Biggest NFL Franchise Tag Winners and Losers

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IMarch 6, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Matt Flynn #10 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass during the first quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won the game 31-27.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Let's break down the winners and losers of the NFL's franchise-tag deadline that passed Monday at 4:00 p.m. EST.

WINNERS

QB Matt Flynn

Things would have gotten complicated had the Packers franchised Flynn Monday. He obviously wants to be a starting quarterback next season, but there's no way he wanted the Packers to control his destination.

Now that he'll be an unrestricted free agent, options open up for Flynn. He's free to find his best situation, where ever that may be. There also won't be any trade that would have sapped a draft pick or two from the team he was going to.  

WR Vincent Jackson

Without the franchise tag slapped on him for a second straight year, Jackson is now in line to make a fortune on the open market. He's the top receiver available and should have a number of teams lining up to make him an offer.

A yearly salary of $10-12 million with $15 million or more in guarantees isn't out of the cards for Jackson this spring. He'd be facing another year of contractual uncertainty had the Chargers tagged him again.   

Buffalo Bills

The Bills avoided using their franchise tag on Stevie Johnson when they got the young, talented receiver to sign on the dotted line Monday. It's very possible that the Bills could have watched Johnson walk in free agency had a deal not been done.

The franchise-tag deadline surely got the two sides to concentrate on getting a reasonable deal accomplished. Sometimes a little incentive goes a long ways. 

New England Patriots

A long-term deal would have been a better scenario for Wes Welker, but the Patriots now have time to get that deal ironed out.

The real win for the Patriots comes from players who didn't receive the franchise tag Monday. Mario Williams, Vincent Jackson and Brandon Lloyd all avoided the tag and could be targets for New England once free agency begins on March 13.    

Kickers

Five teams used their franchise tag on kickers: Bengals (Mike Nugent), Browns (Phil Dawson), Broncos (Matt Prater), Jaguars (Josh Scobee), Buccaneers (Connor Barth). The Giants tagged punter Steve Weatherford.

In a year when a record 21 teams used the tag, the specialists look like the big winners. Nothing like devaluing the meaning of "franchise" tag by slapping it on the kickers.  

LOSERS

New Orleans Saints

It's been a week to forget for the Saints. Not only has the bounty scandal hammered their public relations, but their recent personnel moves now leave the Saints in a precarious situation leading into free agency.

The team couldn't get a long-term deal done with Drew Brees, which forced the Saints to slap the tag on their franchise quarterback. That reality leaves top free agents such as Carl Nicks, Marques Colston and Robert Meachem vulnerable to getting snagged away from New Orleans.

There's plenty of unhappy campers in Saints' camp this week.

Running Backs

Sure, Ray Rice and Matt Forte will make $7.7 million in guaranteed money next season. But for two players so important to their respective teams, one-year deals have to be a scary proposition.

Running backs can break down in the blink of an eye, and the window to secure a long-term deal isn't very big now for backs. Rice and Forte will push hard for multi-year contracts in the coming months.

Philadelphia Eagles

In the end, the Eagles probably had to tag DeSean Jackson. But this is in no way the best-case scenario for either side. Jackson turned cancerous last season and quit on his team down the stretch in a contract year.

Will he be better on a one-year, guaranteed contract under the franchise tender? The Eagles are paying $9.4 million to a big risk next season. Jackson's trade value right now is low, too.

CB Cortland Finnegan

The Titans tagged Michael Griffin and never really considered slapping it on Finnegan. With no contract negotiations in place, Finnegan will reach the open market on March 13 and eventually will leave Tennessee.

You got the feeling that Finnegan wanted to be back with the Titans, but the team wanted nothing to do with a guy who will command $10 million a year on the open market. Finnegan will win money-wise, but there's a pretty good argument to be made that he desired a chance to remain in Tennessee.  

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