Franchise tags were handed out yesterday like candy at Halloween as a record 21 tags were issued to players around the league. We are going to examine how each tag affects each player and what that means to the free agent market.
Players that receive franchise tags are for all practical purposes extracted from free agency. Aside from an elite quarterback, no team is going to give up a pair of first-round draft picks for a free agent. It hasn’t happened in years and it’s not likely to happen again anytime soon.
Here is a list of the tagged players and how their tags affect themselves, their teams and the rest of the marketplace.
Drew Brees, Saints– Brees was the only recipient of the “Exclusive Franchise Tag” meaning no team can negotiate with him. The Saints had to pay a premium to place this type of tag upon him but doing so was a wise move. Quarterback needy teams such as Miami or Washington may very well have ponied up their next two firsts for a Hall of Fame caliber signal caller.
Brees getting tagged means the Saints, who are already tight against the cap will have to say goodbye to a few of their own free agents, likely guard Carl Nicks and wide receiver Marques Colston.
Calais Campbell, Cardinals– The former second-round pick means that yet another defensive end is off the market, likely putting a few extra dollars into the account of the Jaguars, Jeremy Mincey who will hit free agency.
Brent Grimes, Falcons– Atlanta couldn’t afford to lose their best cover man and this tag gives he and the team more time to get a long-term deal done.
Ray Rice, Ravens– The Ravens would ultimately like to get a new deal done with Rice but they can’t afford to let him hit free agency. Rice, a two-time Pro Bowler is one of the league’s elite backs and he will likely receive upwards of $10 million per year.
Matt Forte, Bears– The Chicago running back has been searching for a new deal for quite a while but never threatened the team with holding out. Hopefully, Forte’s loyalty will be rewarded by the Bears.
Mike Nugent, Bengals– The franchise number for kickers is fairly low and it makes good business sense for Cincy to use the tag on Nugent.
Phil Dawson, Browns– With Cleveland coming to terms with D’Quell Jackson last week, the tag was opened up for Dawson, an above average kicker.
Anthony Spencer, Cowboys– The franchise tag was somewhat of a surprise as Spencer had a down year, but this affords Dallas to give Spencer another season to see if he’s the dominant player of a couple years ago or the mediocre player of 2011.
Matt Prater, Broncos– The former UCF alum has one of the strongest legs in football and he was in the running for Broncos team MVP. The franchise tag is a no-brainer.
Cliff Avril, Lions– It’s unclear whether Avril is a great pass rusher on his own or if he needs the help of his ultra-talented teammates on the defensive line but either way the marriage works out great for Detroit. Avril being franchised makes free agents Mario Williams and Jeremy Mincey worth even more on the open market.
Robert Mathis, Colts– North of 30 years old, it really doesn’t make sense that Indianapolis, a team clearly in rebuilding will franchise their second-best defensive end. Apparently the Colts believe that they will compete for a title this year with a rookie quarterback.
Josh Scobee, Jaguars– Jacksonville let punter Adam Podlesh test free agency last year and he landed in Chicago. The Jags couldn’t find a viable replacement and that won’t let the same happen with Scobee, one of the league’s better kickers. This opens up free agency for Jeremy Mincey.
Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs– This is a no-brainer as Bowe is clearly the Chiefs best wideout. The tag on Bowe allows cornerback Brandon Carr the opportunity to be paid somewhere else.
Wes Welker, Patriots– Welker is worth more in New England than anywhere else and the Patriots wouldn’t have found a viable replacement for him in free agency. The tag was the only solution.
Steve Weatherford, Giants– The journeyman punter turned into one of the heroes of New York’s Super Bowl run. They will likely try to get a long-term deal done in the next month or two.
Tyvon Branch, Raiders– With Oakland cutting Stanford Routt, losing two members of their secondary would have been too much to overcome in one offseason.
DeSean Jackson, Eagles– The Eagles were lukewarm about bringing back the troubled, yet speedy receiver, but they can still trade him. It made poor business sense to let Jackson walk in a free agent market which would have made him a very rich man.
Dashon Goldson, 49ers– Goldson may have been the game’s best safety last season and San Francisco couldn’t let him leave. This does open up the possibility of 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers moving on to the highest bidder.
Connor Barth, Buccaneers– If you have a good kicker it doesn’t make sense to let them test free agency.
Michael Griffin, Titans– Griffin is a former Pro Bowl safety so this will lock him up for at least another year. More importantly, this allows cornerback Cortland Finnegan to hit the market as free agency’s best at a premium position.
Fred Davis, Redskins– Washington will try to work out a long-term deal with Davis as they feel he can be a cornerstone of their offense. This likely means the end of Chris Cooley’s productive years, at least in Washington.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie