NFL Nation: 2014 NFL Franchise/Transition Tag NFC

Franchise/transition tag descriptions

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17

Franchise/transition tags: 49ers

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
Monday opens the window in which NFL teams can apply the franchise tag to players.

It appears unlikely the San Francisco 49ers will give out any significant tag to a pending free agent. Yes, the 49ers have priority free agents, but there are no natural fits for any of them to be franchised.

The priority free agents are receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown.

The team definitely wants Boldin, who had one of his best NFL seasons in his only year in San Francisco, to return. He was a vital part of the offense. However, Boldin is 33 and probably has one short-term deal left in his career. There is no chance it will make fiscal sense to give Boldin a one-year franchise tag. He will probably command $5-7 million a season, well short of the receiver franchise tag number.

Brown is not considered a top-flight cornerback and the franchise tag is reserved for the elite at the position.

The franchise tag numbers for safeties will likely be in the $7-8 million range. Whitner signed a three-year, $11.5 million deal in 2011. He is a key part of the defense and the 49ers need him back. If they sense the safety market will be robust, they could decide to use the franchise tag on Whitner. But I'm not sure the market will go that high. I wouldn't say Whitner getting the franchise tag is impossible, but it would be a surprise.

Dawson could have been a candidate to be franchised, but tagging him as such is virtually impossible. Two years ago, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees filed a grievance that spurred the ruling that a player receive a major pay raise when he is franchised for the third time. Dawson was franchised twice by the Browns. Thus, his pay for 2014 will be at the rate of a quarterback if the 49ers use the franchise tag on him. That will not happen.

Franchise/transition tags: Falcons

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
The franchise tag might have entered into play for the Atlanta Falcons this season had Matt Ryan's contract been an issue.

It isn't.

The quarterback was locked up prior to last season with a five-year, $103.75 million contract extension that included $59 million guaranteed. It kept 2013 from being the final year of his original six-year, $72 million rookie contract ($34.74 million guaranteed).

In others words, it won't be a concern for the Falcons once the first day for designating the franchise tag on a player comes Monday. The last time the Falcons used the franchise tag was on cornerback Brett Grimes in 2012 -- at a one-year price of $10.28 million -- as the two sides were unable to reach a long-term deal. Grimes, who suffered a season-ending Achilles' injury that year, now faces the possibility of being tagged again as the member of the Miami Dolphins.

As for the Falcons, they have no reason to designate a franchise player this year among a group of impending unrestricted free agents that includes defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry and Corey Peters. Some of the others bound for free agency include center Joe Hawley, tight end Chase Coffman and offensive tackle Mike Johnson. Free agency officially begins at 4 p.m. on March 11, although teams are allowed to negotiating with agents of players on other teams on March 9.

Maybe the franchise tag comes into play for the Falcons again if for some reason they can't get top receiver Julio Jones signed to a long-term deal before the 2015 season.

The deadline for designating franchise or transition players is 4 p.m. March 3. Eight players were slapped with the franchise tag last season.

Once a team designates a franchise player, it has until July 15 to work out a long-term extension with that player.

And once again, that shouldn't apply to the Falcons this year.

Franchise/transition tags: Packers

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There’s probably only one player among the Green Bay Packers' free agents-to-be who would warrant any consideration for being tagged, and that’s cornerback Sam Shields.

Like most teams, the Packers would prefer to do a long-term deal rather than implementing the franchise tag, which for cornerbacks this year is likely to be more than $11 million.

Although they have the salary-cap room to absorb it, they would rather not use nearly half of their existing salary-cap space for 2014 on one player. The structure of a long-term deal with Shields would be such that it would allow them to assign him a much lower salary-cap figure for this season.

However, this has been and could continue to be a prolonged negotiation with Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Last June, Rosenhaus flew to Green Bay for a face-to-face meeting with the Packers in an effort to get Shields -- then a restricted free agent who had been tendered at $2.023 million -- a long-term deal.

That didn’t happen, and Shields played in 2013 for the tender. He had his best season, further strengthening his negotiating power.

The fact that Shields entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent who received a signing bonus of just $7,500 makes this contract even more important for him because it’s his first -- and probably best -- shot at a blockbuster payday.

