NFL free agency starts March 13 and the franchise tag assigning period begins later this month. Anything can happen, but let’s look at a franchise tag candidate for each team in the AFC West:
Denver Broncos, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley: Bunkley played tremendously last season for Denver and he was an unsung hero on an improved defense. He is a priority to re-sign. But I think Denver would likely consider giving him a long-term deal instead of giving him the franchise tag. Kicker Matt Prater could also be a candidate to get the tag.
Kansas City Chiefs, receiver Dwayne Bowe: He is one of the most interesting free agents in the division. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli has a reputation for signing his top talent to long-term deals and the Chiefs have said Bowe is a priority. If he gets to free agency, there is a chance he’d get a monster deal elsewhere. I think the Chiefs will consider giving Bowe the franchise tag if he doesn’t re-sign. Cornerback Brandon Carr is another priority, but Bowe may have a better chance of getting franchised.
Oakland Raiders, running back Michael Bush: This is the one everyone is looking at. Bush is a backup but he may get tagged because Oakland starter Darren McFadden has a history of injuries. If Bush is tagged, it could also be a sign Oakland would be open to trading McFadden to recoup lost draft picks. If Bush gets on the open market, he will very likely leave because he will get paid to be a starter.
San Diego Chargers, receiver Vincent Jackson: There are many options here. If Jackson -- who was tagged last year -- is not franchised, the Chargers could easily lose him. Jackson has stated he wants to remain in San Diego, but can the Chargers risk getting in a bidding war for the Pro Bowler? Still, giving him the franchise tag, could limit the Chargers from doing other things in free agency. I think the team would like to secure a long-term deal with Jackson prior to the start of free agency, but because there are no guarantees, placing the franchise tag on Jackson may be the end result.