalo Bills during their long playoff drought is the lack of playmakers on both sides of the football. They have a true playmaker in two-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd.
Byrd was tied for the NFL lead in interceptions as a rookie and has already amassed 18 total interceptions in his career. In addition, Byrd has registered 308 tackles, 10 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
Pro Football Focus ranked Byrd as the No. 2 safety in the NFL in 2012. He was only behind Eric Weddle, which is why it was curious that he wasn't originally voted on to the Pro Bowl team.
The Bills also have another top-tier free agent in guard Andy Levitre. If the Bills were to lose Levitre in free agency, it would certainly be a blow to their offense, as Levitre has remained a constant, reliable source during his first four years in Buffalo.
He doesn't miss starts and has demonstrated that he can slide over and be more than adequate at tackle in a pinch. Just don't ask him to play center.
Byrd is invaluable to Buffalo, not only for his playmaking ability, but as the last line of defense, covering up for the rest of the Bills defenders. They can't afford to let Byrd walk. Since safeties are scheduled to earn $6.798 million in 2013 with the franchise tag, giving Byrd the franchise tag is an easy decision.
Ideally, the Bills will sign both Byrd and Levitre to long-term deals before the 2013 season begins.
Dwan Edwards was third on the Panthers in 2012 with six sacks.
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Carolina Panthers 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Carolina Panthers 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used
The Carolina Panthers could very well go consecutive years without using their franchise tag on any free agents. One of the main reasons for that decision is that the Panthers are already $11.8 million over the 2013 salary cap.
Coming up in free agency this offseason, Carolina has to decide if DL Dwan Edwards is worthy of a franchise tag. Edwards did come up with six sacks for the year, but out of his 52 total tackles, only two of them resulted in lost yards.
Edwards turns 32 in May, and his age may very well be a factor in the Panthers' decision to see if they can sign him to a deal without using the franchise tag.
Another free agent in 2013 is DB Captain Munnerlyn. He intercepted two passes in 2012 and returned both of them for touchdowns. He also led the team with nine pass deflections.
The Panthers have relatively few free agents to figure out for 2013. They need to identify which players they need to restructure salaries to alleviate the salary-cap issues facing the team.
Pro Bowl DT Henry Melton will be in demand in free agency.
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Chicago Bears 2012 Franchise Tag - RB Matt Forte
Chicago Bears 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - DT Henry Melton
The Chicago Bears have a proven commodity in DT Henry Melton, and he is set to hit free agency in 2013. Melton is one of the best defensive tackles in the market, and the Bears have to weigh the pros and cons of their chances of signing Melton to a deal, or losing him to another team that is willing to pay him more.
In the 2012 offseason, the Bears wanted to bring in DE Mario Williams for a visit in free agency. But once Williams arrived in Buffalo, he never left, as the Bills were able to keep him in town until he signed on the dotted line. The Bears can't afford to let that happen with Melton, so their best chance of securing his services for 2013 is to apply the franchise tag.
Melton graded out as the No. 7 defensive tackle in the NFL at Pro Football Focus in 2012. He is the top-ranked defensive tackle in 2013 free agency, so if the Bears fail to wrap him up, his agent will have plenty of suitors to pick from.
Andre Smith could wind up with the franchise tag in 2013.
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Cincinnati Bengals 2012 Franchise Tag - K Mike Nugent
Cincinnati Bengals 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - T Andre Smith
Andre Smith is one of the top-tier tackles that would be in demand in free agency if the Cincinnati Bengals allow him to test the market. So, the Bengals have to figure out the best way to prevent that from ever happening. Smith was tied with Ryan Clady for the No. 4-ranked tackle in 2012 by Pro Football Focus.
As for 2013 free agents, Smith and Ryan Clady are the top tackles available in the market. Both may never see the light of day in free agency if the franchise tags are applied as we predict.
Another potential franchise tag for Cincinnati to consider is DE Michael Johnson. You could make a case for substituting Johnson for Smith on this slide, but the bottom line is that the Bengals need to sign both players if they want to return to the playoffs for a third straight postseason.