The Packers would like to retain Shields, and negotiations have been ongoing, but they might not be willing to use the tag to do it. Rosenhaus is expected to meet with the Packers face to face later this week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

If tight end Jermichael Finley weren't coming off a neck injury that required fusion surgery, then he could be a candidate for the tag like he was two years ago before he signed a $14 million contract. Now, with his playing career up in the air, there’s no chance the Packers will tag him.

Franchise/transition tags: Cowboys

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
IRVING, Texas -- The franchise-tag deadline will come and go without the Dallas Cowboys using it for one big reason: They don't have the cap room necessary to use it.

In 2012 and '13, the Cowboys used their franchise tag on outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Spencer, paying him roughly $19 million.

Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher would be the only candidate for the tag among the Cowboys' current free agents, but that would be a lot of cap space to use on a soon-to-be 32-year-old defensive tackle with just one season of more than four sacks.

Hatcher was added to the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season after posting a career-high 11 sacks. He took to the 4-3 scheme and wondered how his career might have been different had he played in it the entire time as opposed to the 3-4. In the 4-3, Hatcher was able to attack the passer more. In the 3-4, he was asked to two-gap and hold up blockers for the linebackers to make plays.

If Hatcher were a few years younger, the Cowboys' decision might be more difficult, but with all the maneuvering the Cowboys will have to do to get under the cap, it does not make good business sense to lock up an aging player to such a big piece of the pie.

The Cowboys could have to shed $20-25 million to get under the 2014 salary-cap figure once it's finalized. Some of the moves are rather easy, such as restructuring the contracts of Tony Romo and Sean Lee. The Cowboys have to make decisions on veterans such as DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin, as well, which could open up room.

The Cowboys would need to get under the cap by roughly $9 million more to fit what Hatcher would be paid under the tag. It is not impossible, but it's just not wise.

For years, the Cowboys have been willing to push it to the brink with the cap, but they have received no on-field payout, with just one playoff win since 1996.

It might be too late to be fiscally responsible, but passing on using the franchise tag this year makes sense.

Franchise/transition tags: Eagles

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
The Philadelphia Eagles don’t have an obvious target for use of the franchise or transition tag, which is mostly a positive thing.

It means they have most of their most important players under negotiated contracts and don’t have to anger anyone by using the tag to keep him from free agency. Using the tag has created bad feelings and problems for the Eagles in the past, most dramatically when they removed the tag from linebacker Jeremiah Trotter after weeks of bitter back-and-forth.

The negative aspect, of course, is that the players most likely to be tagged -- such as Jimmy Graham of the Saints and T.J. Ward of the Browns -- are from the 2010 draft class. The Eagles don’t have star players from that class they are fighting to keep.

Monday is the first day teams can apply franchise and transition tags to players. For an explanation of tags and their ramifications, click here.

Safety Nate Allen and wide receiver Riley Cooper were starters in 2013. The Eagles wouldn’t mind having both back. But they are not likely to want to pay them franchise-tag salaries -- likely to be more than $8 million for one season for safeties and $10 million-plus for wide receivers.

The Eagles took Allen one pick before Cleveland selected Ward. Four years later, the Eagles remain in dire need of safety help. They are apt to be affected more by Ward’s status than Allen’s. If Ward is on the market, the Eagles could be very interested in him. At the very least, he would expand the pool of free-agent safeties.

The Eagles’ first-round pick from 2010, Brandon Graham, still has another year on his rookie contract. Nine of the 10 other 2010 draftees on shorter deals are long gone. The 10th, safety and special-teams guy Kurt Coleman, is certainly not going to be tagged.

The Eagles’ most intriguing decision among their free-agents-to-be concerns wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. The 2009 first-round pick missed the entire 2013 season after tearing his ACL in training camp.

Could the Eagles use the tag to hang on to Maclin and try to work out a more reasonable deal? It’s possible, but not likely.

That’s how general manager Howie Roseman deployed the tag in 2012, the last time the Eagles used it. Roseman tagged wide receiver DeSean Jackson. By mid-March, Roseman had signed Jackson to a new five-year contract.

The difference here is that Maclin is coming off his second ACL surgery. The Eagles or another team might want him on a one-year, prove-it deal, but not at a guaranteed $10-11 million.

