Earlier Wednesday, New York Giants co-owner John Mara told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (h/t Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio) that the team "probably" wouldn't be using the franchise tag between now and the March 4 deadline to do so.
That isn't surprising when you consider that only three teams have used the tag less than New York has since the system was implemented in 1993.
But when you also consider that Big Blue has three particular impending free agents that are key contributors, as well as the fact that Mara wouldn't rule anything out, you'd have to think that they're at least contemplating using the tag in a worst-case scenario.
Here's a look at the candidates.
Why risk it? Beatty is coming off a breakout year as Eli Manning's blindside protector, but if you tag him and he gets stubborn, he'll cost you nearly $10 million in 2013. That would be very tough on the cap-strapped Giants. Considering that a slew of capable tackles are slated to hit the open market and it's considered to be a good year for tackles in the draft, it might not be worth it.
Prediction: They sign him to a long-term contract
The 26-year-old safety is the most talented defensive back on the roster, but he's missed large chunks of two of the last four seasons due to injury and Stevie Brown proved to be a top-notch playmaker in his stead this past season. The safety's franchise number is pretty reasonable, so the Giants would only owe Phillips about $6.8 million if he played under the tender, but they're also the only team in the league that has never used the tag on a defensive player.
Prediction: They let him hit free agency
Like Beatty, Bennett is coming off a contract year after signing a one-year deal with the G-men last spring. He's not an elite player, but he's consistent and versatile and would cost about $6 million under the tag. The 25-year-old does the little things right and has become one of Eli Manning's favorite targets in big spots. Tight ends like that aren't easy to find, so don't be shocked if the Giants use the tag in a desperate situation.
Prediction: They tag him, but then sign him to a long-term contract later in the offseason
Fringe Candidates: Chase Blackburn and Kevin Boothe
Whenever veteran starters are slated to become free agents, they're contenders for the tag. Boothe and Blackburn are replaceable, though, and the tag numbers for offensive linemen and linebackers are too high for the Giants to gamble on either player. They'll both be over the age of 30 by the time training camp gets under way.
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