NFL Free Agency Tracker: Latest Stars to Get Franchise Tag

Ethan GrantAnalyst IMarch 1, 2013

NFL Free Agency Tracker: Latest Stars to Get Franchise Tag

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    Since its inception, the NFL franchise tag has been met with mixed reviews.

    Teams love it, because it virtually ensures that a player of need will be returning to town for the next season. League officials love it because it helps small-market franchises keep stars around for a little while longer before they immediately decide to bolt for a large city.

    Players hate it, because it restricts them from the free-agent market and a potential change of scenery.

    While teams decide on whether to negotiate with a player, they can place the franchise tag on him to buy them more time to iron out a long-term deal.

    Or they can place the tag on a player with the intention of making him prove himself on a one-year contract.

    March 4 is the deadline for the franchise tag to be placed on a player. While there's been several names floated around as potential tag bait, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora informed us via Twitter that a handful of names won't be getting the tag:

    for those who have asked about Wallace, Goldson, Bushrod, Loadholt, Avril, W. Moore - no tag coming for any of them

    — Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 1, 2013

    With that in mind, we've got you covered with every player that gets hit with the franchise tag for the 2013 season. Continue to check back as more names come in—last-second negotiations will surely lead to a desperation tag in some situations.

Franchise Tag Information

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    Albert Breer did some extensive research in reporting this year's franchise tag projections. The information can be found here at his post for NFL.com, and he also posted these series of tweets to confirm what offensive and defensive players will be making after a franchise tag has been placed:

    Franchise tag figures on offense, based on $123M cap ... QB: $14.90M; RB: $8.22M; WR: $10.54M; TE: $6.07M; OL: $9.83M.

    — Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 1, 2013

    Franchise tag figures on defense/ST, based on $123M cap ... DT: $8.45M; DE: $11.18M; LB: $9.62M; CB: $10.85M;S: $6.9M; K/P: $2.98M.

    — Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 1, 2013

    These number should provide some clarity for what a franchise tag automatically means for player salary next season, based on what position is getting the tag.

    The biggest numbers are for QBs and DEs.

    Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk broke it down extremely well in his latest post, giving you 10 facts to look for when thinking about what a franchise tag actually means.

    Additionally, you should get familiarized with the difference between "exclusive" and "non-exclusive" rights after the franchise tag has been placed. An exclusive tag means the player is offered a minimum average salary of the top five salaried players at his position, or 120 percent of his current salary—whichever is greater. The team then has exclusive rights, and the free agent cannot negotiate with any other team.

    A non-exclusive tag is exactly the same, except the free agent retains his right to negotiate with other clubs. Think of this player as a restricted free agent. If he does sign an offer sheet with a new team, his original team can either match that offer sheet or receive two first-round compensatory picks the next season. 

Denver Broncos OT Ryan Clady

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    It's been assumed for a while, but the Denver Broncos finally made it official that they would be tagging left tackle Ryan Clady.

    The news comes from NFL.com's Albert Breer:

    Broncos have officially tagged Ryan Clady, per source.

    — Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 1, 2013

    After struggling in 2011, the 26-year-old Clady was a major part in protecting newcomer Peyton Manning, who had an MVP-caliber season.

    Following the season, the former Boise State star underwent shoulder surgery that will take him five-to-six months to recover from, but according to NFL.com, he is targeting a major deal. 

Indianapolis Colts P Pat McAfee

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    Yup, punters are people too. Many believed the Indianapolis Colts would franchise tag Dwight Freeney, but they went a different direction by placing it on punter Pat McAfee.

    USA TODAY's Mike Garafolo had the news:

    It's a franchise tag-a-palooza today. The Colts will tag punter Pat McAfee.

    — Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 1, 2013

    In what was the best season of his four-year career, the 25-year-old McAfee booted 73 punts at massive 48.2 yards per kick. He knocked just eight into the endzone for touchbacks and buried 26 inside the 20-yard line. 

    According to NFL.com, McAfee will earn $2.97 million this season, but the Colts are still trying to get a long-term deal done. 

Chicago Bears DT Henry Melton

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    The Chicago Bears have decided to use their franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Sean Jensen (via Twitter):

    #Bears have informed Henry Melton he will receive the franchise tag, per a league source.

    — Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) March 2, 2013

    Melton, 26, played in 14 games last season for Chicago, recording 43 combined tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles. He has played the past three seasons with the Bears and boasts 15.5 sacks for his career. 

    Melton has developed into a force in the middle of Chicago's defense over the past few seasons, as Jensen added

    Tagging @henmel was a no-brainer, especially since Marc Trestman is committed to 4-3. He's 26 years, and he's steadily improved every year.

    — Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) March 2, 2013

Buffalo Bills S Jairus Byrd

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    After making the decision to cut George Wilson earlier in the offseason, the Bills needed to make sure both starting safeties didn't hit the free-agent market.