Franchise/transition tags: Rams

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The St. Louis Rams haven't used the franchise tag since 2009, when they slapped it on safety Oshiomogho Atogwe to ensure they wouldn't lose him on the free-agent market. Barring a major last-minute change of heart, the streak of not using a tag will extend to five years in 2014.

The Rams have their share of free agents, but only one really merits a conversation about whether to use the tag. Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold is the team's most important free agent, but he's also not the type of player the Rams will or should overextend themselves to retain, especially at the franchise tag price.

Since moving to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams have used the tag six times, with half of those tags used on a particular offensive lineman. That player was Orlando Pace, the team's franchise left tackle and a likely future Hall of Famer. The word franchise precedes the word tag for a reason. If you are going to use it and spend the money associated with it, it usually needs to be for a foundational player such as Pace.

As good as Saffold was in a relatively small sample size at guard in 2013 and for all his versatility (able to play anywhere but center effectively), his injury history alone makes using the tag too much of an expense. While the franchise tag dollars aren't set in stone just yet, the salary for an offensive lineman receiving the tag is expected to be in the neighborhood of $11 million. Even if the Rams released center Scott Wells and guard Harvey Dahl, the savings wouldn't be enough to cover that expense.

Rams general manager Les Snead has openly acknowledged a desire to retain Saffold, and keeping him should be a priority because of his tremendous upside at guard and overall versatility. But the Rams also have their limits on how much they can spend on a player who hasn't played a full season since he was a rookie in 2010. Using the tag on Saffold would cripple the team's salary-cap situation and preclude it from adding help elsewhere.

Keeping Saffold would allow the Rams more flexibility in free agency and the draft, but what they can justifiably spend to do it is about half of what the franchise tag would cost. For another year, at least, the Rams' franchise tag will go unused.
Teams around the NFL on Monday can begin designating franchise or transition players, but the Chicago Bears won’t be using any of the tags, according to an NFL source.

At the conclusion of the season, quarterback Jay Cutler seemed the most logical candidate for the franchise tag, but the Bears quashed that notion in January by signing him to a seven-year deal. In the weeks leading up to the new Cutler contract, Bears general manager Phil Emery talked about wanting to avoid placing the franchise tag on the quarterback. Had Chicago applied the tag, it would have been on the hook for what was expected to be more than a $16 million cap hit for 2014.

Instead, the Bears now are responsible for Cutler’s $22.5 million base salary for 2014, which obviously will consume a significant portion of the club’s salary-cap space.

How could that be? It’s fairly simple.

One component of Cutler’s new deal is that the team at any time can convert a portion of the quarterback’s base salary into a signing bonus that it can prorate over the life of the deal, which would lower his cap hit and free up money to sign other players. After 2014, Cutler counts for $15.5 million and $16 million against Chicago’s cap, figures more manageable than the $22.5 million hit for 2014.

So it’s logical the team would convert some of that base salary into a signing bonus sometime this offseason, especially considering the team currently is just approximately $796,000 below the cap.

In essence, the Bears paid a premium to secure Cutler for at least the next three years before going into a pay-as-you-go type of agreement over the next four years of the deal. Obviously, guaranteed-money commitments are the most significant handcuffs to teams in terms of the cap. But the Bears seemingly avoided that scenario in the future by the way they structured Cutler’s deal.

No other player on the roster is a legitimate candidate to receive the franchise tag or the rarely used transition tag. The Bears used the franchise tag last season to the tune of $8.45 million on defensive tackle Henry Melton, but he suffered a torn ACL on Sept. 22 at Pittsburgh. In 2012, the team applied the tag to running back Matt Forte before pulling it when the sides agreed to a long-term deal that July.

Outside of Cutler, a 2012 version of Melton would be the most logical candidate for the franchise tag. But there’s no way the Bears, even if there weren’t cap concerns, would commit close to $9 million in cap space to a player coming off a torn ACL. On the surface, several veterans on the roster would seem to be candidates for the tag. But the Bears wouldn't make such significant financial commitments to players at the end of their careers such as cornerback Charles Tillman and center Roberto Garza.

