AFC East: 2014 NFL Franchise/Transition Tags

Franchise/transition tags: Jets

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
8:00
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The New York Jets haven't utilized the franchise tag since 2011, when they slapped it on linebacker David Harris. At the time, it wasn't used as negotiating leverage; it was merely insurance, keeping Harris off the market as they worked toward a long-term contract. There was little doubt they'd get it done.

This offseason, they're unlikely to use the tag -- unless it's a Harris-type situation. Their top unrestricted free agents are right tackle Austin Howard and placekicker Nick Folk. The Jets would like to retain both, but the projected cost could be prohibitive. The 2013 franchise-tag amounts for an offensive lineman and kicker were $9.8 million and $3 million, respectively -- and those numbers are projected to increase to $11 million and $3.4 million.

The Jets absolutely want to lock up Howard before he hits the open market, and they will work diligently to get that done by March 11, the start of free agency. If they progress toward a deal but can't quite finalize it by March 3 (the tag deadline), it's possible they could use the tag to buy themselves more time. But $11 million is a huge hit, and it's hard to imagine them extending themselves that much. Ultimately, Howard probably will sign a contract in the neighborhood of $4 million to $5 million per year. He made $2 million last season playing for the restricted tender.

Kicking salaries are soaring around the league (at least nine kickers make at least $3 million a year, according to overthecap.com), and Folk is looking to make a big score. He deserves it after his best season. He made only $780,000 last season on a one-year contract (his fourth straight one-year deal), and he's looking for security. Who can blame him? He was the 24th-highest paid kicker in 2013, according to overthecap.com. Traditionally, the Jets are frugal when it comes to kickers and punters. Folk is a "Folk hero," according to Rex Ryan; we'll see if the bosses are willing to pay him like one. The feeling is that Folk is a more likely tag candidate than Howard.

Franchise/transition tags: Dolphins

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
8:00
AM ET
The window has opened Monday for all 32 NFL teams to use the franchise tag on star players. The Miami Dolphins have used the tag two of the past three years, on defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, respectively.

Grimes
Grimes
Will Miami utilize the franchise tag in 2014?

I expect the Dolphins to use the exclusive tag on Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes this year. Miami cannot afford to lose its most consistent defensive player from last season and also one of the few proven corners in its secondary. Perhaps the nonexclusive tag is a possibility, considering no team would want to give up two first-round picks for Grimes. The transition tag would be too dangerous, as other teams could outbid Miami for the star corner.

Grimes was phenomenal in 2013 after signing a one-year contract. He tied for the team lead with four interceptions. But Grimes’ coverage was so consistent that opposing quarterbacks often threw to the weaker corner on the other side.

Grimes also showed he could bounce back 100 percent from Achilles surgery in 2012. He made his second Pro Bowl and even got an interception in that game. I asked Grimes at the end of the season if this was his best year, and he said it was.

The Dolphins have a lot of free agents this year. But Grimes is the only legitimate candidate for the franchise tag. The Dolphins will try to work out a long-term extension with Grimes, but the one-year franchise tag is a major bargaining chip in the team’s favor.

Miami would be wise to tag Grimes if both sides cannot reach an agreement soon. There is flexibility with the tag that still allows both sides to negotiate an extension well into the summer. The worst mistake the Dolphins could make is to let Grimes hit the open market on March 11, when there is a solid chance a bidding war could commence and Grimes might not return.

Franchise/transition tags: Patriots

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
8:00
AM ET
Monday marks the first day NFL teams can use the franchise/transition tag, and cornerback Aqib Talib and receiver Julian Edelman are the team's two top free agents.

Would the Patriots consider using the franchise tag on them?

Talib
Talib
A franchise tag on either player would cost approximately $11 million on a one-year deal, making it highly unlikely the team does.

There is one scenario, however, in which a tag wouldn't be completely shocking.

In 2010, the Patriots used the franchise tag on defensive tackle Vince Wilfork as a vehicle to buy more time in negotiations on a long-term extension. At that point, the Patriots and Wilfork had reached the red zone in contract talks and just needed a little more time to push the deal across the goal line.

The Patriots tagged Wilfork to protect their asset, both sides played nice with public statements and a long-term deal eventually got done.

We could envision that type of scenario with Talib. Not so much Edelman.

But, on the whole, we'd call it more of a long shot.

Franchise/transition tags: Bills

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
8:00
AM ET
It's that time of year again.

Monday marks the first day that teams can designate franchise and transition players who are otherwise set to become free agents. The window for making the decision is relatively short; teams have until March 3 to tag a pending free agent.

Byrd
Need a quick refresher on the rules? Under the current CBA, each team is allowed to use only one of the designations -- franchise or transition player -- but not both. If a team assigns the franchise tag to a player, it can be one of two varieties: the exclusive version (more costly, but it means other teams cannot negotiate with the player) or the non-exclusive version (less costly, but other teams can negotiate).

Because the transition tag does not include any compensation if another team signs a player to an offer sheet, it is highly unlikely that the Buffalo Bills -- or any other team -- will use it. The transition tag is effectively obsolete in the NFL.

But what about the franchise tag? In all likelihood, there are only two players whom the Bills would consider naming their franchise player: safety Jairus Byrd and kicker Dan Carpenter.

Why Byrd? He's one of the better safeties in the NFL, snagging 22 interceptions in the first five seasons of his career. Unless the Bills can win a bidding war on the open market for Byrd -- who is set to become an unrestricted free agent -- then the franchise tag could be their best option to keep him in Buffalo.

Of course, that's what the Bills did last season, tagging Byrd in February for $6.9 million. That started a summer-long contract dispute that led to Byrd sitting out all of training camp before signing his guaranteed tender. If Byrd gets tagged again -- it will have to be at 120 percent of his prior year's salary, or $8.3 million, unless the safety tender is higher -- then it would be reasonable to expect the same results this summer.

The Bills could decide that $8.3 million is too rich for Byrd. Some teams don't value the safety position as highly as others and may not be willing to give $8 million to anyone other than a quarterback or top offensive playmaker. That's a decision the Bills will need to make within the next two weeks.

If they decide to pass on franchising Byrd, another option is Carpenter. Despite being signed shortly before the regular-season opener, Carpenter enjoyed the best season of his career. The Bills may want to keep Carpenter around, and while they would have to make him one of the highest-paid kickers in the league, it comes with no long-term commitment and, compared to Byrd, a small price tag.

Then again, the Bills could decide that a kicker is too interchangeable a position to warrant the franchise tag. In addition to Carpenter, the Bills have Dustin Hopkins, a sixth-round pick last season, on their roster at kicker. If they believe Hopkins, who spent all of last season on injured reserve, is a dependable option at kicker, they could simply let Carpenter walk and not use the franchise tag at all.

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