Tag, you’re it.
Then again, this isn’t a game we are talking about.
However, before we discuss who we think will get the designation from each club, let’s look at some likely candidates who apparently won’t be tagged or a team that won’t use the option in 2014.
According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the San Francisco 49ers will not franchise a player in 2014. Elsewhere, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald believes that the New England Patriots will not use the tag on Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib, and NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport (h/t NFL.com) reports that Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, the team’s franchise player in 2013, won’t get the tag for a second straight year.
As far as who might be tagged in the next few weeks, we present the following. Keep in mind that 21 players got the franchise tag in 2012, but that number fell to eight last offseason.
Finally, no one actually knows what the 2014 franchise-tag numbers will be at each position until they are announced. However, Joel Corry of CBS Sports made some projections a few months ago that should give us a ballpark.
If all goes to according to form, that’s exactly where each of the teams hope these players will be performing in 2014.
Note: Thanks to Spotrac (subscription required) for their financial info on these performers.
While the Baltimore Ravens were busy winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2012, wide receiver Anquan Boldin was busy leading the team in catches both during the regular season and the playoffs.
During that same season, tight end Dennis Pitta was tied for second on the club with 61 receptions during the regular season and then added 14 more (three for touchdowns) in the postseason.
With Boldin off to San Francisco last offseason, Pitta was expected to assume the role of quarterback Joe Flacco’s top target. But a hip injury sidelined him for three-quarters of 2013, and the sure-handed pass-catcher was limited to 20 grabs (one touchdown) in four games.
With fellow tight end Ed Dickson and veteran wide receiver Jacoby Jones being potential free agents as well, it seems logical that the Ravens won’t let Pitta get away under any circumstances.
The former sixth-round draft choice from the University of Mississippi has seen a meteoric rise. Only Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis (19.5) and St. Louis Rams defensive end Robert Quinn (19) totaled more sacks than the 15 racked up by Hardy in 2013. A year earlier, the Pro Bowl defender amassed 11 sacks opposite defensive end Charles Johnson.
Consider this: In his first two seasons in the NFL, Hardy totaled a combined seven sacks. In his final two regular-season outings in 2013, he equaled that number.
The Panthers gave up the second-fewest yards, allowed the second-fewest points in the league and led the NFL with 60 sacks this past season. It’s hard to imagine they would let one of their emerging stars get away so easily.
You are almost hesitant to make any kind of a prediction regarding the Cleveland Browns these days.
By now, everyone who cares is aware of the latest shake-up with the organizations, which was well-documented by Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
So what does that mean for a pair of Pro Bowlers who could become unrestricted free agents in less than one month?
Many expect that either center Alex Mack or strong safety T.J. Ward will get the franchise tag. We opt to go with the latter.
The former second-round pick enjoyed a banner year (no pun intended) in 2013, finishing second on the team with 112 tackles while totaling 1.5 sacks, one fumble recovery and two interceptions. Ward, who played in all 16 games for the first time since his rookie campaign in 2102, also knocked down seven passes and returned two of his three takeaways for touchdowns.
With defensive-minded Mike Pettine now at the helm, bigger and better things could be in store for the rangy defender this fall.
We took the time to do a little math.
Franchise has nine letters. In some circles, you would think it is a four-letter word.
However, first things first. Last offseason, the Miami Dolphins were one of the league’s busiest teams. While the signing of free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace garnered the headlines, the addition of cornerback Brent Grimes went somewhat under the radar.
After missing all but one game in 2012, the former Pro Bowler for the Atlanta Falcons was now a Pro Bowler for the Dolphins. Grimes totaled 60 tackles (52 solo) and led Miami with four interceptions and 16 passes defensed this past season. With him coming off that aforementioned injury-shortened season, even the Dolphins had to be surprised by his performance.
Now securing the services of the Pro Bowl cornerback has to rank among the Dolphins’ offseason priorities. Perhaps the team and Grimes can work out a long-term deal soon. A franchise tag “is not what anybody wants,” said Grimes to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Simply put, the numbers are pretty impressive.
In four seasons in the Big Easy, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has made it look easy. He has totaled 301 catches, 41 for scores, in just 62 games. In each of the last three seasons, the former third-round draft choice and two-time Pro Bowler has caught at least 85 passes.
In 2013, quarterback Drew Brees threw 39 touchdown passes, and 16 of them went to Graham, who led the NFL in that latter category.
It is unfathomable that Graham and the Saints would part ways. Then again, what would it take to keep the talented tight end from breaking the bank elsewhere? If the parties are unable to come up with a long-term contract soon, there’s little doubt that the organization would risk losing its big-play performer.
It’s almost easy to forget what a solid season that Tennessee Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner had in 2013.
That’s because the team has been forgettable as of late.
The Titans have not been to the playoffs since 2008, and after three years under Mike Munchak, the team will now go with new head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Last season proved to be disappointing. Tennessee dropped eight of its last 12 games following a 3-1 start.
However, Verner enjoyed a career season. The former fourth-round pick totaled 57 tackles, five interceptions and an impressive 23 passes defensed. The Titans forced 25 turnovers in 2013, and Verner contributed seven of them.
A first-time Pro Bowler in 2013, the Tennessee defender has 11 interceptions and five fumble recoveries in four NFL seasons. He has also knocked down 51 passes over that span. He appears to be a solid long-term investment for a team that is overdue for a return to the playoffs.