Franchise/transition tags: Panthers

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
It isn't a question of whether the Carolina Panthers want to use the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy. It's whether they can afford to.

Hardy, who had a team-best 15 sacks this past season, says he "would love" the franchise tag if that would help Carolina get its financial issues in order as far as a long-term deal after the 2014 season.

The problem is the tag would eat up about $12 million of an estimated $16 million to $17 million of salary-cap room for a cap-strapped team that has 21 unrestricted free agents.

And the Panthers already have more than $24 million committed to the defensive line in 2014, with $16.4 million of that going to end Charles Johnson.

Complicating issues is that Carolina has to decide whether to renegotiate a long-term deal for Cam Newton or activate the fifth-year option that is now available and deal with a long-term deal later for its franchise quarterback.

As general manager Dave Gettleman said after the season, Carolina won't be clear of its cap problems until after the 2015 season, "the good Lord willing and the creek don't rise."

Gettleman also was noncommittal about whether the team could keep Hardy.

"There isn't a team in this league that hasn't let a big dog walk out the door, and don't print that I'm saying he's going to go," he said two days after Carolina lost to San Francisco in the NFC playoffs.

"I'm just making a statement. There isn't anybody that hasn't done that. But again, there is a whole big puzzle we're putting together. And he's one of the pieces."

Hardy is a big piece. He played end and tackle and occasionally dropped into coverage for the league's second-ranked defense. He led the team not only in sacks but in quarterback pressures. He also was solid at stopping the run.

Coach Ron Rivera recently said after being named the Associated Press Coach of the Year that he couldn't imagine going into next year without Hardy, who has an alternate persona he calls "The Kraken."

Hardy made it clear throughout the season that he would like to return to Carolina, at one point saying he would give Carolina a "hometown discount" if the number was within reason.

The first-time Pro Bowl selection also spent Super Bowl week in New York City making a lot of radio and television appearances to make himself more visible to those who aren't aware of him.

Perhaps that's the reality that, if the Panthers don't use the franchise tag, he'll be able to make a lot more with another team, possibly NFC South rivals Atlanta and Tampa Bay, which are looking to upgrade their pass rush.

Hardy is willing to accept the $12 million a franchise tag would pay, which would be the best option for Carolina if it can afford that.

Whether it can afford that without hurting the rest of the team is the big question.

Franchise/transition tags: Vikings

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
MINNEAPOLIS -- NFL teams can use their franchise or transition tags on players for the first time Monday, and in reality, there's one Minnesota Vikings player that stirs up the most intrigue when it comes to this topic: Jared Allen.

The defensive end will hit free agency in March, after making more than $17 million in the final year of his deal with the Vikings. He will be 32 in April, and he'll be setting out onto the open market with seven straight double-digit sacks seasons to his name, including a 22-sack performance in 2011.

By using the franchise tag on Allen, the Vikings could get themselves one more year with Allen, keeping their defensive line together and giving new coach Mike Zimmer another proven pass rusher. However, the guess here is they won't.

In 2013, the franchise tag guaranteed defensive ends a salary of $11.175 million, and if the Vikings gave that kind of a deal to Allen, they'd give back almost half of the cap space they're likely to have available come March. That kind of a deal could make it difficult for them to re-sign 26-year-old defensive end Everson Griffen, who seems more likely to get a new deal from the Vikings than Allen does, and it would mean the Vikings would have more than $16 million wrapped up in two thirty-something defensive ends (Allen and Brian Robison) when they have numerous other issues to address on defense and, at least at the moment, a hole at the quarterback position.

Allen surged to finish last season with 11½ sacks, but looked at times like he was cheating toward the pass rush at the expense of stopping the run. He said in December he would retire before taking a job as a situational pass-rusher, and while he'd possibly change his mind if offered the chance to still post sacks while getting some snaps to rest, the Vikings don't seem like the team to bring him back in that kind of a role, with their other commitments at the position. That seems especially unlikely at the franchise tag's expected salary figure.

There's a remote possibility the Vikings could put the transition tag on Griffen, but it seems more likely they will work out a new multi-year deal for him with a more team-friendly structure. The team had preliminary talks with Griffen's agent about a deal during the season, and Griffen has said he wants to stay in Minnesota.