One thing in their favor is that the Bengals have $55.1 million of salary cap space to work with, which is the most of any NFL team in 2013 by far. With that much room to play with, the Bengals should be able to work out deals for both Smith and Johnson.
Those aren't the only free-agent decisions facing the Bengals. Their other free agents include: P Kevin Huber, DB Nate Clements, OLB Thomas Howard, OLB Manny Lawson, S Chris Crocker, K Josh Brown, DB Adam Jones, DE Robert Geathers, DE Wallace Gilberry, LB Rey Maualuga and DB Terence Newman.
Will Pro Bowler Josh Cribbs be back in Cleveland in 2013?
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Cleveland Browns 2012 Franchise Tag - K Phil Dawson
Cleveland Browns 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Cleveland Browns are currently going through a total roster evaluation with their new director of player personnel Michael Lombardi.
Lombardi and new head coach Rob Chudzinski will have to determine which free agents will be a fit for the schemes that Norv Turner and Ray Horton want to install in 2013.
With so many wholesale changes to the organization, it is difficult to ascertain who might be even remotely qualified for franchise-tag consideration right now. To have a player that is deemed worthy of the tag, the players should be ranked in the top tier of their position, and that is not something that the Browns have an abundance of.
Because of that, it is doubtful that the Browns have any free agents that will wind up with the franchise tag in 2013.
Some of the Browns better-known free agents in 2013 include K Phil Dawson and KR/WR Josh Cribbs. Other free agents are DB Sheldon Brown, TE Ben Watson, DL Juqua Parker and WR Mohamed Massaquoi. From this group, Brown turned in the best 2012 performance. He is ranked No. 21 out of all cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus for his play last season.
Have we seen the last of Anthony Spencer in Dallas?
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Dallas Cowboys 2012 Franchise Tag - DE/LB Anthony Spencer
Dallas Cowboys 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used
The Dallas Cowboys come into the 2013 offseason in need of a salary-cap makeover. They are already around $20 million over the cap for 2013.
Due to that large figure in the red, the Cowboys will need to study the roster to determine which veterans will be released, and which ones they can convince to restructure their deal to get back under the cap. Once all of that wizardry is completed, the Cowboys then need to set about filling the holes that they just created with the players they released.
Nick Eatman of Dallas Cowboys.com wrote that he doesn't believe the Cowboys will be big players in free agency in 2013 due to their salary-cap situation. One of the Cowboys' best free agents heading into the offseason is LB Anthony Spencer, who the team applied the franchise tag to in the 2012 offseason.
For the Cowboys to sign Spencer, they would have to release a number of veteran players to free up the money it would take to land Spencer to a new deal. In addition, since he was franchised last year, the Cowboys would have to pay Spencer 120 percent of his 2012 compensation if they applied the tag two years in a row. It isn't going to happen.
When the dust settles, Eatman thinks that Spencer will be playing for somebody other than Dallas in 2013.
The Broncos need to sign Ryan Clady to protect Peyton Manning.
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Denver Broncos 2012 Franchise Tag - K Matt Prater
Denver Broncos 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - T Ryan Clady
The Denver Broncos are a team that is built to win now. They came ever so close to advancing in the postseason, and they are a threat to be in contention for the AFC title in 2013. The best way to do that is to make sure that they protect quarterback Peyton Manning, and they can do that by making sure they keep free-agent tackle Ryan Clady.
Clady is ranked as the top tackle in free agency this year by Pro Football Focus. They had him rated as the fourth-best tackle in 2012, tied with Andre Smith of Cincinnati.
As long as Manning is the quarterback in Denver, it is paramount that they give him the best protection that the team can afford. Clady is still in his prime, so this is the kind of talent you want to surround Manning with. Clady would be well worth the $9.7 million that his franchise tag will cost.
Cliff Avril didn't provide great return on franchise tag in 2012.
