What's Next for NFL Players Keeping Franchise Tags in 2013?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystJuly 15, 2013

What's Next for NFL Players Keeping Franchise Tags in 2013?

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    The deadline to sign players who were assigned the franchise tag in 2013 has come and gone.

    With the exception of Ryan Clady of the Denver Broncos, who Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports cashed in to the tune of $57.5 million over five seasons, this year's franchise tag recipients will play out the year under their tender amounts.

    That news is going over better with some players than others, and with that in mind here's a look at what the future holds for each of the seven players who once again find themselves in a contract year.

    Franchise tag amounts courtesy of NFL.com.

Branden Albert, OT, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Franchise tag amount: $9.828 million

    Talks have been ongoing between the Kansas City Chiefs and Albert, with the NFL Network's Albert Breer reporting as recently as Sunday that the team could be preparing to make an 11th-hour offer to the sixth-year pro.

    However, that offer never materialized, and it now appears that Albert could be headed for free agency in 2014.

    If Albert hits the open market, the odds of his returning to Kansas City aren't especially good. Quality offensive tackles can commend a hefty price tag on the open market.

    If the Chiefs were open to paying that price, then Albert probably would have gotten his long-term deal, but the Chiefs may be leery of sinking $50-plus million into Albert with first overall pick Eric Fisher in the fold.

     

Jairus Byrd, FS, Buffalo Bills

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    Franchise tag amount: $6.9 million

    Of all the situations involving the franchise tag this year, Jairus Byrd's would appear to have the biggest chance of getting ugly.

    The Pro Bowl safety has made no secret of the fact that he wants a long-term deal. In fact, Adam Benigni of WGRZ reports that Byrd is "demanding to be [the] highest paid safety in NFL."

    The Bills were reportedly offering top-five money, but given the relatively low tag amount for safeties in the NFL, the Bills weren't under a ton of pressure to cave in to Byrd's demands.

    Of course, since Byrd hasn't signed his tender, the Bills can't fine him.  This would allow Byrd to easily hold out until just before the season starts without losing a dime.

    Jeff Russo of WKBW reports that Byrd's agent had no comment about the fifth-year pro's plans, but this has all the makings of a standoff that could stretch well into training camp and quite possibly the preseason.

Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Franchise tag amount: $11.175 million

    If Jairus Byrd's situation has the best chance of getting ugly, then Michael Johnson's is likely the least surprising.

    Granted, the Bengals have the cap space to sign the 26-year-old Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks in 2012, to a long-term deal.

    However, there are a couple of reasons why no one really expected them to.

    First, as Chris Wesseling of NFL.com points out, the Bengals haven't extended a player they hit with the franchise tag since Rudi Johnson in 2005.

    In fact, three of the last four players the Bengals tagged left in free agency the following year.

    Johnson now appears set to follow suit. According to Pro Football Talk the Bengals have signed fellow end Carlos Dunlap to a six-year, $40 million extension.

    That, combined with the impending free agency of star defensive tackle Geno Atkins, all but spells the end of Johnson's time in Cincinnati after this year.

Pat McAfee, P, Indianapolis Colts

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    Franchise tag amount: 2.977 million

    Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee is coming off a career year, setting franchise records in both gross (48.2 yards) and net (40.3 yards) punting averages in 2012.

    According to Mike Chappell of The Indianapolis Star, it's unknown whether the team made any effort to sign McAfee to a long-term deal, but the 26-year-old has already signed his tender.

    I’m ecstatic about the opportunity to be an Indianapolis Colt for at least another year. A long-term deal is obviously something that every player hopes to one day earn. But to have another year in a city that I love, playing for a team with the best locker room in the league and representing a fan base that is the best in the NFL is awesome.

    History isn't on the side of McAfee staying in Indy after this year. The last player to play under the franchise tag for the Colts was running back Edgerrin James in 2005.

    The next year, James was in Arizona with the Cardinals.

Henry Melton, DT, Chicago Bears

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    Franchise tag amount: $8.45 million

    After a solid fourth season that included his first trip to the Pro Bowl, defensive tackle Henry Melton has established himself as a rising star at his position.

    The 26-year-old has now tallied 13 sacks over the past two years, and while Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports that there was some "chatter" between the two sides regarding a long-term deal, Monday's deadline came and went without that deal getting done.

    Melton, for his part, has given zero indication that he intends to drag his feet about reporting to camp.

    I can only control what I can control, and that's my performance on the field. It's kind of like when you have strong feelings for a place — you want to stay there long term. Of course you want to get something done, but it's pretty much out of my hands.

    Assuming that Melton doesn't backslide significantly this year, the odds are better than ever that he'll get that long-term deal next offseason.

Anthony Spencer, DE, Dallas Cowboys

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    Franchise tag amount: $10.63 million

    After a 2012 campaign that saw Anthony Spencer tally career highs in tackles and sacks, one would think that the Dallas Cowboys would be eager to lock the 29-year-old up long-term.

    Calvin Watkins of ESPN reports that the Cowboys and Spencer worked on a deal for much of the summer before suspending talks in late June, but in this instance the Cowboys might be better off exercising patience.

    For starters, Spencer is moving to defensive end this year in the Cowboys new 4-3 defense, a position he hasn't played since his collegiate days at Purdue.

    Second, Dallas isn't exactly swimming in cap space in the short or long-term, due to the restructuring of numerous contracts.

    The prudent course of action may well be to wait and see if Spencer's 2012 breakout was the beginning of a trend or a fluke, before committing themselves to the seventh-year veteran for the long haul.

Randy Starks, DT, Miami Dolphins

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    Franchise tag amount: $8.45 million

    Randy Starks may be one of the National Football League's better defensive tackles, but the Miami Dolphins don't seem to have much interest in his being part of the team past 2013.

    Jason La Canfora of CBS reports that the Dolphins have made no effort to extend Starks past 2013.

    According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, that came as something of a surprise to Starks, but the 29-year-old has no intention of skipping part of training camp in protest.

    Given the reported gap between the two sides in negotiations before the Dolphins tagged Starks, chances are he will play out the proverbial string before hitting the open market next spring.