Franchise/transition tags: Saints

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
Monday is the first day that NFL teams can begin using franchise or transition tags on their free agents -- which means we're inching closer to one of the more fascinating contract debates in recent history between the New Orleans Saints and Jimmy Graham.

At some point between now and the March 3 deadline, the Saints will use their franchise tag on Graham, unless they work out a long-term contract extension first (which seems highly unlikely).

When that happens, Graham and agent Jimmy Sexton are expected to file a grievance through the NFL Players Association claiming that Graham should officially be franchised as a wide receiver instead of a tight end, since he lined up either in the slot or out wide for 67 percent of his snaps last season.

A third-party arbitrator would then be agreed upon by the NFLPA and the NFL Management Council to hear the case. And that will be a monumental decision, since the difference between the franchise tag salary for a tight end and receiver is expected to be around $6.7 million versus $11.5 million.

I broke down the possible scenarios at length last week, with some great insight from longtime former NFL general manager Bill Polian and data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information.

It will be fascinating to see if the two sides actually let this stalemate last all the way up to an arbitrator's decision. In the past, similar debates have crept up, but all of them have ultimately been worked out before reaching an arbitrator's decision.

However, finding a middle ground will be easier said than done in this case.

The Saints believe strongly that Graham should be considered a tight end -- which would give them a strong case for keeping his salary below $10 million per year in a long-term contract extension. But Graham's side will likely push for a contract well more than $10 million per year -- more in line with the top receivers around the NFL who put up similar numbers.

As for the specific type of franchise tag the Saints will use on Graham, I'm assuming they'll go with the more traditional “non-exclusive” tag over the more costly “exclusive rights” tag. Here's a breakdown of those options.

If the Saints somehow work out a long-term deal with Graham in the next two weeks, I wouldn't expect them to use any of their tags on any other pending free agents.
Karlos Dansby is all too familiar with the franchise tag.

The Arizona Cardinals slapped the label on him during for the 2008 and '09 seasons, his last two during his first stint with Arizona. It's highly unlikely he'll be franchised -- either exclusive, non-exclusive or even labeled a transition player -- a third time.

If there was one player the Cardinals were to franchise, however, it'd be Dansby, who resurrected his reputation as one of the top inside linebackers with a career season in 2013. But they won't. They don't need to.

Dansby made $2.25 million last season, a season after bringing home $9 million with the Miami Dolphins. If the Cardinals were to franchise Dansby, he'd earn about $10.8 million in 2014 -- and the Cardinals won't pay that. If they bring him back, it'll most likely be a two- or three-year deal worth about half that.

At $10.8 million, Dansby would be the third highest-paid Cardinal at age 32. It's just not financially feasible for Arizona to commit that much money to him for one season, although, if you ask Dansby, he believes he's worth it.

Among the other free agents, there isn't one player the Cardinals couldn't do without. Most of the valuable free agents are in their late 20s or early 30s, and Arizona won't pay the franchise fee to keep them around.

There are two free agents who are in their mid 20s -- wide receiver Andre Roberts and running back Rashard Mendenhall, but neither would command a franchise tag.

This will be another offseason in which the franchise tag remains on the shelf.
The Detroit Lions removed themselves from the salary cap crunch last week by releasing two of their veterans, Nate Burleson and Louis Delmas, but it still does not mean the team is planning on using its franchise tag this season.

There just isn’t reason to. The team locked up center Dominic Raiola to a one-year deal. It won’t use the tag on defensive end Willie Young. The only player who could conceivably earn the tag is tight end Brandon Pettigrew, but considering the likely price on that will be more than $6 million for one year, it seems unlikely the team would use it.

When general manager Martin Mayhew was asked about the franchise tag at the Senior Bowl, he gave his usual noncommittal answer about potentially using it, saying the team needed to evaluate various things with its unrestricted free agents.

And as good as Pettigrew has been at times in the Detroit system, he is not one of the top five tight ends in the NFL, so he isn’t going to be worth that type of price tag. While the tight end market might not be massive -- Dennis Pitta from Baltimore could be the top option out there -- there are players who could fit what Detroit wants and who would come at a potentially cheaper rate.

