NFL Nation: 2014 NFL Franchise/Transition Tags

Franchise/transition tags: Dolphins

February, 17, 2014
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The window has opened Monday for all 32 NFL teams to use the franchise tag on star players. The Miami Dolphins have used the tag two of the past three years, on defensive linemen Paul Soliai and Randy Starks, respectively.

Grimes
Grimes
Will Miami utilize the franchise tag in 2014?

I expect the Dolphins to use the exclusive tag on Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes this year. Miami cannot afford to lose its most consistent defensive player from last season and also one of the few proven corners in its secondary. Perhaps the nonexclusive tag is a possibility, considering no team would want to give up two first-round picks for Grimes. The transition tag would be too dangerous, as other teams could outbid Miami for the star corner.

Grimes was phenomenal in 2013 after signing a one-year contract. He tied for the team lead with four interceptions. But Grimes’ coverage was so consistent that opposing quarterbacks often threw to the weaker corner on the other side.

Grimes also showed he could bounce back 100 percent from Achilles surgery in 2012. He made his second Pro Bowl and even got an interception in that game. I asked Grimes at the end of the season if this was his best year, and he said it was.

The Dolphins have a lot of free agents this year. But Grimes is the only legitimate candidate for the franchise tag. The Dolphins will try to work out a long-term extension with Grimes, but the one-year franchise tag is a major bargaining chip in the team’s favor.

Miami would be wise to tag Grimes if both sides cannot reach an agreement soon. There is flexibility with the tag that still allows both sides to negotiate an extension well into the summer. The worst mistake the Dolphins could make is to let Grimes hit the open market on March 11, when there is a solid chance a bidding war could commence and Grimes might not return.

Franchise/transition tags: Packers

February, 17, 2014
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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.

Shields
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
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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.

Hatcher
Hatcher
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: Browns

February, 17, 2014
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Franchise-tag possibilities: center Alex Mack, safety T.J. Ward

Transition-tag possibilities: none

Player most likely to be franchised: Ward

Likelihood: 75 percent

Ward
Mack
Mack and Ward have both been productive starters for the Browns since they joined the team, Mack as a first-round pick in 2009, Ward as a second-rounder in 2010.

Neither, though, would be a possibility for the exclusive franchise tag. That would simply be too expensive. (For an explanation of the franchise and transition tags, click here.)

Ward would be a likely candidate for the non-exclusive tag.

That’s because, according to the new collective bargaining agreement, Mack would receive the average salary of the top 10 offensive linemen if he was tagged, not just the top centers. That includes left tackles, which makes tagging Mack a $10 million proposition. A year ago, the franchise-tag cost for an offensive lineman was $9.828 million. That figure will go up this year.

Safety, though, was a relative $6.916 million, a number that will go up this year.

Eight safeties average more than that figure per year, led by Troy Polamalu at $9.867 million and Eric Berry at $8.33 million. The same number (eight) have a higher salary-cap cost than $6.9 million.

Ward is probably among or close to the top 10 safeties in the league. His franchise cost would be in line with what others make. No team would give up two first-round draft picks for Ward, so if the Browns decide the salary cost is palatable, they could apply the tag and keep Ward with the Browns.

As for centers, only five offensive linemen average $10 million or more per season -- including the Browns' Joe Thomas. Only eight have a salary-cap cost of more than $10 million per season.

Mack is a very good player, but he’s not among the league’s top 10 linemen.

Finances would seem to dictate that if any Browns player receives the franchise tag, it will be Ward, and the chances are probably fairly good it happens.

Franchise/transition tags: Broncos

February, 17, 2014
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In each of the previous two years, the Denver Broncos used the franchise tag on an impending free agent they hoped to lock up to a long-term deal but just needed a little more time to cross all the T's and dot all the I's in the contract.

In 2012, it was kicker Matt Prater, who got the tag before he signed a new multiyear deal with the team. Last year it was left tackle Ryan Clady, who was still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery when the Broncos placed the tag on him.

Clady, who would have earned $9.828 million on that one-year deal had the tag remained in place, eventually worked out a five-year, $52.5 million contract with the team just before training camp.

But don’t look for the Broncos to use either of the tags this time around. Their most prominent free agents -- most notably running back Knowshon Moreno, wide receiver Eric Decker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and linebacker Wesley Woodyard -- have been productive starters with the team, but none are so deep in the team’s plans that the Broncos would use the tags to have them guaranteed of being on the roster next season.

