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2013 franchise-tag deadline winners and losers

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The 2013 franchise-tag deadline has come and gone. And at the deadline we saw a stunning amount of inactivity. Last year there were 21 teams that used the tag and this year just eight. (It looked like seven until the Chiefs wrecked everyone's afternoon by squeezing a flurry of moves in just at the deadline. Mrs. Brinson hates you, Andy Reid.)

The lack of tagging was a little surprising: I'd have pegged the Titans , Vikings, Falcons and 49ers to utilize the tag (particularly the latter two with some safeties they might want to retain at a lower price). The Patriots aren't using the tag for the first time since 2008; they recognize the tag as a critical method for cheaply managing a roster and like to use it.

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Much of the inactivity may stem from the fact that teams don't like doubling up tags (ahem, Cowboys) and the depth in this free-agency class -- instead of handing guaranteed money to certain players, teams are more willing to risk limiting the amount of money they have to guarantee while hoping the cash gets tossed around.

But even with no real flurry of activity on Monday, we still have winners and losers from the franchise-tag season and deadline. Let's make knee-jerk reactions!

Winners

Andre Smith: The Bengals decided to use their franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson, which means that Smith, one of the best right tackles in all of football, will hit free agency (or have a chance to hit free agency). He could rack up some cash out there with the 2012 he had.

Dustin Colquitt: Colquitt is a very good punter, so don't infer this as me knocking his talent or ability. But the dude just got a contract that pays him more than $3 million a year and that featured an unholy $8.75 million guaranteed. That's a lot of cheeeeeeeeese for a punter. Good for him.

Dashon Goldson: Goldson made no bones about not wanting a second consecutive franchise tag. And good news for him because he didn't get it. Goldson should command some good money on the market, particularly with Jarius Byrd getting the tag from the Bills. He also wins the award for my favorite post-deadline tweet:

Dwayne Bowe: Bowe was set to earn more than $20 million guaranteed if the Chiefs used the franchise tag on him for a second straight season. Instead they worked out a deal to keep him in Kansas City for five years. I've got to think he ends up with money that equals or exceeds Vincent Jackson's five-year, $55.5555555 million deal in Tampa Bay last season. Also, I love the photo he put on Facebook of him getting the call about his new deal:

Jake Long/Sean Smith: With Randy Starks getting the tag in Miami, Long and Smith hit free agency. Long had a horrible 2012 but that can be erased when people look at his pedigree (former No. 1 pick, had several outstanding years) and age (27) and impact position (left tackle). He might not get the $11 million he wants, but he should get paid very handsomely. So should Smith -- he's arguably the top cornerback on the market and even though it's a deep group in free agency and a deep draft for defensive backs, he'll be able to pull in cash from someone who needs to shore up their secondary.

Alex Smith: His life is a lot better in Kansas City with Dwayne Bowe. A lot better.

Greg Jennings: Jennings was never going to get the franchise tag from Green Bay. But the confirmation that he can walk is huge for the wideout, who's dealt with injuries in recent years and was going to be facing issues with the team if they paid him on a one-year deal at the wideout franchise tag cost, even if it's north of $10 million. Instead, he'll hit free agency, and it doesn't hurt that he's doing so with Bowe off the board and having just been paid.

Losers

Branden Albert: Albert was so close to escaping into free agency and getting a big deal from some team needing a top-end left tackle. Instead, he's getting guaranteed money to play for Kansas City in 2012. That's not all bad, but with his back issues, you'd probably think he'd like to get paid over the long term rather than mess around with one-year deals.

Tom Brady: The Patriots didn't use their franchise tag at the deadline, which means that both Sebastian Vollmer and Wes Welker could end up hitting the market. I'd wager that the Patriots are able to bring both guys back by giving them enough cash to lure them into a title-chasing return in New England, but there's no guarantee whatsoever. If they both bolted, that probably wouldn't make Tom very happy, especially after reducing his cap number.

Tennessee Titans: Scared off by the possibility of Jared Cook pursuing arbitration as a wide-receiver-tag-eligible player, Tennessee let a real playmaker walk. Cook isn't the greatest blocker in the world, and he very well might have a good argument for being classified as a wideout, and the Titans can replace him, but he was a very nice downfield target.

Dallas Cowboys: They dropped the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer for the second year in a row. Which means a 120 percent raise. For a player with only one great year. Who is now transitioning to a different defense. Spencer (who probably qualifies as a winner as well) is very good against the run, but is he going to hold up as a 4-3 defensive end? And will he justify the $10-plus million the Cowboys will pay him in 2013? Questions abound.

Adrian Peterson: The Vikings, as of right now, aren't guaranteed to bring back either Phil Loadholt or Jerome Felton. Peterson probably does a lot to make both those guys look better, but they don't exactly make him look worse. You'd like to think he'd prefer to have them locked up as opposed to possibility hitting free agency.

 
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