FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots runs past Yeremiah Bell #37 of the Miami Dolphins during the fourth quarterof New England's 27-24 win at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Flurry Of Activity As Franchise Tag Deadline Passes

The deadline to use the franchise tag passed on Monday afternoon and a number of teams applied the tag.

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Connor Barth Is Another Kicker Who Gets Franchise Tag

Following a second straight excellent season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, kicker Connor Barth has been hit with the franchise tag. With no other players worthy of the tag, the Bucs used it to make sure they can keep Barth, who will make $2.65 million if he signs the tender. The 25-year-old Barth was fantastic in 2011 while making $1.99 million, and probably would have commanded more than the franchise tag salary on the open market.

The Buccaneers were absolutely terrible at the tail end of last season, but Barth was a consistent performer. He made 92.9 percent of his field goals, up from 82.1 percent in 2010, and also made 17 total field goals from 40 yards or longer. Barth was inconsistent in his first two years with the Bucs and the Kansas City Chiefs, but he's since established himself as one of the best young kickers in football.

For more on Barth and the Bucs, head over to Tampa Bay Buccaneers blog Bucs Nation and SB Nation Tampa Bay.


Punter Steve Weatherford Gets The Franchise Tag

The phrase "a punter got the franchise tag" makes one's ears perk up, but it's not nearly as silly as it sounds on the surface. The New York Giants hit punter Steve Weatherford with the franchise tag on Monday, making him one of the highest paid punters in the NFL. Weatherford, who has spent just one season with the Giants, was a key player in their Super Bowl victory and will make $2.6 million next season if he signs the franchise tender.

If the Giants feel that Weatherford is one of the five best punters in the league, they don't have salary cap problems and they didn't have another player worthy of the tag, the move makes sense. The 29-year-old Weatherford posted career highs in average yards and net punting average in 2011 and has played for five different teams in his NFL career.

For more on Weatherford and the Giants, head over to New York Giants blog Big Blue View and SB Nation New York.


Indianapolis Colts Franchise Tag Robert Mathis As Precaution; Long-Term Contract Is Coming

The Indianapolis Colts have slapped the franchise tag on pass-rushing defensive end Robert Mathis, but he is unlikely to have the franchise tag for an extended period of time.

Just before the news dropped that Mathis would be tagged, Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star tweeted that Mathis and the team had come to a tentative agreement on a long-term contract and that he would not be slapped with the franchise tag. That contract is still coming, but the team put the tag on him as a precaution because of the looming franchise tag deadline.

Mathis, who is 31 years old, has played the entirety of his nine-year NFL career with the Colts. He recorded 9.5 sacks this season on a defense that badly underperformed around him, and he has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times in his career.

For more on Mathis and the Colts, check out SB Nation Indiana and Indianapolis Colts blog Stampede Blue.


Franchise Tag For Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs Confirm

The Kansas City Chiefs did what many expected them to do and placed the franchise tag on wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. This move had been expected for some time so it shouldn't be a surprise. The franchise tag number for receivers is about $9.4 million.

"Today was the league's deadline to designate a franchise player and we felt it was in the best interest of the Kansas City Chiefs to place the tag on Dwayne," said General Manager Scott Pioli.

Tagging Bowe likely means Brandon Carr is on his way out. The young cornerback is scheduled for free agency and after the Chiefs signed Stanford Routt last month, many assumed Carr was likely to leave.

Bowe is clearly a worthy candidate for the franchise tag. He's the Chiefs best receiver and led the league in touchdown receptions in 2010. He has accumulated over 995 yards receiving in four of his first five years in the league. The Chiefs will try to work on a long-term deal with him and they'll have until July 15 to do so before Bowe enters the regular season under the tag.

For all news and information regarding the Kansas City Chiefs, please visit Arrowhead Pride.


Cowboys Give Franchise Tag To Anthony Spencer, According To Report

The Dallas Cowboys had one potential candidate for the franchise tag and it looks like they'll use it. According to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, the Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on linebacker Anthony Spencer. The franchise tag number for linebackers is in the neighborhood of $9 million, which means Spencer, if he signs his franchise tender, will have a one-year fully guaranteed contract for that amount.

The two sides will continue to work on a long-term deal.

Spencer probably isn't the player the Cowboys thought they would get when they picked him with the 26th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft but he's not someone they want to lose. He took over the starting role when Greg Ellis was released and plays opposite of all-world linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

The deadline to assign the franchise tag comes at 4 p.m. ET on Monday, March 5.

For more on Anthony Spencer and the Dallas Cowboys, visit SB Nation's Cowboys blog Blogging The Boys and SB Nation Dallas.


