The deadline by which NFL teams had to apply franchise tags has come and gone, leaving teams with exactly eight days to either come to terms with their impending, non-tagged free agents, or risk losing them when the market opens up next Tuesday.
Ultimately, 21 players were tagged, with 29 percent of those “franchise players” being kickers and punters. Here’s a final tally:
(In order of appearance; salary numbers are estimates.)
1. Eagles: WR DeSean Jackson ($9.4 million) – Philly is saying it is committed to getting a long-term deal done, but a trade isn’t a far-fetched notion at all.
2. Falcons: CB Brent Grimes ($10.6 million) – This could be the beginning of a soap opera, because there’s a chance Grimey holds out.
4. Cardinals: DE Calais Campbell ($10.6 million) – He’s approaching the peak of his career, but $10 million-plus is a lot of guaranteed money for a team with little cap space. I’d imagine they’ll get a deal done.
5. 49ers: S Dashon Goldson ($6.2 million) – Goldson’s getting a huge raise after performing wonderfully under a one-year deal in 2011. Maybe the Niners will make him prove it in another “contract year.” Either way, this doesn’t bode well for Carlos Rogers, who’s likely to hit free agency. The good news is San Fran has the cash to sign Goldson and Rogers and give a long-term deal to Alex Smith.
6. Bengals: K Mike Nugent ($2.6 million) – Nugent gets a $2-million raise after a superb 2011 season.
7. Browns: K Phil Dawson ($3.8 million) – The 37-year-old has been with Cleveland since 1999. He’s coming off a great year, so the team might give him a long-term deal despite his age.
8. Raiders: S Tyvon Branch ($6.2 million) – The Raiders can’t afford to lose their top defensive back, but they also can’t really afford to give him over $6 million upfront, so they’ll be working hard on a long-term deal for the 25-year-old.
9. Redskins: TE Fred Davis ($5.4 million) – Coming off a big year despite a late-season suspension. This is the safest and smartest strategy, because they’ll get their money back if he screws up again.
10. Bears: RB Matt Forte ($7.7 million) – The Bears can afford to pay Forte long term, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense from a business standpoint. Forte and Rice are both 25 years old, but sadly, the smartest strategy the Ravens and Bears can take is to tag them for the next two seasons.
11. Saints: QB Drew Brees ($16.1 million) — If the two sides are as far apart as indicated, it’s possible this ordeal will cost the Saints free agents Carl Nicks, Marques Colston and Tracy Porter.
12. Jaguars: K Josh Scobee ($2.6 million) — His agent says he has no plans to sign the tender, but it seems we’ve heard that from every agent. This is just an easy route to take with kickers at an inexpensive number.
13. Lions: DE Cliff Avril ($10.6 million) — This was widely expected after Avril played last season under an RFA tender. I fear the two sides simply don’t see eye-to-eye at all, which could mean a holdout’s coming.
14. Titans: S Michael Griffin ($6.2 million) — They gave it to Griffin rather than Cortland Finnegan. Griffin’s a year younger and a lot cheaper, but Finnegan obviously plays a more premium position. The free-agent market also looks shallow at the safety position, but it’s surprising that they appear to be letting Finnegan walk.
15. Broncos: K Matt Prater ($2.6 million) — Again, this is just an easy route to take with kickers at an inexpensive number.
16. Cowboys: OLB Anthony Spencer ($8.8 million) — The key here is that Dallas will get a quality pass rusher at a bit of a bargain rate, since Spencer is technically a linebacker and not a defensive end. It wouldn’t kill the team to pay him that in 2012, and he might not be worth gambling the future on with a long-term deal.
17. Patriots: WR Wes Welker ($9.4 million) — I wouldn’t be surprised if this sticks through July and becomes a contentious issue in August. The Pats aren’t in the business of giving big, long-term money to 31-year-olds.
18. Chiefs: WR Dwayne Bowe ($9.4 million) — There’s also a decent chance Bowe plays with the tag in 2012, because he’s asking for a lot of long-term money but Kansas City has a lot of short-term money.
19. Colts: DE Robert Mathis (
$10.6 million) — This is just to buy time. The two sides are just crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on a long-term deal to keep the 31-year-old in town. He’s extremely consistent opposite Dwight Freeney, and they obviously feel he’ll be able to make a seamless jump to the 3-4.
20. Giants: P Steve Weatherford ($2.5 million) — Only the third punter to ever be franchised, Weatherford was a Super Bowl hero. This is only a formality as the two sides work out something long term.
21. Chiefs: K Connor Barth ($2.6 million) –The guy hit 26 of 28 attempts in 2011, so it’s worth it regardless of what happens.
* Teams have until July 16 to sign tagged players to long-term contracts.
Ultimately, the Chargers decided not to tag Vincent Jackson, making him the most intriguing soon-to-be free-agent receiver. And quarterback Matt Flynn was left alone by the Packers, adding some intrigue to the QB carousel this offseason.
Other notable players who either weren’t tagged or couldn’t be tagged: Brandon Lloyd, Carl Nicks and Marques Colston, Scott Wells, Chris Myers, Mario Williams, Paul Soliai, Red Bryant, Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan, Carlos Rogers and LaRon Landry. We’ll have a full, detailed list before the market opens next week.