Breaking Down the Franchise Tag Situation for Every NFL Team

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIFebruary 18, 2013

Breaking Down the Franchise Tag Situation for Every NFL Team

0 of 32

    With NFL free agency starting on March 12, teams are scampering to figure out a plan to improve their rosters. However, before free agency officially begins, teams can use the franchise tag on their players beginning on Monday, Feb. 18.

    Last season, we saw a record 21 different teams use their franchise tag. It'll be surprising if that many teams use it again this year, but it is certainly a possibility.

    For the purposes of this article, we'll break down the most likely players that each team could franchise along with some analysis regarding who it actually should use it on.

    Here we go...

Arizona Cardinals

1 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: DE Vonnie Holliday, QB Brian Hoyer, RB LaRod Stephens-Howling

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    The Arizona Cardinals simply don't have the money to use the franchise tag on a player this offseason, and truth be told, none of their impending free agents are really worth it anyway.

    While Stephens-Howling was decent in limited time last year, he simply isn't worth the investment for the Cardinals. In fact, with Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams returning in 2013, Stephens-Howling might not even get substantial playing time next season.

    Arizona's best bet is to move into free agency and the NFL draft without wasting money on franchise tagging a player who doesn't deserve it.

Atlanta Falcons

2 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: CB Brent Grimes, TE Tony Gonzalez, OT Sam Baker, S William Moore

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: S William Moore

     

    The Atlanta Falcons didn't have the best luck with the franchise tag last season. It was spent on Grimes, who ended up getting injured in the first game of the season and missing the entire year.

    That shouldn't deter Atlanta from potentially using the franchise tag again this season, though. While the Falcons are a little low on cash (they have about $1.7 million in cap room right now), they have veteran players that will likely be released or asked to take a lower salary in 2013.

    Both Baker and Moore are crucial to the success of the Falcons moving forward, and if they can't get a deal done with either player before the free-agency period begins, look for them to use their franchise tag on Moore, who is slightly more valuable.

Baltimore Ravens

3 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: QB Joe Flacco, OT Bryant McKinnie, S Ed Reed

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: S Ed Reed

     

    There is little doubt that Flacco deserves a long-term contract from the Baltimore Ravens. While they could potentially use the franchise tag on him in order to create some time to work out a long-term deal, that may not be the best decision for Baltimore.

    The best decision would be to use the franchise tag on Reed. At his age, giving him a multiple-year contract could be a risky move. Instead, the Ravens can use the franchise tag on him and evaluate whether he is a crucial piece of the puzzle moving forward.

    While Flacco may be the more popular prediction for getting franchise tagged, Reed makes more sense for the future.

Buffalo Bills

4 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: S Jairus Byrd, OG Andy Levitre

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: S Jairus Byrd

     

    Either Byrd or Levitre would be well worth using the franchise tag on for the Buffalo Bills. Both players proved to be among the best at their respective positions in 2012.

    It's possible that the Bills will get long-term deals done with both players before free agency begins. While Buffalo would probably love for that to happen, it seems like a bit of a stretch.

    The reason that Byrd makes more sense is because he is truly an elite playmaker at the safety position. He makes the Bills a better team in a number of ways, and it would be detrimental for Buffalo if he departed. Levitre, on the other hand, is extremely talented, but he is not a true franchise player like Byrd.

    Look for the Bills to use their franchise tag on Byrd before working out a deal to keep him in Buffalo for a long time.

Carolina Panthers

5 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: DT Dwan Edwards, CB Captain Munnerlyn

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    Even though Edwards is coming off a relatively successful season for the Carolina Panthers (six sacks), he'll be 32 years old when the 2013 season begins. On top of that, the Panthers are already well over the salary-cap limit for next season.

    They need to figure out how to get rid of about $12 million of salary before the start of next season. There are a number of ways to do that, but using the franchise tag on an older, inconsistent player isn't the wisest decision.

    Carolina is a team that could potentially make some noise next year, but using its franchise tag this offseason won't help it do that.

Chicago Bears

6 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: QB Jason Campbell, DT Henry Melton, LB Brian Urlacher

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: DT Henry Melton

     

    Defense isn't the biggest problem that the Chicago Bears have this offseason. That honor goes to the offensive line and the team's offensive playmakers.

    However, Melton is a young player who can potentially be the anchor of Chicago's defensive line for years to come. While he doesn't make an impact in a number of facets of the game, his pass-rushing skills are extremely important.