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Detroit Lions 2012 Franchise Tag - DE Cliff Avril
Detroit Lions 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Detroit Lions opted to place the franchise tag on Cliff Avril in 2012. Avril wound up leading the team with 9.5 sacks in 2012, but it wasn't that great of a year for Avril. Out of all starting defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme, he was graded out as No. 55 out of a possible 62 players by Pro Football Focus.
It is possible that GM Martin Mayhew learned his lesson the hard way. According to a tweet by Chris McCosky, it doesn't appear that Mayhew has any intention of applying their franchise tag to any 2013 free agent.
Interesting that Mayhew continues to say he won't use franchise tag. Team still hopes to re-sign Delmas.— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky)
The Lions hope to re-sign free agent S Louis Delmas without using the franchise tag to keep him in Detroit.
It is interesting that Mayhew is willing to roll the dice on free agent T Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus graded out as the No. 8 tackle in the NFL in 2012 by Pro Football Focus. With that kind of performance, you know he will be targeted by other teams that are in desperate need of upgrading their tackles. You can be sure that Matthew Stafford would like to have Cherilus back in 2013.
Green Bay Packers
Greg Jennings will probably be playing elsewhere in 2013.
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Green Bay Packers 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Green Bay Packers 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Green Bay Packers are going through a slight transition period in the 2013 offseason, as they bid adieu to some long-time veterans to make way for younger talent.
WR Donald Driver has already announced his retirement and fellow WR Greg Jennings is almost certain to be playing elsewhere in 2013. The other veteran that people are wondering about is DB Charles Woodson.
Woodson is set to earn $10 million in 2013, which is somewhat hard to fathom for a 37-year-old DB. When you consider that Green Bay only has $7.1 million under the cap to work with coming into the offseason, it forces you to reconsider the wisdom of the Woodson contract.
Unrestricted free agents include LB Eric Walden, LB Brad Jones, WR Greg Jennings, RB Ryan Grant and RB Cedric Benson. The Packers also have a number of restricted free agents, but none of them will be under consideration for the franchise tag.
Connor Barwin didn't grade out very well in 2012.
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Houston Texans 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Houston Texans 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Houston Texans were able to let some expensive talent leave the team during free agency in 2012. The team still managed to return to the postseason, but were eliminated once again. It leaves you to wonder how big of an impact their depth took as a result of the departures.
In 2013, Houston will have at least $12.9 million under the cap to work with, which is a big improvement over where they were one year ago.
The two biggest names of their pool of free agents are S Glover Quin and DE/LB Connor Barwin. Before you get too excited about Barwin, realize that Pro Football Focus graded him out in 2012 as No. 32 out of 34 outside linebackers employed in the 3-4 scheme. As a result, don't be surprised if Houston lets him walk away.
Quin, on the other hand, is more of a middle-of-the-road performer (No. 40 overall safety at Pro Football Focus), but he would represent a huge upgrade for a team like the New Orleans Saints.
Houston may wind up being a bigger player in free agency this year, but they don't seem to have any pressing need to employ the franchise tag again this year.
Looks like Dwight Freeney will not return to Colts in 2013.
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Indianapolis Colts 2012 Franchise Tag - DE Robert Mathis
Indianapolis Colts 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Indianapolis Colts added 33 new players to their roster in 2012 as they began their rebuilding project under head coach Chuck Pagano. Riding high on the momentum of a postseason appearance, combined with being $46 million under the salary cap coming into 2013, the Colts will be a major player in free agency.
With regards to their own free agents, the biggest names are DE/OLB Dwight Freeney, DB Darius Butler and WR Donnie Avery.
Freeney is not exactly well suited for the 3-4 defense the Colts employ. He turns 33 years old later this month, so another long-time veteran Colts player will be exiting the franchise.
Between Butler and Avery, neither one is top-tier that would warrant franchise-tag consideration, so it looks like the Colts won't need to use the tag this year.
DB Derek Cox is a free agent in 2013 for the Jaguars.
