The Buffalo Bills have done a great job since the start of the 2013 season re-signing potential free agents with new contracts for Eric Wood at the beginning of the season and more recently Alan Branch and Brian Moorman.
The front office still has work left to do before free agency starts by finishing contracts with a number of other potential free agents.
If they are not able to reach a new contract with any of their free agents but want to retain them, they can use the franchise tag. If the Bills do decide to go this route, they would be able to keep a pending unrestricted free agent on a one-year contract.
Fans are well aware of this after last offseason's standoff between safety Jairus Byrd and the Buffalo Bills, when the team used the franchise tag on him last offseason. Byrd held out through all of training camp and signed the offer sheet shortly before the start of the season.
These are two key free agents on whom Buffalo could decide to use the franchise tag this year.
Jairus Byrd, S
It would not be the best option to use the franchise tag on Jairus Byrd, but it is better than the alternative of losing him to another team in free agency. The goal this year is to lock up Byrd to a long-term deal, but if the two sides are not able to come to an agreement, the Bills could use the franchise tag one more time.
This coming season, any safety playing under the franchise tag is expected to earn $8.1 million, according to NFL.com's Albert Beer. Salaries for the franchise tag is determined either by the average of the top five salaries or 120 percent of the player's previous year's salary. Last year, Byrd earned $6.916 million which means that if the Bills used the franchise tag they would have to pay him $8.29 million.
The money issue aside, if Buffalo was to use the franchise tag again it would almost guarantee that the 2014 season would be Byrd's last as a Buffalo Bill. The safety has been looking for a long-term deal for some time now, and if he is forced to play under another one-year deal, he would not be happy.
Dan Carpenter, K
The Bills brought in Dan Carpenter at the start of the season, and he went on to have one of the best seasons in team history. He tied Steve Christie for most field goals made in a season (33) and set the record for most field goals made over 50 yards (4). He made 91.7 percent of his field-goal opportunities this year which was good enough to finish in the Top 10.
The Bills don't have to bring back Carpenter, as they still have kicker Dustin Hopkins on the roster. However, this offense struggled mightily in the red zone, and having a reliable kicker is much more important. The salary to retain Carpenter under the franchise tag is pretty sizable at $3.4 million, but kicker proved this past year that he has the leg to kick in all conditions and can handle the wind in Ralph Wilson Stadium.