Wes Welker Will Get Franchise Tag Before Deadline, According To Report

The deadline to apply the franchise tag is fast approaching and to no one's surprise the New England Patriots plan to use the tag on receiver Wes Welker. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the tag will be applied sometime before the 4 p.m. (ET) deadline on Monday afternoon.

Welker is among the obvious franchise tag guys. He's an integral part of New England's highly successful offense and at 30 years old he still has several productive seasons ahead of him. This is an easy decision for New England.

The hard part comes in negotiating a long-term deal for Welker. He's Tom Brady's best receiver and has put up incredible numbers since joining the Patriots. That means he'll need to be paid like a big-time receiver. It'll be interesting to see what kind of money he gets but top receivers are getting over a $9 million per year average on new contracts.

The Patriots will have until July 15 to sign him to a long-term deal and, if they don't, Welker will have to play the season under the estimated $9.4 million franchise tag number.

For more on the New England Patriots, visit SB Nation's Patriots blog Pats Pulpit and SB Nation Boston.


Matt Prater To Be Given Broncos' Franchise Tag

The Denver Broncos have been trying to come to a long-term deal with kicker Matt Prater unsuccessfully. The team will now use its franchise tag on the kicker, according to a report by Adam Schefter of ESPN.

The franchise tag for kickers is projected at $2.9 million guaranteed for the 2012 season, which is what Prater will be paid if he signs and plays on the tender. Teams have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract and remove the franchise tag designation. Prater was a big piece to the Broncos puzzle during their six-game winning streak and trip to the NFL playoffs, successfully making some clutch kicks to win games or send them into overtime.

For more on Matt Prater and the Denver Broncos, visit SB Nation's Broncos blog Mile High Report.


Cliff Avril Hit With Franchise Tag; Lions Want Long-Term Deal

From the no-brainer department, the Detroit Lions used the franchise tag on Cliff Avril, which was expected. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the news, and Avril will now be paid $10.6 million on a one-year contract for the 2012 season.

The two sides continue to negotiate on a long-term deal to keep Avril from going anywhere. They have until July 15 to come up with a deal or else Avril has to play the year on the franchise tender. Avril previously indicated he wouldn't be giving the Lions a hometown discount, so it will likely be expensive to keep him for an extended time.

Avril has shined on a defensive line full of stars. He was originally a third-round pick in the 2008 NFL draft and comes off his best year as a pro with 11 sacks. The Lions defensive line is scary, and keeping Avril should continue that. He's only 25 years old, so he could be just getting started.

For more on the Lions offseason, head over to the SB Nation blog Pride Of Detroit or visit SB Nation Detroit.


Franchise Tag Deadline Is Monday; Here Are Some Storylines To Watch

The franchise tag deadline is coming, and a number of teams are making moves to keep their best free agent in-house. Here's a look at some of the highlights of the franchise tag this year.


Josh Scobee Is The Latest Kicker To Receive Franchise Tag

The Jacksonville Jaguars have used their franchise tag on kicker Josh Scobee, according to a report by Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union.

The move to tag Scobee was expected by most in the Jacksonville media and will pay Scobee a projected $2.9 million for the 2012 season if the two sides cannot come to terms on a long term deal by the July 15 deadline. The Jaguars had a few other players the team could have franchise tagged, such as defensive end Jeremy Mincey and safety Dwight Lowery, but it wouldn't have been very cost effective.

The $2.9 million guaranteed is likely around the same price the Jaguars would pay Scobee for the season under a new long term contract.

For all news and information regarding the Jacksonville Jaguars and their offseason moves, please visit Big Cat Country.


Franchise Tag Deadline Coming On Monday Afternoon

The deadline to use the franchise tag is 4 p.m. Monday. Several teams have already applied the tag, and others are expected to soon follow suit.


Drew Brees Contract: Saints Use Franchise Tag On Star QB

The New Orleans Saints have placed the franchise tag on their superstar quarterback, Drew Brees, the team announced Saturday. Brees and the Saints have reportedly been embroiled in an ugly negotiation, one that included GM Mickey Loomis calling the Super Bowl-winner and all-time single-season yardage king "very good, not great."

Players designated as a team's franchisee make the average of the five highest salaries at their position for one year, a number that won't be determined until the end of free agency though, at the moment, it appears to be between $16 million and $17 million for a quarterback, according to the NFL.

With Brees receiving the tag, that means Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks will become an unrestricted free agent, as will Brees' favorite wide receiver target, Marques Colston.

