Beginning Feb. 18, NFL teams will have the option to use their franchise tag on a player set to become a free agent. The formula for calculating how much the franchise tag is worth is tricky, but the intent is to pay that player a one-year salary that aligns with the average of other top-paid players at that position.
Based on their value to the team and on the open market, the Patriots have three players who seem like franchise tag candidates: wide receiver Wes Welker, cornerback Aqib Talib, and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer.
A brief look at what the franchise tag would mean for the trio, including the projected salary it would entitle each player (via NFL.com).
Wide receiver Wes Welker
Projected franchise tag salary: $11.4 million
Quick-hit: Welker received the franchise tag last offseason, meaning that if the team were to tag him again this year, he would be entitled to a 20 percent raise from his 2012 salary, per the collective bargaining agreement. After earning $9.5 million last year, Welker would make $11.4 million, more than the $10.357 million other receivers who were not tagged last offseason would be paid.
Cornerback Aqib Talib
Projected franchise tag salary: $10.668 million
Quick-hit: Cover corners are coveted entities on the free agent market, and if Talib makes it there, he may have some suitors willing to pay big bucks for his services. The last time the Patriots had a big-name free-agent cornerback (Asante Samuel in 2007), they applied the franchise tag. Time will tell if the same fate awaits Talib.
Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer
Projected franchise tag salary: $9.66 million
Quick-hit: The steep salary for a right tackle – which isn’t considered a premium position – is rooted in the fact that the franchise tag for offensive linemen takes into account the entire pool of linemen, not just a single position. With notable contracts handed out to left tackles (the premier offensive-line position) such as Joe Thomas of the Browns, salaries for offensive linemen that are franchised are inflated. Nonetheless, given his performance last season, Vollmer may come under consideration for the one-year tag.