    Melton finished the season with six sacks for the Bears along with 24 quarterback hurries. That type of production from a 26-year-old defensive tackle is simply too valuable to let hit the open market.

    Look for Melton to be one of the first players franchise tagged this offseason.

Cincinnati Bengals

7 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: DE Michael Johnson, CB Pacman Jones, LB Rey Maualuga, CB Terence Newman, OT Andre Smith

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: OT Andre Smith

     

    The Cincinnati Bengals have a ton of decisions to make concerning free agents this offseason. A number of key contributors are set to hit the open market, including a few truly special players.

    The good news for Cincinnati is that it has just over $55 million of cap space to work with. Its No. 1 priority needs to be figuring out what to do with Smith, who became an elite offensive tackle this past season.

    Dominant offensive tackles simply don't grow on trees, and the Bengals need to do everything in their power to make sure Smith doesn't hit free agency. That is why choosing to place their franchise tag on Smith makes the most sense.

    With the Bengals looking to make some real noise in the AFC, they'll need Smith in order to continue to be successful on offense.

Cleveland Browns

8 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: WR Josh Cribbs, K Phil Dawson, LB Scott Fujita, TE Benjamin Watson

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    What the Cleveland Browns need to do this year, and probably for the next few years, is to continue to rebuild their roster. Without any special players potentially leaving this year in free agency, Cleveland simply has no need to use its franchise tag.

    The Browns need to continue to improve through the NFL draft, which is likely why they brought in Michael Lombardi as their VP of player personnel. Don't be surprised if the Browns elect to not use their franchise tag for a few more seasons.

Dallas Cowboys

9 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: DE Victor Butler, CB Mike Jenkins, RB Felix Jones, WR Kevin Ogletree, LB Anthony Spencer

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: DE Victor Butler

     

    I'm sure the Dallas Cowboys would love to use their franchise tag on one of their best defensive players in Spencer.

    However, they are already nearly $20 million over the cap for 2013, and Spencer was franchise tagged last season. That means that the Cowboys would need to pay Spencer 120 percent of last year's compensation, and that simply isn't happening.

    While Butler isn't the most well-known player on the Cowboys roster, he is a player that will be hard to replace if he can't be brought back. He's coming off his best season and is only 25 years old. He has the potential to be a very good player for Dallas.

    It will be difficult for the Cowboys to figure out how to use the franchise tag on Butler, but it would be a great decision for Dallas.

Denver Broncos

10 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: OT Ryan Clady, CB Tracy Porter

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: OT Ryan Clady

     

    Clady is simply way too important for the Broncos to allow him to even come close to hitting free agency. He has been one of the best left tackles in the league for years and should be considered irreplaceable.

    Until Peyton Manning is no longer playing for Denver, the Broncos can't afford to have any other player at left tackle. They should use the franchise tag on Clady so they can work out a long-term deal during the regular season. Per the Denver Post, Broncos VP John Elway says they will indeed tag him.

Detroit Lions

11 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: DE Cliff Avril, S Louis Delmas, LB DeAndre Levy

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: S Louis Delmas

     

    Despite being one of the better pass-rushing defensive ends in the league, it is unlikely that the Detroit Lions will use their franchise tag on Avril. They used it on him last year, making it way too expensive of an option for a team that struggled last year.

    The better option for Detroit will be to use its franchise tag on Delmas. While he hasn't been overly impressive, he is easily the best player that the Lions have in their secondary. Considering that their secondary is the weakest position on the roster, losing Delmas would be a huge blow.

    With the team underachieving as a whole last year, the Lions face a ton of questions this offseason. Putting the franchise tag on Delmas should be one of their first decisions.

Green Bay Packers

12 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: WR Greg Jennings, ILB Brad Jones

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: ILB Brad Jones

     

    The Green Bay Packers have a number of difficult decisions to make this offseason.

    For starters, what should they do with Jennings? While they'd love to re-sign him, it doesn't make sense with players like Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones on the roster.

    Their only other real option for receiving the franchise tag is Jones. He stepped in for Green Bay due to injuries this past season and played extremely well.

    One scenario that could play out with the return of Desmond Bishop is that the Packers use their franchise tag on Jones. This would allow them to see whether Jones or A.J. Hawk deserves to start opposite Bishop.

    If that player turns out to be Jones, which is likely since Jones played better than Hawk last year, they can release Hawk and work out a deal with Jones. This would be a surprise move from Green Bay, but it would be one that could improve its roster down the road.