Decker has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since the Broncos signed Peyton Manning, but the franchise-tag salary on a one-year deal at wide receiver was $10.537 million last year and is expected to be slightly higher this time around.

At running back, the franchise tag was $8.219 million last season, and at linebacker, it was $9.619 million.

The Broncos will make offers to most of their impending free agents, but it’s likely all of their more high-profile unrestricted free agents could get better offers, in terms of overall money, elsewhere.

Decker, Moreno, guard Zane Beadles and defensive end Robert Ayers are among the team’s free agents who, next month, will complete deals they signed with the Broncos as rookies. It will be their first opportunity in the open market. Woodyard, who has been a team captain in each of his six seasons with the Broncos, just finished his second contract with the team, while other unrestricted free agents, like Rodgers-Cromartie, safety Mike Adams, linebacker Paris Lenon and defensive end Shaun Phillips, came from elsewhere.

Part of the issue for the Broncos this time around is securing the players who are set to become free agents following the 2014 season, a group that includes wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas.

Franchise/transition tags: Rams

February, 17, 2014
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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.

Saffold
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.

Cutler
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: Patriots

February, 17, 2014
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Monday marks the first day NFL teams can use the franchise/transition tag, and cornerback Aqib Talib and receiver Julian Edelman are the team's two top free agents.

Would the Patriots consider using the franchise tag on them?

Talib
Talib
A franchise tag on either player would cost approximately $11 million on a one-year deal, making it highly unlikely the team does.

There is one scenario, however, in which a tag wouldn't be completely shocking.

In 2010, the Patriots used the franchise tag on defensive tackle Vince Wilfork as a vehicle to buy more time in negotiations on a long-term extension. At that point, the Patriots and Wilfork had reached the red zone in contract talks and just needed a little more time to push the deal across the goal line.

The Patriots tagged Wilfork to protect their asset, both sides played nice with public statements and a long-term deal eventually got done.

We could envision that type of scenario with Talib. Not so much Edelman.

But, on the whole, we'd call it more of a long shot.

Franchise/transition tags: Steelers

February, 17, 2014
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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers, usually judicious with the designations that prevent a player from becoming an unrestricted free agent, are unlikely to use a franchise or transition tag for the third year in a row.

Jason Worilds, who had a breakout season in 2013, is the only candidate for a tag, but it looks as though the Steelers will try to re-sign the outside linebacker without the benefit of a safety net.

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

"They're always available to us," general manager Kevin Colbert said last week when asked if the Steelers will tag one of their players, "but I'd say doubtful."

The Steelers' precarious salary-cap situation -- Colbert acknowledged that the team has some "work to do" to get in compliance by March 11 -- is probably the biggest reason tags won't be in play for a third year in a row.

Using a franchise tag on Worilds would require the Steelers to offer the fourth-year veteran a one-year contract that should be at least $10 million (franchise tags for linebackers were $9.62 million last year).

The Steelers have used tags in the past with the goal of later re-signing that player to a long-term deal. They were successful in doing that three years ago with outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who received a franchise tag but later signed a six-year, $61.5 million contract.

The problem for a team that has to to get in compliance with the cap by the start of the NFL's new year and have the flexibility to sign their own free agents or others is that once a tagged player signs the one-year contract, the money is guaranteed.

More significant, it counts against the cap, and the Steelers do not have enough flexibility to absorb a $10 million hit -- or one that is not appreciably lower even if a transition tag is used -- without scrambling their finances and compromising their roster.

Worilds, who recorded 8.5 sacks in 2013 and supplanted Woodley at left outside linebacker late in the season, tops the list of Steelers unrestricted free agents the organization will try to re-sign.

The best-case scenario for the Steelers is to lock up Worilds before the free-agent signing period starts March 11. But it also looks as if they are prepared to gamble that they can still get a deal done even if Worilds hits the open market with no provisions for the Steelers to match any offer he receives.

Franchise/transition tags: Panthers

February, 17, 2014
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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.

Hardy
Hardy
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: Texans

February, 17, 2014
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A long-term deal is almost always the better option for a player than being placed under the franchise tag. Sometimes it's also better for a team, many of which use it as a last resort.

