A look at potential franchise tag targets for each of the AFC North teams. The window for tagging players opens Monday and closes March 5.
The Bengals haven't used the franchise tag much, and it hasn't worked the times that they did. Cincinnati placed the tag on versatile offensive lineman Stacy Andrews in 2008 when he wasn't a full-time starter, and he went to the Philadelphia Eagles the following season. In 2009, kicker Shayne Graham expressed his frustration over being given the tag and ended the season by missing two field goals in the AFC wild-card playoff game against the New York Jets.
While the odds are against the Bengals using the franchise tag this year, here are the options:
Top candidate: Mike Nugent, kicker. He was the league's most accurate kicker until late in the season when he missed four field goals over the final three games. So, the price of the tag (an estimated $2.6 million for this season) isn't too costly considering Nugent's effectiveness. This is also a way of keeping Nugent off the free-agent market and increasing the chances of reaching a long-term deal. Denver's Matt Prater is another kicker who is expected to get the franchise tag.
Dark horse: Reggie Nelson, safety. Of the 20 unrestricted free agents on the Bengals, Nelson is among the top tier of players that Cincinnati wants to re-sign. There has been speculation that Nelson will follow former Bengals defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle, who is now the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator. So, Nelson could be gone if the Bengals sit on their hands. The problem is, the franchise tag for safeties is a steep $6.5 million. Even the Redskins aren't going to put that pricey tag on LaRon Landry. That would be overspending on Nelson.