Houston Texans

13 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: LB Connor Barwin, FB James Casey, S Glover Quin, CB Stanford Routt

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: FB James Casey

     

    The Houston Texans have the cap space to use their franchise tag this season, and there are a number of players worth using it on.

    Both Barwin and Quin are crucial members of the defense in Houston. Either player would be tough to lose in free agency, but the Texans could easily re-sign either player.

    However, the player that the Texans would really hate to lose via free agency is Casey. He is so versatile for Houston that he'd be extremely difficult to replace.

    Don't be shocked if the Texans franchise tag Casey, a player who makes an impact in a number of facets of the game.

Indianapolis Colts

14 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: WR Donnie Avery, P Pat McAfee, QB Drew Stanton

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    Few teams did as well in the 2012 NFL draft as the Indianapolis Colts. They had numerous impact rookies from last year's class, including Andrew Luck, Vick Ballard and T.Y. Hilton.

    This is a team that surprised many people last year with its success, and it will only get better moving forward. Using the franchise tag on players who aren't good enough to deserve it just doesn't make sense for the Colts.

    They'll continue to build through the draft and rely on Luck to lead this team for the next decade.

Jacksonville Jaguars

15 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: CB Derek Cox, RB Rashad Jennings, LB Daryl Smith

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    Much like the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars need to be in complete rebuild mode with their franchise.

    That means using their franchise tag on a player who isn't a huge impact player would be a foolish decision. While Cox, Jennings and Smith are all talented, none of them are worth the price Jacksonville would have to pay if it franchise tagged any of them.

    The Jaguars need to spend their money wisely in order to get out of the cellar in the AFC South, and using their franchise tag this year isn't wise.

Kansas City Chiefs

16 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: OT Branden Albert, WR Dwayne Bowe, DE Glenn Dorsey, RB Peyton Hillis

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: WR Dwayne Bowe

     

    Despite Bowe receiving the franchise tag last year, he's the best candidate for the Kansas City Chiefs to franchise tag this year as well.

    With Kansas City bringing in Andy Reid and likely drafting a new starting quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft, it'll need all the talent it can get on offense. Without Bowe, the Chiefs simply don't have a wide receiver that can help in the development of a young quarterback.

    It'll be a rather expensive move for Kansas City, but it's the right move that will help this team get back on track. With Reid and a talented young quarterback, Bowe might actually decide to sign a long-term contract this time.

Miami Dolphins

17 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: RB Reggie Bush, TE Anthony Fasano, OT Jake Long, CB Sean Smith

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: RB Reggie Bush

     

    The Miami Dolphins are actually in a great position to improve their team this offseason. They have a ton of cap space to work with (roughly $36 million) and only a handful of free agents to potentially re-sign.

    If they use their franchise tag, they'll likely use it on either Bush or Long. A few years ago, Long would have been the easy choice, but his play greatly declined in 2012. In fact, he shouldn't even be considered a top-15 left tackle.

    Bush, on the other hand, has proven that he can be a legitimate No. 1 running back since coming to Miami two years ago. While the Dolphins do have two young running backs in Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas on the roster, Bush is still a better weapon than either of those players.

    With Bush getting the franchise tag and Ryan Tannehill continuing to develop, the Dolphins could be a surprise team in the AFC next season.

Minnesota Vikings

18 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: LB Erin Henderson, OT Phil Loadholt, WR Jerome Simpson

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: OT Phil Loadholt

     

    With Matt Kalil proving to be an elite left tackle in his rookie season, the Minnesota Vikings have the potential to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Of course, they'll need to either re-sign Phil Loadholt or use their franchise tag on him to make that happen.

    While Loadholt is far from being an elite right tackle, he does happen to be one of the best run-blocking tackles in the league. With Adrian Peterson as your main weapon on offense, keeping one of the best run-blocking tackles becomes a top priority.

    If a long-term contract isn't worked out between the Vikings and Loadholt, look for them to use their franchise tag on their talented right tackle.

New England Patriots

19 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: S Patrick Chung, CB Aqib Talib, OL Sebastian Vollmer, WR Wes Welker, RB Danny Woodhead

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: CB Aqib Talib

     

    Few teams have as many crucial players becoming free agents as the New England Patriots do. It's likely that the 2013 roster of the Patriots will look drastically different from the 2012 version.

