Deciding on using the franchise tag isn’t always a question of ability; it’s often about economics, or simply avoiding making a decision if possible. Joe Flacco, the biggest name in free agency this season, will probably be franchised by the Baltimore Ravens, who don’t want to pay him the kind of money his agent does. Michael Johnson, Jairus Byrd and Dwayne Bowe will join him in the tag list as well.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Joe Flacco is looking to become the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, but will all due respect to his Super Bowl ring, he doesn’t deserve to be paid that much. So what do the Ravens do? Franchise him, knowing the committing long term to a quarterback with maximum kind of money just isn’t smart, considering that there are more things than just Flacco’s playoff wins to look at, like his relatively low QBR and DVOA; he’s never finished in the top 10 in either metric since he entered the league in 2008.
Still, Flacco has a huge arm and he did just finish the postseason with four wins, throwing 11 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions. Some think the Ravens are going to play chicken with him – giving him a chance to sign an offer sheet they might match with another team. It’s likely that if they don’t franchise him, exclusively, Flacco won’t be playing with the Ravens next season.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
When you look at the list of quarterbacks Dwayne Bowe has played with for the last six seasons, there’s no wonder he only has 5728 yards and 39 touchdown to flaunt on his resume. The Chiefs had no passing offense last season or in general for quite some time, but Bowe is pretty much the only building block remaining, the only shred of talent to rely on, unless Andy Reid really wants to start the whole thing from scratch. Bowe was franchised last season for $9.5 million, which means he’ll cost $11.4 million in 2013. Still, the Chiefs are better off keeping him.
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
Byrd isn’t the only talented safety in the NFL hitting free agency this season, but still, the market dictates that someone like Byrd, one of the best in the league, especially when it comes to his ball-hawking skills, might get himself a contract with at least $15 million guaranteed next season. Due to that, while they try to negotiate a deal with Andy Levitre as well and knowing George Wilson is gone, the Bills will franchise Byrd, costing them around $7 million next season until they manage to find the right kind of formula for a long-term contract with Byrd.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets
Keller played only 8 times for the dysfunctional Jets last season, but did manage to post impressive advanced numbers despite all the quarterback problems on the team, ranking third among tight ends in DVOA behind Rob Gronkowski and Anthony McCoy. It is a small sample size, but it’s really hard to find anyone worthy of the tag on the team, and considering the fact that Keller will cost $5.9 million to keep and find out if he’s actually developing into one of the better tight ends in the NFL is probably worth the risk.
Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
Maybe the best defensive end hitting the draft, Johnson recorded 11.5 sacks last season with the Bengals, part of a very impressive front line along with Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins, that led the team to their second consecutive postseason appearance. Johsnon is great against the run and his length allows him to be more than just a pass-rusher that takes down quarterbacks; he’s a problem to throw balls above as well. His tag would cost $11 million, but the Bengals have plenty of cap space and should use it on Johnson.