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Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 Franchise Tag - K Josh Scobee
Jacksonville Jaguars 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Jacksonville Jaguars' magic number was 30 in 2012, as that was their typical rank in most key statistical team rankings. Thirty, by the way, isn't very good, as that is 30 out of 32. The Jaguars improved their team logo, now they just need to improve the rest of the football team.
Coming into 2013, the Jaguars are $22.1 million under the salary cap. From their group of 2013 free agents, one of the better performers last year was DB Derek Cox, but he isn't worthy of a franchise-tag designation.
The Jaguars simply need to use their available salary-cap space to bring in as much talent as they can possibly find. Trading down in the draft to nab additional high draft picks could help to land more talent.
Kansas City Chiefs
Brandon Albert could land a franchise tag in 2013.
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Kansas City Chiefs 2012 Franchise Tag - WR Dwayne Bowe.
Kansas City Chiefs 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - T Branden Albert.
The Kansas City Chiefs have been a disappointing team for the last two years running. The Chiefs hope that new head coach Andy Reid will be able to elevate the team to perform at a level that NFL analysts thought was worthy of challenging for the AFC West division in 2012.
Two of the more interesting free-agent decisions for the Chiefs in 2013 are WR Dwayne Bowe and T Branden Albert.
Since Bowe was already the recipient of the franchise tag in 2012, the Chiefs would have to pay him 120 percent of his salary if they give him the tag again this year. They tried to work out a long-term deal last year at this time, but negotiations failed to come up with anything concrete. As a result, it would not be a surprise to see Bowe leave in free agency.
Albert, on the other hand, is a promising tackle. With quality tackles like Andre Smith and Ryan Clady likely winding up with a franchise tag, the amount of quality tackles would dwindle considerably if the Chiefs were to lose Albert in free agency. As a result, the Chiefs won't let it come down to that, and they will opt to give him the franchise tag.
Albert graded out as the No. 25 tackle in 2012 by Pro Football Focus. Ideally, you would prefer to have a player ranked in the top-10 of his position if you are going to give him the franchise tag. But when you consider that Albert was No. 25 out of 80, you realize that he is in the top-third tier of his position, it becomes easier to justify.
Is it time for Jake Long and Miami to go separate ways?
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Miami Dolphins 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Miami Dolphins 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Miami Dolphins have as many interesting decisions on their own free agents as any team in the NFL this offseason. Some of the key free agents include RB Reggie Bush, T Jake Long, CB Sean Smith and TE Anthony Fasano.
With a grand total of $35.8 million under the salary cap in 2013, the Dolphins may be more interested in bringing in outside free agents rather than investing in their own free agents.
The Dolphins didn't use their franchise tag in 2012, and there doesn't appear to be any free agent that is compelling enough to use it on in 2013, either.
Bush is starting to decline in his career, which is never a good time to give a player a franchise tag. Long is demanding top-tier money but his play last year doesn't prove that he is worth the investment. Smith gets burned often in coverage and Fasano is solid, but isn't a top-tier tight end.
Phil Loadholt could get a franchise tag in 2013.
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Minnesota Vikings 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Minnesota Vikings 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - T Phil Loadholt.
The Minnesota Vikings didn't use their franchise tag in 2012. The only way that they will opt to employ the franchise tag in 2013 is if they aren't able to sign T Phil Loadholt to a long-term deal first.
If the two sides can't reach an agreement, then expect the Vikings to place the tag on Loadholt, rather than let him walk away in free agency.
Loadholt was ranked as the No. 22 tackle in the NFL in 2012, which again is out of 80 total tackles. If we can stretch slightly to consider Branden Albert of the Chiefs as franchise-tag worthy, then we can also give the same consideration to Loadholt.
Pro Football Focus graded him as a top-tier run blocker, so as key as Adrian Peterson is to the Vikings offense, so is the blocking of Loadholt to open up holes for Peterson to run through.
New England Patriots
Patriots could wind up using franchise tag on Vollmer in 2013.
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New England Patriots 2012 Franchise Tag - WR Wes Welker.