    While there are a number of players that could potentially get the franchise tag from New England, it will likely come down to three players: Talib, Vollmer and Welker.

    While giving Tom Brady weapons (Welker) and keeping him upright (Vollmer) are both extremely important, the Patriots should ultimately use their franchise tag on a defensive player. Talib was brought on in the middle of last season and made an instant impact for this team.

    His character issues are a little worrisome, but he behaved rather well for New England this past season. Talib has the potential to be a game-changing player on defense, and if the Patriots want to continue to be ultra-competitive, they'll need that defensive presence.

New Orleans Saints

20 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: QB Chase Daniel, WR Devery Henderson

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    While I'd love to see Daniel continue to develop under the tutelage of Drew Brees, it simply doesn't make sense to franchise tag a backup quarterback. That leaves Henderson as the only other viable option for the New Orleans Saints.

    However, Henderson is far from being a talent like Greg Jennings or Dwayne Bowe and isn't worth the cost of what it would take to franchise tag him. This becomes even more true when you recognize that Brees and the Saints do a fantastic job of developing talent at wide receiver.

    Look for New Orleans to save its money for free agency and make a splash with signing a big-name player or two on the defensive side of the football.

New York Giants

21 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: TE Martellus Bennett, LB Chase Blackburn, S Kenny Phillips, K Lawrence Tynes, DE Osi Umenyiora

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: TE Martellus Bennett

     

    While there are a number of high-end free agents that the New York Giants could lose, only two players really make sense for New York to use its franchise tag on.

    The first is Tynes, who is coming off one of his better seasons in the league. He would be relatively cheap to franchise tag, and having a good kicker is rather important.

    The other, and wiser, option for the Giants would be to franchise tag Bennett. While his play declined over the course of the season, he still has the potential to be a dominant player for New York.

    The Giants would like to get deals done with both players, but if they have to choose one to franchise tag, that player should be Bennett.

New York Jets

22 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: RB Shonn Greene, TE Dustin Keller, S LaRon Landry, OG Brandon Moore

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    As messy as things were for the New York Jets this past season, it looks like it'll get even messier in 2013.

    The big reason for this is that the Jets simply don't have any cap space to work with this offseason. They're nearly $20 million over the cap heading into the offseason and will have to use drastic measures to get under that number.

    That means that impact players like Greene, Keller, Landry and Moore could all leave via free agency. It also means that they will not be using their franchise tag this year.

Oakland Raiders

23 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: DT Desmond Bryant, P Shane Lechler, TE Brandon Myers, DT Richard Seymour, DE Matt Shaughnessy

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: TE Brandon Myers

     

    Despite already being over the cap threshold for 2013, the Oakland Raiders could still figure out how to use their franchise tag this year.

    There are a number of players that they'd love to franchise tag, but only Myers makes financial sense considering their current situation. Myers played extremely well last year and established himself as a top weapon for Carson Palmer.

    While the future of Palmer is still unknown, a consistent talent like Myers would be very valuable as this team moves forward. He has the potential to be one of the better tight ends in the league, and he is absolutely worth franchise tagging.

Philadelphia Eagles

24 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: OT King Dunlap, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    The Philadelphia Eagles don't have many impact players entering free agency. In fact, their two biggest free agents, Dunlap and Rodgers-Cromartie, weren't even that good last season.

    Few teams have been able to bring in talent via free agency like the Eagles have in the past few seasons, and with plenty of cap space this year (nearly $30 million), they could make another big splash in free agency.

    With no one worth using the franchise tag on this year, look for the Eagles to bring in talent from the outside to improve upon a disappointing 2012 season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

25 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: S Will Allen, LB Larry Foote, RB Rashard Mendenhall, OT Max Starks, WR Mike Wallace

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: No one

     

    You could certainly make the case that one of the above players somewhat deserves getting the franchise tag, but it wouldn't be a very solid case. The truth is that all of the above players have question marks surrounding them.

    With Allen and Starks, the question revolves around their production, which hasn't been great. Foote will be 33 years old at the start of next season, and he is simply too old to commit the type of money necessary if the Pittsburgh Steelers were to franchise tag him.

    The two likeliest candidates are Mendenhall and Wallace, but even they have huge question marks concerning production and injuries. Simply put, the Steelers don't have a single player worth placing the franchise tag on this year.

