Only 8 teams chose to use the Franchise tag heading into the 2013 NFL season, avoiding some key players like Michael Johnson, Anthony Spencer, Jairus Byrd and Ryan Clady from hitting free agency, although it was surprising not to see the New England Patriots make use of that option.
The Patriots have Wes Welker, Sebastian Vollmer and Aqib Talib becoming free agents in less than a week, and the initial presumption was that they’ll be using it on one of those three guys. It seems they prefer trying to reach a deal with them instead of buying an expensive delay.
The Baltimore Ravens, after giving Joe Flacco a massive new contract, didn’t see any need (and don’t have that much money to spend) to give anyone else the franchise tag.
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
The Bills were never planning on letting go of Byrd, who has been their free safety next to George Wilson. Byrd has been an All-Pro level player in the last couple of seasons, and is regarded as one of the building blocks the Bills’ defense will rest on for the future. His tag costs $6.9 million.
Henry Melton, Chicago Bears
There was a lot of interest in Melton, especially from the Dallas Cowboys, but eventually the Bears get to keep the defensive tackle who has been with the team for the past three seasons, making the Pro Bowl in 2012. His cap costs$8.45 million.
Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals know that the success of the last couple of season was built on their defense and a fantastic defensive line. Johnson recorded 11.5 sacks last season, and it didn’t seem like they were prepared to let him go to free agency. At a cap hit of $11.175 million, Johnson is the most expensive of the Franchised players.
Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys
Spencer was going to be one of the highest paid linebackers after free agency, but the Dallas Cowboys managed to work out enough restructuring to existing contracts to give Spencer the tag one more time, this time costing them $10.627 million.
Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos
Clady has been one of the best left tackles in the NFL over the last few seasons, making the AP’s All-Pro team for a third time in 2012, and with Peyton Manning being such a valuable asset, they couldn’t allow his best protector to go away. Clady’s tag is worth $9.828 million.
Pat McAfee, Indianapolis Colts
Yes, even punters get franchised sometimes. McAfee is one of the best in the NFL, and with the Colts not really having anyone crucial leaving the team on free agency, they didn’t see the harm in spending just under $3 million for McAfee.
Brandan Albert, Kansas City Chiefs
Albert has been with the Chiefs these past five seasons, and with other issues in their offensive line and across the team to address, the Chiefs didn’t want to lose their left tackle, getting $9.828 million for the franchise tag.
Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins
Randy Starks wasn’t among those mentioned often when we have spoken in recent weeks about upcoming free agency Starks was always going to stay in Miami, and they needed a $8.45 million tender to keep the defensive tackle in South Florida.