    They did so by placing the franchise tag on Jairus Byrd on Friday afternoon. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the news on Twitter:

    Bills are placing franchise tag on S Jairus Byrd.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 1, 2013

    After making the AP All-NFL Second Team in 2012 and filling in as an injury replacement for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, Byrd has established himself as one of the games' premier young secondary players. He had five interceptions in 2012 and will be key cog to any success the Bills will have next season on D.

    The Bills confirmed Schefter's report with this tweet shortly after:

    #Bills use franchise tag on S Jairus Byrd ow.ly/ib9d4

    — Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) March 1, 2013

    However, some are not so sure Byrd is going to be receptive to the tag. Ian Rapoport reported on Twitter that his attitude toward the tag is up in the air right now:

    Unclear now how #Bills S Jairus Byrd will react to the franchise tag. It is a restriction on the player. Was told "we'll see" going forward

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 1, 2013

    Like it or not, Byrd will now be a Bill next season and make at least $6 million. We'll see if the two sides can come to a long-term agreement, or if this is just a Band-Aid on Byrd's potential departure next year.

Cincinnati Bengals DE Michael Johnson

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    Geno Atkins grabs the big headlines along the Cincinnati defensive line, but fans will tell you that Johnson had a similar impact on the Bengals' stellar defensive line during the 2012 season.

    As such, Mike Garafolo is reporting that the Bengals will use the franchise tag on Johnson:

    Word is the Bengals will be putting the franchise tag on DE Michael Johnson.

    — Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 1, 2013

    Garafolo later confirmed (via USA Today) that Johnson has been informed of the tag, and the Bengals made it official per their Twitter account:

    We have designated DE Michael Johnson as the team’s franchise player for 2013. #Bengals

    — Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) March 1, 2013

    Per Breer's stats on what defensive ends are slated to be paid, Johnson will now make at least $11.18 million during the 2012-13 season. Since being drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft, Johnson has played in all 64 of the Bengals' regular-season games.

    He finished with 11.5 sacks last year and added an interception to his stat total, showing teams that he would be one of the best DEs on the free-agent market. However, the Bengals apparently have no intention of letting him walk and ensured that they have time to negotiate a contract with Johnson.

Miami Dolphins DT Randy Starks

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    One of the better run-stuffing teams in the NFL last year, the Miami Dolphins didn't want to lose one of their star defenders. 

    As a result, the team tagged defensive tackle Randy Starks with the non-exclusive tag, per ESPN's Adam Schefter:

    Dolphins tagging Randy Starks means OT Jake Long, CB Sean Smith and WR Brian Hartline are free to leave Miami.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2013

    The Dolphins later confirmed this report, via MiamiDolphins.com's Andy Kent, who wrote, "The Miami Dolphins ensured that defensive tackle Randy Starks will be back for the 2013 season by designating him with the franchise tag today."

    Starks isn't just a run-stuffing big body in the middle of Miami's defense. The talented big man has racked up 22 sacks since joining the Dolphins five years ago, and he's one of the premier 4-3 defensive tackles in the league.

    The defensive tackle will now make at least $8.45 million, provided he signs the contract. 

Dallas Cowboys DE Anthony Spencer

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    Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys could not allow one of the best defenders on the team leave as a free agent, so Anthony Spencer was hit with the franchise tag.

    Per Spencer's agent, Jordan Woy:

    Dallas Cowboys will franchise tag Anthony Spencer for 2nd year in a row. We will work on long term deal.

    — Jordan Woy (@JordanWoy) March 4, 2013

    Given the salary-cap woes facing Dallas right now, it will behoove Jones to hammer out a long-term, 2013-friendly deal with Woy to secure Spencer. Otherwise, his $10.63 million salary will be almost impossible for Dallas to absorb without taking significant losses in other ways.

    There's no doubt Spencer is a critically important player for Dallas' defense in 2013, though. His 2012 campaign was his finest as a pro, as he logged 11 sacks and two forced fumbles to go along with his 55 solo tackles. 

    A former defensive end at Purdue, he'll go back to playing with his hand in the dirt for the first time since 2006, but if his college career is any indication (10.5 sacks as a senior), he'll do just fine. 

Kansas City Chiefs OT Branden Albert

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    In a surprising move, considering the rumors about Luke Joeckel and the Kansas City Chiefs, offensive tackle Branden Albert was hit with the non-exclusive tag right before the deadline. 

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

    The Chiefs have tagged OT Branden Albert, I'm told

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2013

    The Chiefs later confirmed the move, via KCChiefs.com's Reid Ferrin:

    .@kcchiefs tag @balbert76 today... More to come soon on KCChiefs.com#Chiefs

    — Reid Ferrin (@KCChiefs_Reid) March 4, 2013

    Albert was outstanding for the Chiefs in 2012, allowing just one sack and four quarterback hits, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    He did struggle with a late-season back injury, but it seems as if the Chiefs are fully confident in his ability to continue playing at a high level in 2013.

    It's unknown whether the Chiefs will look to work on a long-term deal with Albert in the meantime. One possibility that could mesh with the team's reported interest in Joeckel is that Albert, a college guard, could move inside to play that position for the Chiefs in 2013.