The deadline to designate franchise players has passed as of 4 p.m. ET on Monday, and the free-agency landscape is now a jumbled mess of players looking for new deals.
The Kansas City Chiefs went down to the wire in their efforts to re-sign Dwayne Bowe, but according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, they managed to lock down the No. 1 target to a five-year deal. That decision also led to Branden Albert’s new one-year franchise tender (via USA Today Sports).
The Miami Dolphins also chose to use their franchise tag, guaranteeing defensive tackle Randy Starks a one-year contract for the 2013 season (per the Miami Herald). With that deal, several Dolphins are set to hit the open market next week.
We’ll take a look at the latest chatter on the potential departures and eventual destinations for some of this year’s top free-agent talent.
With the Dolphins using the franchise tag on Starks, the prospects of retaining offensive tackle Jake Long, cornerback Sean Smith and running back Reggie Bush are considerably bleaker.
According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Long and Smith have both attempted to negotiate with the Dolphins, but the talks haven’t gone well:
Secondly, expect Jake Long and Sean Smith to hit free agency. The club has talked with both players and that has led to, well, no deal with either. Both players have a very high regard for themselves (which is good) while the team has a more realistic regard for them (which is also good). In plain English that means both Smith and Long expect to make much more in the open market than the Dolphins have been discussing.
Long hasn’t lived up to the high-end hype during the last two seasons, and his inconsistency is no doubt one of the reasons the Dolphins were hesitant to tag him this offseason. Still, there are a lot of teams willing to pay top dollar for a 27-year-old left tackle who was widely considered a top-three player at his position prior to the last two seasons.
If Long and the Dolphins are unable to reach an agreement to retain his services, expect him to find a sizeable payday in the free-agent market in the coming weeks.
San Francisco 49ers
In 2011, David Akers compiled one of the best seasons by any kicker in recent memory. After an atrocious 2012 season that saw the 49ers trying multiple options at the kicker position, it looks like Akers will be looking for a new team this offseason.
According to Adam Kaplan of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, San Francisco intends to release Akers before free agency:
#49ers are expected to release K David Akers before free agency starts, per source.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) March 4, 2013
The 38-year-old struggled with a pelvic injury during the season (per Chris Wesseling of NFL.com), but a 69 percent conversion rate for field goal attempts is inexcusable—at least that looks to be the case for the 49ers.
It’s hard to gauge interest for a veteran kicker coming off the worst season of his career, but there are some teams in need of a replacement this offseason, including Cincinnati, Cleveland and Tennessee (per Wesseling).
The Patriots opted to not use their franchise tag this year, meaning Aqib Talib, Sebastian Vollmer and Wes Welker could all hit the open market next week (via ESPN).
All three played crucial roles for New England last season, and not using its franchise designation could suggest progress toward re-signing them. Nothing substantial has surfaced about Vollmer or Talib, but Tom E. Curran of CSNNE.com suggests progress is being made in New England’s efforts to ink Welker to a new deal.
Welker has been Tom Brady’s most consistent receiving threat in recent years, and with so many holes to address this offseason, locking up Welker should be a top priority.
The Patriots tagged the 31-year-old last season, and with so much money tied up in the contracts of Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, retaining Welker could come down to agreeing on a cap-friendly number going forward.