Now's the time for NFL teams to hit players with the polarizing franchise tag.
Many teams will use this one-year designation to hang on to their best players to buy time to work out a long-term deal.
Guys like Joe Flacco, Ryan Clady and Jairus Byrd are prime candidates to be tagged this offseason.
Dashon Goldson and Dwayne Bowe, 2012 franchise players, could be hit with the tag again.
Here is a roundup of all the latest franchise tag buzz.
The Buffalo Bills plan to meet with Jairus Byrd during the NFL combine to kick off contract talks, according to the Associated Press (via SI.com).
The AP's source said "there have previously been no formal negotiations between the Bills and Byrd" and that "there has so far been no discussion as to whether the Bills intend to place a franchise tag on Byrd."
Offensive guard Andy Levitre is another main free-agent priority for the Bills this offseason. However, because his franchise tag figure is higher, he could be a more likely candidate to sign a long-term deal.
According to Ron Borges of the Boston Herald:
The Patriots are simply not going to put an $11.4 million franchise tag on Welker, someone with intimate knowledge of the team’s thinking said. Nor is he going to get an offer better than the one he turned down in 2011.
It sounds like Welker's days in New England are numbered.
According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, Flacco's camp and the Ravens' organizational decision-makers will meet at the combine in Indianapolis.
La Canfora wrote the following about the negotiation: "Expect there to be regular dialogue between the Ravens (read: cap guru/chief negotiator Pat Moriarty) and Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, from this weekend until the March 4 deadline to apply the franchise tag."
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote on February 15:
Barring a multi-year contract for Melton, it seems like a good bet general manager Phil Emery will elect to use the franchise tag for the second consecutive year after applying it to running back Matt Forte in 2012.
There have been no reports of Melton and the Bears having contract talks, but it seems as though Melton will be back in Chicago in 2013.
Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet quoted a league source when he wrote the following about San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson:
Goldson is considered the leading candidate to be designated as the 49ers' franchise player for a second year in a row. But it's no certainty the 49ers will restrict his free-agent status again this season.
Goldson would be owed 120 percent of his 2012 salary if he was hit with the tag for a second straight year.
This tweet from Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald sums everything up regarding the chances of Smith being hit with the franchise tag:
Today is the first day NFL teams can use the Franchise tag on their UFAs. The Dolphins will NOT use their tag on Sean Smith. Period.— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) February 18, 2013
However, that doesn't mean Smith is done in Miami. The Dolphins could sign him to a long-term deal.
Rotoworld suggests "The Chiefs prefer a long-term deal, but they may not want to commit Vincent Jackson money to Bowe for fear of 'decreased effort' once he gets paid."
If Kansas City tag Bowe, he'd make around $11 million in 2013.
According to a report from early January (via Bengals.com), Johnson is "the leader in the clubhouse" when it comes to the franchise tag.
On NFL AM (via ProFootballTalk.com), Johnson said the following about his contract situation: "Everything will work itself out and I’ll be in the best situation — hopefully that’s in Cincinnati."
Johnson and offensive tackle Andre Smith are prime franchise tag candidates, and the Bengals have a significant amount of cap room.
Per Spotrac.com, Cincinnati currently has $56 million in cap space.