That's how the Texans have viewed the designation of late. The franchise and lesser used transition tags offer tighter deadlines and windows which don't jive with the way Houston has done business.

Typically, the Texans re-sign players they want to keep the year before their contracts expire, a process spearheaded by general manager Rick Smith and vice president of football administration Chris Olsen. The players they can't reach deals with are sometimes ones they're willing to let go in free agency, as was the case with Connor Barwin and Glover Quin last offseason.

A franchise tag allows a team to restrict the movement of one pending free agent. Today the window for applying it and a transition tag, which is a similar concept but less restrictive, begins.

Tagging a player puts his next year's salary among the top five to 10 at his position. The top Houston players hitting free agency this year are nose tackle Earl Mitchell, defensive end Antonio Smith (one of the highest tag numbers), offensive guard Wade Smith and running back Ben Tate.

Of those, Mitchell and Tate are most likely gone. Tate will cost more than the Texans will be willing to pay for him and Mitchell's skill set is better suited for a 4-3 defense.

As for Smith and Smith, the more veteran of the group, I wouldn't be surprised if they returned in some capacity, but I would be very surprised if the Texans franchised either of them.

Antonio Smith made $6 million last year and had a salary-cap number of $9.5 million. His franchise number would be $12.475 million according to a projection by CBSSports.com. Wade Smith made $3 million last year and had a cap number of $3.75 million, but his franchise number, raised by left tackle salaries, is projected to be $11.126 million.

Franchise/transition tags: Titans

February, 17, 2014
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As good as Alterraun Verner was in 2013, it’s hard to imagine the Titans would view him as being worth the salary that will be tied to the franchise or transition tags for a cornerback.

Monday is the start of the window during which the teams can apply tags to pending free agents. Each team can use only one.

Verner
Verner had a cap number of $1.454 million in 2013, the fourth and final year of his rookie contract.

Last year, the franchise-tag number for cornerbacks was $10.854 million, and the transition tag was $9.095 million.

A franchise tag means the player gets that salary guaranteed for one season. If another team signs him to an offer sheet and his current team doesn’t match it, his original team gets two first-round picks as compensation. That’s an exorbitant price.

A transition tag means the player gets that salary guaranteed for one season. If another team signs him to an offer sheet and his current team doesn’t match it, there is no compensation involved.

Verner was very productive in 2013, with five interceptions -- including one returned for a touchdown -- as well as 26 passes defensed and the eighth-most tackles on the team (73).

He’s got a knack for the ball and a great feel for where it will be heading, but he doesn’t have the speed or the size (he’s 5-foot-10, 186 pounds) teams expect from a top cornerback who’s getting top price.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean recently reported there has been minimal movement between Verner and the Titans. The two sides are expected to talk at the scouting combine in Indianapolis later this week.

I think the Titans value Verner and will make a fair offer.

But come March 11 and the start of free agency, I expect at least one other team will value him more and the Titans will be turning to Coty Sensabaugh or Blidi Wreh-Wilson as their No. 2 cornerback.

Franchise/transition tags: Vikings

February, 17, 2014
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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.

Allen
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
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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.

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.

Franchise/transition tags: Colts

February, 17, 2014
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NFL teams can begin franchise tagging players on Monday. Only eight players received the franchise tag from their teams last year. Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee was one of those eight players. The Colts used the franchise tag to pay him $2.977 million last season.

Bethea
Davis
Cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Antoine Bethea are two players the Colts could potentially use their tag on this year.

I’d say it’s a long shot, though, based on the amount of money paid out to cornerbacks and safeties by teams using the franchise tag last season.

The franchise-tag number for cornerbacks last season was $10.8 million; it was $6.9 million for safeties.

Davis has the talent to become one of the top cornerbacks in the league, but he didn’t show enough last season to make a jump from the $1.86 million he made to likely more than $10 million once the tag numbers for 2014 are set.

The tag number for safeties might hover around the $7 million mark again, and if that’s the case, it would be only a slight increase in pay for Bethea, who made $5.75 million last season.

Putting the franchise tag on Bethea would hurt him because he’ll be 30 years old in July, and there might not be too many more opportunities for him to sign a multiyear contract.

"It’s my first time really testing the market, so [I am] kind of excited," Bethea said in January. "Want to finish my career here, but if not, hey, got to go on and start a new chapter in my career."

Here is an explanation of the franchise-tag guidelines.

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