Monday, March 4, 2013

Pats opt out of franchise tag for first time in 5 years


By 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, the New England Patriots still had their franchise tag in hand.

Monday's deadline was the first time since 2008 that the Patriots had opted not to use the tag, and the front office will now have its work cut out in the days leading up to March 12. (photo: Karen Cardoza, Flickr)

The high number of free agents and even higher franchise tag prices forced a number of teams to opt out of using the contract option this offseason, which should make the beginning of the free-agency period next week all the more entertaining.

Wide receiver Wes Welker -- last year’s recipient of the team’s tag -- seemed less likely to receive it again this year at more than $11 million, but he seems the most likely to receive a contract offer by the time free agency begins.

Welker has put up more than 1,300 yards in three of the last four seasons, and he’s been New England’s most consistent threat at wideout as the team struggles to find a permanent No. 2. Tom Curran of CSN reported Monday that  “progress has been made between the two sides, hinting that a deal could be struck before next week.

Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and cornerback Aqib Talib were also passed up for the tag on Monday, as the guaranteed salary for each ($9.8M and 10.8M, respectively) may have been too rich for the Pats’ $25M in remaining cap space. Both are important pieces to the puzzle, but it is still uncertain whether the team will make a move to bring them back or shop the market (or draft) to try and fill their roster spots.

Only eight teams tagged players this year, a far cry from last year’s record of 21. Before Welker, the Patriots tagged guard Logan Mankins in 2011, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in ’10 and backup quarterback Matt Cassel in ’09. The team has taken advantage of the franchise-tag option eight times in its history.

Here is the list of players who were tagged across the league this offseason:

2013 Franchise-Tagged Players
Jairus Byrd (S), Buffalo Bills - $6.916 million
Henry Melton (DT), Chicago Bears - $8.45 million
Michael Johnson (DE), Cincinnati Bengals - $11.175 million
Anthony Spencer (LB/DE), Dallas Cowboys - $10.627 million
Ryan Clady (OT), Denver Broncos - $9.828 million
Pat McAfee (P), Indianapolis Colts - $2.977 million
Branden Albert (OT), Kansas City Chiefs - $9.828 million
Randy Starks (DT), Miami Dolphins - $8.45 million

For more on the effects of the tags, check out Alex Marvez’s piece at Fox Sports.

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