Breaking Down Franchise Tag Costs for Every Position
The Lombardi trophy has been awarded, the parades have been held and the 2012 NFL season officially is no more.
However, there's no rest for the weary in the National Football League. Decisions are already being made across the league, with teams releasing players to get below the 2013 salary cap, which Ian Rapaport of NFL.com reports will be in the neighborhood of $121 million.
Another decision that will soon have to be made is whether teams will apply the franchise tag to any of their impending free agents.
The exact number for each tag won't be known until the salary cap becomes official, but in the meantime here's a look at the estimated figure for each position, as well as a look at some players who are likely to be tagged this year.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $14,642,000
Prominent free agents: Joe Flacco
There's only one quarterback even worth mentioning where the franchise tag is concerned, and that's Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco.
In fact, if the Ravens can't agree to terms with Flacco on a long-term contract then it's likely that the Baltimore Ravens will hit Flacco with the even more expensive exclusive-rights tag, which would bump his 2013 salary over $20 million but prevent other teams from negotiating with him.
However, as Peter King of Sports Illustrated points out it's possible that the cap-strapped Ravens will forgo that route, meaning that another team could make Flacco an offer that Baltimore can't match.
That deal would net the Ravens two first-round picks, but it would cost them their Super Bowl quarterback.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $8,079,000
Prominent free agents: Reggie Bush
It's not a very deep market at the running back position, although the pool of talent got a little better when the New York Giants released Ahmad Bradshaw last week.
Before Bradshaw the best available player set to hit free agency was probably Reggie Bush of the Miami Dolphins. But to this point the Dolphins haven't expressed much interest in bringing Bush back at all, much less at $8 million a year.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $10,357,000
Prominent free agents: Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker, Mike Wallace
Unlike running back, there's quite a bit of talent to be had at wide receiver this season. In something of a buyer's market it's unlikely that any of these players will command the $10 million salary that the franchise tag entails for wide receivers this year.
The lone exception may be Wes Welker, who Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston believes could be franchised for the second straight season, even though he would actually count more than $11 million against the cap since he was also franchised in 2012.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $5,962,000
Prominent free agents: Tony Gonzalez, Jared Cook, Dustin Keller, Fred Davis, Martellus Bennett, Brandon Myers
Just like their counterparts at wide receiver, there are a number of free-agent tight ends available, but it's not so much a deep market keeping many of these players from being franchise-tagged.
Teams such as the New York Jets (Keller), the Giants (Bennett) and Raiders (Myers) are also in very bad situations where cap room is concerned, so even the relatively reasonable $6 million cap number is a stretch for these clubs.
In fact, the most likely candidate of this group to get tagged is Cook, who Paul Kuharsky of ESPN "fully expects" to be franchised.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $9,660,000
Prominent free agents: Ryan Clady, Jake Long, Branden Albert, Sebastian Vollmer, Andre Smith
Given what a huge premium offensive linemen carry in the NFL, one would think that most of the players on this list would be potential franchise tag candidates, but that's not necessarily the case.
The Broncos would all but certainly franchise Clady rather than see Peyton Manning's blindside protector walk, but both Long and Albert have seen their play drop off of late.
The Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots may be leery of paying Smith and Vollmer, who are right tackles, nearly $9.7 million for the season.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $10,984,000
Prominent free agents: Michael Johnson, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Dwight Freeney, Osi Umenyiora
It's a numbers game where the franchise tag is concerned for defensive ends.
As in, nearly $11 million is one big number.
For Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions the number would be even higher, since being franchised for a second straight year would push his $2013 salary to over $13 million.
Expect all of these players to hit the open market with the possible exception of Johnson, whom the Bengals have the cap space to tag coming off his 11.5 sack 2012 season.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $8,306,000
Prominent free agents: Henry Melton, Randy Starks, Desmond Bryant
In Henry Melton the Chicago Bears have a fine young defensive player, a 26-year-old at the top of his game who has racked up 13 sacks over the past two seasons.
The Bears would rather get Melton signed to a long-term deal that's more cap-friendly, but if one isn't worked out by the deadline for tagging players Melton is by far the most likely player at his position to receive the franchise tag in 2013.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $9,455,000
Prominent free agents: Anthony Spencer, Paul Kruger, Brian Urlacher
Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
It's a very thin crop at the linebacker position this year in free agency, and even with Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys and Paul Kruger of the Baltimore Ravens coming off career seasons, if a team pays them $9 million in 2013 it's not going to be through the franchise tag.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $10,668,000
Prominent free agents: Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib, Sean Smith, Cary Williams, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
In today's pass-happy NFL a good cornerback is worth his weight in gold.
Unfortunately for teams with free-agent quarterbacks, $11 million is a lot of gold.
It's possible that the New England Patriots might use the franchise tag on Aqib Talib if they don't apply it to Welker, but none of the others listed here are apt to see it.
Grimes is coming off an injury and was franchise-tagged last year, Rodgers-Cromartie struggled in 2012 and while Smith and Williams were solid players a season ago neither merits that big an investment, even for one season.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $6,798,000
Prominent free agents: Ed Reed, Dashon Goldson, William Moore, Jairus Byrd
Were the Baltimore Ravens not in such dire shape cap-wise and staring at Flacco's free agency, the team would all but surely simply tag Ed Reed, insuring that the veteran finishes his career a Raven.
As things stand now Reed may be the only player on this list who doesn't get tagged.
All four of these players were invited to the Pro Bowl in 2012, and with the franchise tag number for safeties an expense that many teams can live with, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see tags get handed out like lollipops at the safety spot.
Estimated franchise tag amount: $2,926,000
Prominent free agents: Jay Feely, Nick Folk, Shane Lechler
Paying any of the free-agent kickers and punters of the market $3 million to stick around is highly unlikely, even after a few kickers received the franchise tag last year.
The most appealing name on this list, punter Shane Lechler, is also the least likely to get the tag, as the Raiders are trying to extricate themselves from the financial foolishness that saw them pay Lechler $16 million over the past four seasons.