NFL Nation: 2012 Franchise Tag

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice still hasn't signed his franchise tag and apparently doesn't plan to do so for a while. He is not alone.

Of the 21 players who received the franchise tag, 12 remain unsigned. Raiders safety Tyvon Branch signed his franchise tender Monday, becoming only the sixth player to do so. Three players (Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Colts defensive end Robert Mathis and Giants punter Steve Weatherford) did what all franchise players hope to do -- reach long-term deals with their teams.

Franchise players have until July 16 to sign new deals with their teams or they'll play the season under their tag. Here's the updates on the 21 players who received the franchise tag:

QB Drew Brees, Saints: Remains unsigned. Reportedly no progress in talks for long-term deal.

RB Matt Forte, Bears: Remains unsigned. Skipped first voluntary workouts.

RB Ray Rice, Ravens: Remains unsigned. Missed start of voluntary workouts.

WR DeSean Jackson, Eagles: Signed five-year, $47 million contract that includes $15 million guaranteed.

WR Wes Welker, Patriots: Remains unsigned. Welker said he's "probably not going to" attend mandatory minicamp in June.

WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Remains unsigned. Chiefs reportedly have no intentions of trading him.

TE Fred Davis, Redskins: Signed his franchise tender of $5.446 million on March 16.

DL Cliff Avril, Lions: Remains unsigned. Sides reportedly are at an impasse in contract talks.

DE Calais Campbell, Cardinals: Remains unsigned. Missed start of voluntary workouts.

DE-LB Robert Mathis, Colts: Signed four-year, $36 million contract that includes $15 million signing bonus.

LB Anthony Spencer, Cowboys: Signed his franchise tender of $8.856 million last month.

CB Brent Grimes, Falcons: Signed his franchise tender of $10.281 million last month after reports surfaced that the Falcons were interested in trading for Asante Samuel.

S Tyvon Branch, Raiders: Signed his franchise tender of $6.212 million on Monday.

S Dashon Goldson, 49ers: Remains unsigned.

S Michael Griffin, Titans: Remains unsigned. Plans to sign injury waiver and attend offseason workouts.

K Connor Barth, Buccaneers: Remains unsigned. Didn't attend start of voluntary workouts.

K Phil Dawson, Browns: Signed franchise tender of $3.81 million on March 13.

K Mike Nugent, Bengals: Signed his franchise tender of $2.654 million last month.

K Matt Prater, Broncos: Remains unsigned.

K Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Remains unsigned. Talks have reportedly stalled between the two sides.

P Steve Weatherford, Giants: Signed a five-year, $12.75 million contract.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Our Franchise Focus series last week accounted for the possibility, but I'm not sure if anyone considered it a likely scenario. Namely: Would the Green Bay Packers use their franchise tag on anyone other than tight end Jermichael Finley?

Our clearly-flawed assumption was that the sides wouldn't agree on a long-term contract extension, forcing the Packers to use their tag to retain the 24-year-old tight end. But Wednesday's two-year agreement represented an unexpected compromise from both sides and opened the possibility of using the tag on another player. The two candidates would seem to be quarterback Matt Flynn and center Scott Wells, in that order.

[+] EnlargeMatt Flynn
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireWould the Packers franchise quarterback Matt Flynn with hopes of trading him?
Conventional wisdom suggests that the Packers wouldn't commit to paying Wells a 2012 salary upwards of $8 million, the projected value of the franchise tag for offensive linemen. But we've now learned our lesson about assuming the Packers' likely path this offseason, and it's only fair to point out that the franchise tag sometimes serves as a temporary stop for teams on the way to a long-term agreement.

That's what happened with Ryan Kalil and the Carolina Panthers last summer. The Panthers first tagged Kalil at $10.1 million before the sides agreed in August to a six-year deal worth $49 million, which made him the highest-paid center in the NFL.

The more intriguing scenario, of course, is tagging Flynn and then trading him for a high draft choice in a sign-and-trade deal. That would net the Packers at least an extra second-round draft pick for a player who projects as a starter elsewhere and thus would never have agreed to return as their backup.

The move would temporarily consume about $14 million in 2012 salary cap space, and a trade couldn't be executed until after free agency begins March 13. The Packers would also have to be confident that they will be able to find a trade partner, a tricky proposition given tampering rules in effect through March 12. It's true that NFL teams can rescind franchise tags, but not if the player signs the offer sheet -- which Flynn almost certainly would do to force the trade and ensure he isn't a late arrival to the free agent market.

Those are all reasons why franchising Flynn has seemed unlikely. But we've already had one unlikely occurrence Wednesday, and the Packers are now dealing from a position of strength with Finley now under contract. So stay tuned. I'll be roaming the scouting combine for the next three days. Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy are both scheduled to speak with reporters Friday. We'll see what we turn up.

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