New England Patriots 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - T Sebastian Vollmer.
The New England Patriots experienced some turnover on their offensive line in the 2012 offseason. They would experience more in 2013 if they allow Sebastian Vollmer to test the waters in free agency. Vollmer is one of the better tackles this year in the free-agent market, and the Patriots need to make sure they keep Tom Brady protected.
WR Wes Welker or CB Aqib Talib are two other distinct possibilities for the franchise tag, but the prediction here is Vollmer.
Welker had his share of crucial dropped passes, and Bill Belichick sent a message about Welker's perceived value by starting Julian Edelman over him. Their inability to reach a long-term deal last year is another issue. Plus, the Patriots would have to pay Welker 120 percent of his 2012 salary if they give him the franchise tag again this year.
As for Talib, he has his share of character issues off the field. New England will attempt to sign him to a new deal, but the guy they can't afford to lose is Vollmer.
The good news is that the Patriots come into the 2013 offseason with $18.6 million under the salary cap.
The bad news is that according to an article by Tom Curran of CSN New England, is that Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins make up nearly 35 percent of the Patriots total salary cap for the 2013 season.
With that much cap space gone, can New England really afford to give the going rate of $9.6 million to Vollmer? There just might not be enough room to swing it.
New Orleans Saints
Saints are already $14.7 million over the salary cap in 2013.
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New Orleans Saints 2012 Franchise Tag - QB Drew Brees
New Orleans Saints 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The New Orleans Saints have to find a way to resurrect their defensive unit despite being $14.7 million over the salary cap for 2013. That means that a number of contracts will have to be restructured, along with letting some underachieving veteran players go.
Due to how awful the defense was, the Saints will need to get Rob Ryan busy in evaluating which players he wants to release to free up some cap room. Look for the Saints to focus on defense at the draft and to bring in some cheaper, younger players to replace the underachieving veterans.
One area to start is at safety, where Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins were graded out by Pro Football Focus as the two worst safeties in football in 2012.
New York Giants
Martellus Bennett could land a franchise tag in 2013.
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New York Giants 2012 Franchise Tag - P Steve Weatherford
New York Giants 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The New York Giants were $4.7 million over the salary cap when the 2012 season ended, so the Giants did something about it. They released three veterans from the team to free up cap space. Gone are RB Ahmad Bradshaw, LB Michael Boley and DT Chris Canty.
So, with the newfound salary-cap space, will the Giants use their franchise tag on any of their 2013 free agents?
Due to the relatively reasonable franchise-tag compensation for tight ends and kickers, two candidates for the franchise tag are tight end Martellus Bennett and kicker Lawrence Tynes. The Giants will try to sign both to longer contracts, but if they can't come to an accord, don't be surprised to see them opt to tag either one of these players instead.
The Giants would like to also sign WR Victor Cruz to a new contract, but since he is a restricted free agent, he is not eligible for the franchise tag.
New York Jets
Salary-cap problems mean Dustin Keller likely leaves the Jets in 2013.
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New York Jets 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
New York Jets 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The New York Jets have a mess on their hands. The team is $19.4 million over the cap coming into the season. They have to carry Mark Sanchez's guaranteed contract and will probably need to trade away their best player in Darrelle Revis in an attempt to stockpile some draft picks.
A number of their starters on offense are free agents, and they can't afford to bring them back unless they release other veteran players. That impacts players like Shonn Greene, Brandon Moore and Dustin Keller.
Due to the salary-cap scenario as it stands now, the Jets don't have the ability to pay anybody at franchise-tag prices. If the Jets start releasing players like the Giants are, which frees up significant salary cap space, then you can consider options like Moore or Keller for the franchise tag.
An example of the type of roster purging needed was raised in a tweet by Manish Mehta.
Jets will get under salary cap when they cut LB Bart Scott, OLB Calvin Pace & OL Jason Smith in coming days/wks. Clears $27.7M of space
Those three moves would free up $27.7 million of salary cap. It would allow the team to keep Keller, but then you also have three new openings that need to be filled. That is how life will be in 2013 for the Jets.