One of those is Pettigrew, which is another reason to not tag him. But Dustin Keller is an intriguing free agent if he can return from his knee injury suffered last preseason. Also, Pitta has experience with Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell.

The draft has some intriguing tight end options as well. So those avenues could be the way the team maneuvers when it comes to filling that spot.

Meanwhile, and not to jump too far ahead, but the talk of the franchise tag will likely be much heavier a season from now, especially if defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh does not sign a long-term extension this offseason. Then, this conversation would reach an entirely different category.

Franchise/transition tags: Redskins

February, 17, 2014
Feb 17
Brian Orakpo will get paid this offseason. If Paul Kruger averaged $8 million a year in a deal with Cleveland last offseason, then Orakpo, who is considered the top outside linebacker available, should eclipse that mark.

The question is, will it be the Redskins who give that money to him? Their coaches talk as though Orakpo will be back, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has called him a top priority. They want to re-sign him, knowing that it will be costly. But life in a 3-4 defensive scheme demands having two linebackers who can rush the passer, and that means spending money at this position.

If the Redskins don’t think they can agree on a long-term deal, then, yes, the franchise tag, which can be used starting Monday, is a strong option. Here are the different types of franchise tags they could use.

The Redskins have used the tag only three previous times since it came to fruition in 1993. Only once has a player they used the tag on actually played for them the following season.

They tagged defensive lineman Sean Gilbert in 1997, causing him to sit out the entire season. They tagged him again in 1998 and that offseason swiped two first-round picks from Carolina in exchange for him. They also used it on corner Champ Bailey in 2004 before trading him to Denver. And they used it on tight end Fred Davis in 2012.

If the Redskins decide to tag Orakpo, it would cost them approximately $10.5 million in cap space this year. The benefit is that they could get another year of his services, possibly to see whether his strong finish leads into a bigger season. Of course, if that happens, his price tag would increase in 2015. Still, keep in mind that other players will need to be addressed in the next few years: left tackle Trent Williams, quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Alfred Morris, receiver Pierre Garcon and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.

The coaches like Orakpo and consider him a good all-around linebacker, and he has been their best pass-rusher -- and in the second half of 2013, he was their best defensive player. Haslett said that the Redskins did not let the outside linebackers -- Orakpo and Kerrigan -- rush with abandon on enough occasions and that they want to turn them loose more this season.

The problem for Orakpo is that he has just one career interception and six forced fumbles in 64 career games. That’s not a lot of game-changing plays. To pay someone more than $10 million per year, you’d like more of those plays. By comparison, in 69 career games, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews has 50 sacks, four interceptions and 10 forced fumbles. His contract will average around $13 million over the next five years if he plays to the end of his deal.

So paying Orakpo somewhere between Kruger and Matthews would be acceptable. Considering the Redskins could have approximately $30 million in cap space, they likely won’t let Orakpo get away unless they have a good alternative. Losing him would weaken an important spot in a 3-4 defense. They might not have to use the franchise tag, but it’s a legitimate tool to keep him around.
Monday is the first day teams can use the franchise or transition tags, which means absolutely nothing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But that's a good thing.

Franchise and transition tags are reserved for use on prominent players who can't agree to a long-term contract. They result in a high salary that is guaranteed for just one year, and that often plays havoc with a team's cap.

That's not a problem for the Bucs because they don't have any potential free agents who are worthy of their franchise tag or the transition tag. Tampa Bay's list of free agents is headed by the likes of special teams captain Adam Hayward, fullback Erik Lorig and wide receiver Tiquan Underwood. The Bucs will want to re-sign some of their own free agents, but only at a reasonable price.

Say what you want to about former general manager Mark Dominik's tenure, but he left the Bucs in pretty good shape in a lot of ways. There was a time when it looked as if the franchise tag could be a big factor in 2014.

That was back when Josh Freeman was the quarterback. Freeman's contract ran through the end of the 2013 season, which was supposed to be a make-or-break year. But Freeman's career fell apart in spectacular fashion early in the season and the Bucs were forced to cut him in October.

The downside was the Bucs parted ways with a guy they once thought could be a franchise quarterback. But the upside is that the Bucs don't have to pay big money to Mike Glennon, who entered the league as a third-round draft pick.