This news would be met with more, well, anything, were it not for the revelations that the Saints, under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, organized a ring of bounties as reward for injuring opposing teams' star players. Serious punishment is expected from the league. Any negotiations with Brees for a long-term deal, which must be reached by a July 15 deadline, might be put on the back burner while the team deals with the fallout.

For all news and information regarding the New Orleans Saints, please visit Canal Street Chronicles. For complete coverage of football free agency, stay tuned to SB Nation's dedicated NFL hub.


Matt Forte Franchise Tagged By Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have been attempting to sign star running back Matt Forte to an extension before free agency opened up. The two sides were set to meet last week during the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and begin discussing a new deal for Forte. It appears that the talks were either not progressing as quickly as hoped, or Forte was not interested in any of the Chicago offers, because the Bears will be using their franchise tag on Forte to retain him for the 2012 season.

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The official Chicago Bears Twitter feed announced on Friday night that the team would be applying the franchise tag on Forte. This will keep the running back under control through 2012 and will give Chicago until the following free agency period to attempt to come to terms with him on an extension.

For all news and information regarding the Chicago Bears, please visit Windy City Gridiron or SB Nation Chicago. For complete coverage of free agents and the NFL offseason, stay tuned to SB Nation's dedicated NFL free agency hub.


Bengals Kicker Mike Nugent Picks Up The Franchise Tag

The Cincinnati Bengals become the second NFL team to issue the franchise tag to their kicker. The Cleveland Browns gave it to Phil Dawson on Friday and the Bengals did the same to kicker Mike Nugent. This means Nugent will return to Cincinnati on a one-year guaranteed contract.

Nugent had a terrific season for the Bengals, hitting on 33-of-38 field goal attempts. That was by far the best year in his career. He's an 80 percent career kicker. When your strengths are playing well on defense and controlling the clock, you can't underestimate the need for a good kicker (well, maybe you can).

Nugent returns to a Bengals team that is young and has a lot of promise, particularly at quarterback (Andy Dalton) and receiver (A.J. Green) along with the presence of two first round picks heading into April's draft.

Nugent was originally a second round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

For more on the Bengals' offseason, be sure to check out Cincy Jungle.


Browns Franchise Tag Kicker Phil Dawson For Second Consecutive Year

The Cleveland Browns had a number of options for their franchise tag but have chosen to place it on kicker Phil Dawson. This is the second consecutive year Dawson has received the franchise tag so he will be paid 120 percent of his $3.25 salary last season, which comes out to about $3.8 million.

Dawson has been in the league for 13 years. He converted 24 of 29 field goal attempts last season.

The Browns had a couple of other options for their franchise tag. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson would've been hit with it had he not agreed to a contract extension. Special agent Peyton Hillis was also a candidate to receive it but the team opted to let him test the market.

For more on the Browns, visit SB Nation's Browns blog, Dawgs By Nature. And for more on Cleveland sports, check out SB Nation Cleveland.


Calais Campbell Hit With Franchise Tag By Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals officially placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive end Calais Campbell on Friday. The organization beat the March 5 deadline for applying the tag and had previously stated their desire to keep Campbell on the team for 2012. The non-exclusive tag means other NFL teams can still sign the 25-year old, but the Cardinals would have the chance to match any offer and would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation if Campbell left.

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General manager Rod Gaves told Darren Urban of the Cardinals official website that the goal is still to reach a long-term deal:

"We've made no secret of the high regard in which we hold Calais," general manager Rod Graves said. "To be clear, reaching a long-term deal that will keep Calais with the Cardinals for years to come remains our primary objective. This move today allows us the opportunity to continue working with Calais and his agent toward that goal and that's exactly what we will do."

The next step is for Campbell to sign the tender offer. If he chooses to do so, his 2012 salary will become fully guaranteed as is expected to be worth approximately $10.6 million. He and the team still have until July 16 to reach a long-term deal. Campbell is coming off a career-high eight sacks and 10 passes defended in 2011.

For more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge Of The Birds.


Ray Rice Officially Franchised By The Ravens

Unsurprisingly, Ray Rice was handed the Baltimore Ravens' franchise tag on Friday. He will be among the highest paid running backs in the league, earning $7.7 million next season. More importantly, the Ravens bought time to negotiate a long term contract with arguably their most important offensive player. Rice was set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

"As we have in the past, placing the franchise designation on a player allows us to keep negotiating on a long-term contract," Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. "Our goal is to keep Ray Rice a Raven. We've done this with other outstanding players through our history, including Haloti Ngata a year ago."