Richard Seymour will probably be moving on in 2013.
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Oakland Raiders 2012 Franchise Tag - S Tyvon Branch.
Oakland Raiders 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Oakland Raiders can feel what the New York Jets are going through now, because that is basically where they were one year ago. The team was upside down on the salary cap and had to release veteran players to get below the cap number.
The situation has improved somewhat coming into 2013, but is still far from great. For example, Pro Bowl nose tackle Richard Seymour is a free agent, and it looks like the Raiders will let him test the free agent market. That is because the Raiders are already $4.5 million over the cap in 2013.
The team doesn't have any top-tier players that are free agents and worthy of a franchise tag this year. Hopefully, things will be looking brighter for Raiders fans one year from now.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie graded out poorly in 2013.
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Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Franchise Tag - WR DeSean Jackson
Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be players in free agency in 2013 because they are able to roll over $23 million from 2012 into their 2013 salary cap. The Eagles were already $5.3 million under the cap, so the rollover will allow them to bring in some outside talent.
Philadelphia released T Demetress Bell and hopes that Jason Peters is back to full health in 2013. King Dunlap is a free agent, but signing him would be more about adding some depth to the offensive line.
As things stand, there are few remaining free agents for the Eagles to contend with. DL Derek Landri, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, G Jake Scott and DL Darryl Tapp. From this group, nobody is worthy of the franchise tag.
Even though Rodgers-Cromartie led the Eagles in interceptions and passes defended, he didn't have a very good year. In fact, Pro Football Focus graded him out as the No. 98-ranked corner out of 113 players. Bottom 15 percentile is not worthy of a franchise tag, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the Eagles let him walk in free agency.
Mike Wallace has likely played his last game for Pittsburgh.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Pittsburgh Steelers opted to give a contract extension to Antonio Brown in 2012, which basically paves the way for WR Mike Wallace to exit stage left.
When the Steelers made the decision to extend Brown, they realized that there would probably be ramifications with Wallace. As the year unfolded, Wallace didn't do anything that would be called spectacular. Looking at the Steelers wide receivers in 2013, Pro Football Focus ranked Brown No. 42, Emmanuel Sanders was No. 57 and Wallace came in at No. 91.
It looks like the Steelers made the right call by investing in Brown.
As for the franchise tag, even though the Steelers have a number of free agents in 2013, none of them are considered to be in the top-tier of their position to be franchise-tag worthy.
It looks like 2013 will be another year that the Steelers say goodbye to some old veterans that aren't getting the job done any longer.
San Diego Chargers
Louis Vasquez is one of the top guards available in free agency.
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego Chargers 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
San Diego Chargers 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - G Louis Vasquez.
The San Diego Chargers' best free-agent option for the franchise tag in 2013 is G Louis Vasquez. Vasquez was graded as the No. 13 guard in the NFL in 2012 by Pro Football Focus. He is viewed as a stronger pass blocker than he is as a run blocker.
As for the other free agents in San Diego, the Chargers come into the 2013 offseason at $8.7 million under the salary cap. If San Diego is able to reach a long-term deal with Vasquez, then there really isn't any other viable candidate for the franchise tag.
Jason Jones is one of the Seahawks' free agents in 2013.
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
Seattle Seahawks 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
Seattle Seahawks 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Seattle Seahawks made tremendous strides in 2012 and are now in a position to be considered serious NFC West contenders going forward.
When you look at their list of free agents in 2013, the collective group doesn't offer up a single player that screams franchise tag. The group of free agents includes DL Alan Branch, K Steven Hauschka, LB Leroy Hill, DL Jason Jones and CB Marcus Trufant.
The Seahawks are $18.6 million under the salary cap, so they can afford to let some of these veteran free agents walk and bring in some better talent to replace them.
San Francisco 49ers
Dashon Goldson will probably get franchise tag again in 2013.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers 2012 Franchise Tag - S Dashon Goldson.
