Playing tag in AFC East

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
1:30
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Free agency is upon us in the NFL, and every team in the AFC East has important decisions to make.

Here is a preview of players who could be eligible for the franchise tag in the division.

Welker
New England Patriots: WR Wes Welker

Analysis: This much is certain -- New England is not letting Welker walk. The Patriots will spend the next month negotiating a long-term extension with Welker, the team's leading receiver. If not, expect Welker to get tagged. Many teams use the tag as a way to buy time and lengthen the negotiations. That would give New England and Welker several more months for negotiate. But whether it's one year or multiple years, Welker will be a Patriot in 2012. He's too important to the offense.

Tag probability: 50 percent

Soliai
Miami Dolphins: DT Paul Soliai

Analysis: I doubt the Dolphins want to use the tag on Soliai for a second consecutive year. The price would go up by at least 10 percent and pay Soliai the average of the top five players at that position. Soliai is a good player, but he's not a top-five defensive lineman. The Dolphins were very tough against the run because Soliai plugged the middle. But his production (27 tackles) can be replaced. Without the franchise tag, Soliai probably would get more on the open market than he could returning to Miami.

Tag probability: 20 percent

Johnson
Buffalo Bills: WR Steve Johnson

Analysis: This is a tricky one. Johnson wants to return to Buffalo, but he wants No. 1 receiver money. The Bills want Johnson but at a price they are comfortable with. That's pretty much been the story since the beginning of last season. I think it's 50-50 whether Johnson returns to Buffalo but very little chance he gets the franchise tag. The question is will Buffalo budge and pay Johnson $7 million to $8 million per season to return? If Johnson's representation feels he can get that somewhere else on the open market, they will wait it out until March unless Buffalo ups its price. But the Bills most likely aren't tagging Johnson to keep him for just one year.

Tag probability: 10 percent

There are no franchise-tag candidates on the New York Jets. Here is their list of unrestricted free agents.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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