The Ravens could remove Rice's franchise tag if they can get a new contract in place by July 15. Whether it comes before, during, or after the season, expect a deal to get done at some point. Rice has stated several times that he would like to remain a Raven.

For more analysis of Rice's situation, be sure to check out Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown.


Fred Davis Gets Franchise Tag From Redskins, According To Report

The Washington Redskins were widely expected to use the franchise tag on tight end Fred Davis and that's what they did on Friday. ESPN 980 in Washington D.C. reports the Redskins have indeed placed the franchise tag on Davis, a four year veteran.

It was reported weeks ago that Davis was likely to be tagged so this isn't a big surprise. It's a very affordable year to franchise tag a tight end at about $5 million. The final franchise tag numbers aren't yet out but the league is expected to have them ready soon.

Davis' 2011 season was cut short due to a suspension for a failed drug test. That's definitely a concern but on the field he was solid catching 59 balls for 796 yards. The Redskins didn't have many receiving options last season so it's a no-brainer to keep one of the guys that still has potential. Davis is young and will get better. The real question in Washington is who will be throwing him the ball.

For all news and information regarding the Washington Redskins, please visit Hogs Haven. And for more on DC sports, check out SB Nation DC.


Dashon Goldson Getting The Franchise Tag; Safety Will Remain A 49er

The San Francisco 49ers seem to be wasting no time in making sure their key players will be returning next season. They have already signed linebacker Ahmad Brooks to a big, six-year contract and now appear on the verge of placing the franchise tag on safety Dashon Goldson.

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Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Niners plan on giving the franchise tag to Goldson on Friday. Goldson was set to become a free agent beginning on March 13, but now the 49ers will have at least through 2012 to attempt to work out a long-term contract extension with the player.

Goldson has been with San Francisco since being drafted by the team in 2007. Goldson was working on a one-year contract with the team in 2011, during which he was one of the top safeties in the NFC and made his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

For all news and information regarding the San Francisco 49ers, please visit SB Nation's Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area.


Brent Grimes Hit With Franchise Tag, Atlanta Falcons Confirm

As many expected, the Atlanta Falcons have placed the franchise tag on cornerback Brent Grimes. Using the tag here means Curtis Lofton could end up hitting the open market. They were the two franchise tag candidates on Atlanta's roster. This isn't a surprise.

The franchise tag number for cornerbacks is expected to be around $10.5 million. Other teams could pry him away but the cost of signing another team's franchise tagged player is two first round picks and no one is going to do that.

Grimes, 28, has a good story. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent and even spent some time in NFL Europe before catching on with the Falcons in 2007, mostly as a practice squad guy. Just four years later, he was a full-time starter and in the Pro Bowl.

Check out the rest of the Falcons free agents here. John Abraham is one of the big names that could hit the market.

For more on the Falcons, check out SB Nation's The Falcoholic. And for more on Atlanta sports, check out SB Nation Atlanta.


Tyvon Branch Reportedly Gets Franchise Tag From Raiders; Michael Bush Eyes Free Agency

The Oakland Raiders have informed safety Tyvon Branch that they will be giving him the franchise tag, according to a report from Jason La Canfora of NFL Network. Branch was scheduled to be a free agent on March 13 so this will keep him in Oakland for the 2012 season.

The franchise tag number for safeties is expected to be just over $6 million for the 2012 season. Another team could attempt to sign Branch but the price would be two first round picks (and a contract) so that's not going to happen.

What this news also means is that running back Michael Bush won't be receiving the franchise tag. He was a candidate to receive it and there were reports going both ways on whether or not he would. This means Bush likely hits the open market where he'll be one of the top running backs available.

For more on the Raiders, visit SB Nation's Silver and Black Pride. And for more on Bay Area sports, visit SB Nation Bay Area.


DeSean Jackson Gets Franchise Tag; Eagles Want To Sign Him For Longer

The Philadelphia Eagles were widely expected to place their franchise tag on receiver and kick returner DeSean Jackson, and that's what they did on Thursday. The team announced on Thursday that Jackson has been named its franchise tag player.

This helps the Eagles keep Jackson in Philly on a one-year contract that will pay him approximately $9.5 million. Another team can make a run at Jackson, but they would have to give up two first round picks, which isn't going to happen.

In comments distributed by the team, GM Howie Roseman was quoted as saying:

"We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that."

That could be significant because there have been grumblings that the Eagles would be open to trading Jackson. Judging by Roseman's comments, it sounds like they want to get something done. Or, playing devil's advocate, they could be creating the impression they want to keep him in order to increase his trade value.

For more on the Eagles, check out Bleeding Green Nation. And for more on Philly sports, visit SB Nation Philly.

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