AFC South: 2014 NFL Franchise/Transition Tags AFC

Franchise/transition tags: Texans

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
A long-term deal is almost always the better option for a player than being placed under the franchise tag. Sometimes it's also better for a team, many of which use it as a last resort.

That's how the Texans have viewed the designation of late. The franchise and lesser used transition tags offer tighter deadlines and windows which don't jive with the way Houston has done business.

Typically, the Texans re-sign players they want to keep the year before their contracts expire, a process spearheaded by general manager Rick Smith and vice president of football administration Chris Olsen. The players they can't reach deals with are sometimes ones they're willing to let go in free agency, as was the case with Connor Barwin and Glover Quin last offseason.

A franchise tag allows a team to restrict the movement of one pending free agent. Today the window for applying it and a transition tag, which is a similar concept but less restrictive, begins.

Tagging a player puts his next year's salary among the top five to 10 at his position. The top Houston players hitting free agency this year are nose tackle Earl Mitchell, defensive end Antonio Smith (one of the highest tag numbers), offensive guard Wade Smith and running back Ben Tate.

Of those, Mitchell and Tate are most likely gone. Tate will cost more than the Texans will be willing to pay for him and Mitchell's skill set is better suited for a 4-3 defense.

As for Smith and Smith, the more veteran of the group, I wouldn't be surprised if they returned in some capacity, but I would be very surprised if the Texans franchised either of them.

Antonio Smith made $6 million last year and had a salary-cap number of $9.5 million. His franchise number would be $12.475 million according to a projection by Wade Smith made $3 million last year and had a cap number of $3.75 million, but his franchise number, raised by left tackle salaries, is projected to be $11.126 million.

Franchise/transition tags: Titans

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As good as Alterraun Verner was in 2013, it’s hard to imagine the Titans would view him as being worth the salary that will be tied to the franchise or transition tags for a cornerback.

Monday is the start of the window during which the teams can apply tags to pending free agents. Each team can use only one.

Verner had a cap number of $1.454 million in 2013, the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

Last year, the franchise-tag number for cornerbacks was $10.854 million, and the transition tag was $9.095 million.

A franchise tag means the player gets that salary guaranteed for one season. If another team signs him to an offer sheet and his current team doesn’t match it, his original team gets two first-round picks as compensation. That’s an exorbitant price.

A transition tag means the player gets that salary guaranteed for one season. If another team signs him to an offer sheet and his current team doesn’t match it, there is no compensation involved.

Verner was very productive in 2013, with five interceptions -- including one returned for a touchdown -- as well as 26 passes defensed and the eighth-most tackles on the team (73).

He’s got a knack for the ball and a great feel for where it will be heading, but he doesn’t have the speed or the size (he’s 5-foot-10, 186 pounds) teams expect from a top cornerback who’s getting top price.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean recently reported there has been minimal movement between Verner and the Titans. The two sides are expected to talk at the scouting combine in Indianapolis later this week.

I think the Titans value Verner and will make a fair offer.

But come March 11 and the start of free agency, I expect at least one other team will value him more and the Titans will be turning to Coty Sensabaugh or Blidi Wreh-Wilson as their No. 2 cornerback.

Franchise/transition tags: Colts

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
NFL teams can begin franchise tagging players on Monday. Only eight players received the franchise tag from their teams last year. Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee was one of those eight players. The Colts used the franchise tag to pay him $2.977 million last season.

Cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Antoine Bethea are two players the Colts could potentially use their tag on this year.

I’d say it’s a long shot, though, based on the amount of money paid out to cornerbacks and safeties by teams using the franchise tag last season.

The franchise-tag number for cornerbacks last season was $10.8 million; it was $6.9 million for safeties.

Davis has the talent to become one of the top cornerbacks in the league, but he didn’t show enough last season to make a jump from the $1.86 million he made to likely more than $10 million once the tag numbers for 2014 are set.

The tag number for safeties might hover around the $7 million mark again, and if that’s the case, it would be only a slight increase in pay for Bethea, who made $5.75 million last season.

Putting the franchise tag on Bethea would hurt him because he’ll be 30 years old in July, and there might not be too many more opportunities for him to sign a multiyear contract.

"It’s my first time really testing the market, so [I am] kind of excited," Bethea said in January. "Want to finish my career here, but if not, hey, got to go on and start a new chapter in my career."

Here is an explanation of the franchise-tag guidelines.