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Monday, February 17, 2014
Franchise/transition tags: 49ers

By Bill Williamson

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.

Whitner
Boldin
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.