San Diego Chargers

26 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: RB Ronnie Brown, CB Quentin Jammer, OG Louis Vasquez

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: OG Louis Vasquez

     

    The San Diego Chargers had a whole bunch of problems last season despite their roster having some talent and depth. The biggest issue revolved around the offensive line, and the Chargers will need to address that this offseason.

    They'll likely start by figuring out what to do with Vasquez. He played rather well last season and proved to be much better in pass protection than he was in the run game.

    With Philip Rivers still the focal point of the offense, San Diego needs linemen that are better in pass protection. Vasquez fits the bill and is a perfect candidate to get the franchise tag.

San Francisco 49ers

27 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: WR Ted Ginn Jr., S Dashon Goldson, WR Randy Moss, TE Delanie Walker

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: TE Delanie Walker

     

    As much sense as it makes to say the San Francisco 49ers should franchise tag Goldson, it's hard to see them making that commitment again. They used their franchise tag on him last season, and the price would be too high to use it again.

    That leaves Walker as the most likely candidate to receive the franchise tag in 2013. Anyone who watched the Super Bowl saw just how versatile Walker is for San Francisco. Not only is he a fantastic blocker in the run game, but he is a major threat as a receiver too.

    Goldson is the sexier choice to receive the franchise tag, but Walker is the smarter choice.

Seattle Seahawks

28 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: DT Alan Branch, K Steven Hauschka, DE Jason Jones, CB Marcus Trufant

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: K Steven Hauschka

     

    Last year, we saw way too many kickers and punters receive the franchise tag for their respective teams. This year we could only see one, and it could come from the Seattle Seahawks.

    While Hauschka wasn't a dominant kicker for the Seahawks, he was extremely consistent over the course of the season. In fact, he didn't miss a single kick that was shorter than 50 yards.

    Both Branch and Trufant are potential candidates to be franchised, but the price for both to remain on the roster is too high for a team on the brink of being a legitimate Super Bowl contender. That leaves Haushcka as the only real option for Seattle to franchise tag, if it uses the franchise tag at all.

St. Louis Rams

29 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: WR Danny Amendola, WR Brandon Gibson, RB Steven Jackson

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: WR Danny Amendola

     

    Even though the St. Louis Rams would need to pay Amendola over $10 million if they use the franchise tag on him, it is their best decision.

    St. Louis desperately needs playmakers, and Amendola proved to be a great playmaker when on the field. Of course, his extensive injury history is a little worrisome, but it shouldn't deter the Rams from retaining Sam Bradford's favorite target.

Tampa Bay Bucaneers

30 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: CB/S Ronde Barber, DE Michael Bennett, TE Dallas Clark

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: DE Michael Bennett

     

    Both Clark and Barber are getting up there in terms of age, and it is possible that neither player returns for the 2013 season. That leaves Bennett as the only player really worth using the franchise tag on for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Despite the team failing to put together a successful season, Bennett had a rather productive season in Tampa Bay. He finished as a top-10-rated 4-3 defensive end, according to Pro Football Focus. He was just as successful at getting pressure on quarterbacks as he was stopping the run, making him all the more valuable.

    The Buccaneers have some interesting pieces on the defensive side of the ball, and keeping together a defensive line that really dominated in 2012 would be smart. Look for them to franchise tag Bennett rather quickly.

Tennessee Titans

31 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: K Rob Bironas, TE Jared Cook, RB Javon Ringer

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: TE Jared Cook

     

    The franchise tag was really made for players like Cook. Instead of signing a long-term contract for a player filled with potential, the Tennessee Titans can use the franchise tag on him instead.

    The investment isn't too great to franchise tag a tight end, meaning the Titans could have another season to evaluate how Cook fits into their future. There is no doubt he has the potential to become a major weapon in their offense, but so far Cook hasn't come close to reaching that potential.

    This is a move the Titans must make if they want to be competitive in the AFC South next season.

Washington Redskins

32 of 32

    Most Likely Players to Franchise Tag: OT Jammal Brown, TE Fred Davis

    Who They Should Franchise Tag: TE Fred Davis

     

    The decision to franchise tag Davis in 2013 would be a no-brainer had the Washington Redskins not used the franchise tag on him in 2012. However, Davis is still the best option to franchise tag this year, if Washington decides to use it at all.

    Davis struggled with injuries last season, but when he is healthy, he can be a truly special player. What Washington desperately needs to do is surround Robert Griffin III with as many playmakers as possible.

    Using the franchise tag on Davis would be a little pricey, but it would make Washington's offense all the more dynamic.