Monday's deadline for franchised players to sign long-term extensions came and went and of the tagged players, only Ryan Clady reached a deal. The Broncos' left tackle has a hefty new contract and long-term security, but the other seven tagged players will now play the 2013 season on one-year deals.
Here's a quick look at the current situations and future prospects of all eight franchised players.
Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos
Clady was the only franchised player to cash in, but did he ever. The All-Pro left tackle signed a five-year, $57.5 million contract which included $33 million guaranteed. The deal makes him one of the highest-paid tackles in the NFL and ensures he will protect Peyton Manning's blind side in Denver for the foreseeable future. Clady received his long-term deal and will now have to prove he's worth it in 2013 and beyond. Talent isn't a concern, but he is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, an injury which can prove to be problematic for tackles.
Byrd and the Bills were reportedly far apart on a deal and the 26-year-old safety has yet to sign his franchise tender. According to a report from Sports Illustrated, Byrd was reportedly seeking a contract which would make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. That didn't happen and now there is some question of when Byrd will report to the team. He may choose to skip training camp and could even holdout into the season. That, however, is unlikely and Byrd would likely be better off playing the season then hitting the free agent market again next offseason.
A two-time All-Pro selection, Byrd is arguably the top overall safety in the league. He's excelled in pass coverage, including 18 career interceptions, but has also done well in run support. He'll turn 27 during the season and with another strong campaign would hit free agency next offseason in the prime of his career. The Bills could tag him again, but doing so for a second straight season would cost roughly $8.3 million.
Albert had a busy offseason, but it ultimately ended without a deal. He appeared on his way to Miami in a trade before the draft, but the deal fell through. Then, there were reports he and the Chiefs were closing in on a long-term deal, but again nothing came of it.
Now, he enters the season with as uncertain a future as any of the franchised players. Albert has proven to be an above average left tackle, but he may not have a future with the Chiefs. Kansas City drafted Eric Fisher with the No. 1 pick and he would presumably be the future at left tackle. Albert will turn 29 during the season and the Chiefs may not want to make a long-term investment with Fisher waiting in the wings. Tagging him again would cost well over $10 million, so Albert could hit unrestricted free agency instead. That makes 2013 somewhat of a make it or break it season for his chance to be among the highest-paid tackles.
Melton and the Bears were unable to reach a long-term deal, but the 26-year-old defensive tackle signed his franchise tender and will play the season on the one-year deal. Coming off his first Pro Bowl season, Melton was reportedly seeking a deal with $18 to $20 million guaranteed. The Bears chose not to give it to him, but if Melton follows up his 2012 season with another strong year, someone will pay him next offseason.
Outside of Cincinnati's Geno Atkins, Melton is in the discussion for the best pass-rushing defensive tackle in football. He racked up 13.0 sacks over the past two seasons and finished last season with 24 hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Melton was a dominant force at times and would be owed more than $10 million on a franchise tag next summer.
Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
Johnson is coming off an excellent season in Cincinnati, but may prove to be the odd man out. After Monday's franchise deadline passed, Cincinnati signed defensive end Carlos Dunlap to a six-year, $40 million deal. With Geno Atkins, A.J. Green and Andy Dalton eligible for extensions next offseason, Johnson's days in Cincinnati may be numbered.
Last season was a breakout year for Johnson including career-highs with 52 tackles and 11.5 sacks. He may not be in the long-term plan in Cincinnati, but if he's able to play at a high level again in 2013, some team, somewhere will pay him.
Spencer will be back in Dallas after being tagged for the second straight season, but 2013 will could very well be his last with the Cowboys. He's is coming off a career season, but is 29 and the Cowboys are already limited against the salary cap. Tagging him again next season is out of the question as it would cost Dallas more than $15 million.
Instead, Spencer will be in a contract year for the third straight season. He's moving from linebacker to defensive end in Dallas' new 4-3 defensive scheme, but free agency has taught us teams will pay for sacks. Spencer set a career high with 11.0 sacks last season and even if he can't duplicate his 95 tackles, another double-digit sack season should get him paid on the open market. That said, Spencer will be 30 next offseason and teams could shy away from a mega-deal if his production declines dramatically.
While many of the other tagged players are just entering their primes, Starks is entering his 10th NFL season. He's been a consistent performer since signing with Miami in 2009, but he may have missed out on an opportunity for one last big deal by being tagged.
He will be 30 when he hits free agency and defensive tackles don't have a great history of maintaining a high level of play well into their 30s. Starks signed his franchise tender and reported for mandatory minicamp. If he's able to produce for another season, he could be in line for a two or three year deal next offseason, but anything much longer would be a surprise.
Punters are people too and McAfee proved they could also be franchised. The 26-year-old is coming off an excellent season and has improved his average and net average each of the last three seasons. He already signed his $2.977 million franchise tender. Assuming he has another strong year, McAfee would be an excellent candidate for an extension.