San Francisco 49ers 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - S Dashon Goldson.
The San Francisco 49ers are trying to figure out how to bring back free-agent safety Dashon Goldson. Goldson was the recipient of the 49ers franchise tag in 2012, so if the team decides to place the tag on him again, the 120-percent rule would apply. That would raise his 2013 compensation to $7.5 million.
According to a story from Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Goldson was looking for a contract in the $8 million range. If the team places the franchise tag on him again, Goldson has no choice but to either accept it or hold out.
Since Goldson is regarded as the top priority, don't expect the 49ers to look at any other player for the franchise tag besides Goldson. Even though this move might upset Goldson, it is the right move for San Francisco to make.
If Goldson were to leave in free agency, everybody saw how badly Donte Whitner was beaten in the Super Bowl by the Ravens' passing attack. Goldson is needed back in 2013 and beyond.
St. Louis Rams
Danny Amendola gets hurt too often to give him franchise tag.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
St. Louis Rams 2012 Franchise Tag - wasn't used.
St. Louis Rams 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
If there is a candidate that the St. Louis Rams would consider for the franchise tag, it would be WR Danny Amendola. But, slapping the franchise tag says that you value him to be a top-tier player at his position.
Amendola had a solid year, but due to his extensive injuries, you simply can't rely on him enough to pay him over $10 million, which is what franchise-tag wide receivers will earn in 2013.
That would be a very risky investment.
No other free agent for the Rams appears worthy of franchise-tag compensation at this juncture. So, it appears the Rams will go two straight years without using the tag.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Michael Bennett came up with nine sacks in 2012.
USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2012 Franchise Tag - K Connor Barth
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - DE Michael Bennett.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are $31.3 million under the salary cap coming into 2013, so they look like they will be big players once again in free agency.
As for the franchise tag, the most notable free agent is defensive end Michael Bennett. He led the Bucs with nine sacks in the 2012 season. He graded out as effective in both pass rushing and against the run, as Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 7 4-3 defensive end in the NFL in 2012.
The going rate for defensive ends with the franchise tag is $10.98 million. If the Bucs are able to sign Bennett to a long-term deal and avoid the franchise tag, they have the salary-cap space to make him happy.
Other Tampa Bay free agents include safety Ronde Barber and tight end Dallas Clark. Barber is still trying to decide if he wants to come back in 2013, while Clark sounds like he wants to play at least one more year.
Jared Cook is a free agent but not good enough for franchise tag.
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans 2012 Franchise Tag - S Michael Griffin.
Tennessee Titans 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Tennessee Titans used their franchise tag in 2012 to keep Michael Griffin in house, and then they were able to work out a long-term deal to keep him for an extended stay with the Titans.
As for their 2013 free agents, Tennessee has some potential with tight end Jared Cook, but not enough there to justify a franchise tag. Kicker Rod Bironas only made half of his field goals from 40-50 yards, which reduced him to a mid-tier ranking.
As we have witnessed with other teams, the current crop of Titans free agents in 2013 doesn't offer up any realistic franchise-tag options.
Jammal Brown becomes a free agent on Friday.
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Washington Redskins 2012 Franchise Tag - TE Fred Davis.
Washington Redskins 2013 Franchise Tag Prediction - won't be used.
The Washington Redskins are $4 million over the salary cap coming in to the 2013 offseason. A report by CSN Washington states that T Jammal Brown will become an unrestricted free agent on Friday, as his contract will be voided on Friday.
Every bit of salary-cap space that the Redskins can surface will help, because the team is still dealing with the fine levied on them by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell from last year. The Redskins split the salary cap fine between the 2012 and 2013 rosters.
2012 franchise-tag recipient Fred Davis only managed to come up with 325 yards in receptions and no touchdowns, so he doesn't make sense to use with the franchise tag again.
As for other free agents, there is nobody else from the current pool that warrants a franchise tag. Especially in light of the Redskins' salary-cap situation, they need to try to sign players to contracts that are more value-driven for 2013.
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