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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Tag central: Who will get them (if they mean anything)

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NFL teams have until Feb. 23 to put the franchise or transition tag on any of their potential free agents.

Normally, that's not such a big deal.

It is this year.

Will Patriots guard Logan Mankins chafe under a franchise tag? (US Presswire)  
Will Patriots guard Logan Mankins chafe under a franchise tag? (US Presswire)  
For starters, we have no idea when any free agency period will begin because without a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners, there is none. The two sides have had minimal talks and the current CBA expires March 3.

There are several other issues tied to that. For example, what will free agency look like in a new agreement? Will players be free after four, five or six seasons?

Then there's the union's stance on the franchise tag. They insist without a CBA that the right to put a franchise tag on a player doesn't exist. The league turned their noses up to that notion, and the tags still will come.

But what happens if a new agreement eliminates them? It truly is a strange situation.

Is this an exercise in futility?

The union went so far as to send out a letter to player agents stating that since the 2011 season isn't under the old CBA, that teams have no right to put tags on players.

But unless there's a new agreement between the players and owners before Feb. 23, the tags are going on players. Franchise tags are more exclusive and cost more. The transition tags cost less, but players can leave easier.

The actual dollar values for each of the tags has not been decided. The league usually releases that information at the Super Bowl, but not this year. That means any numbers associated with the tags are rough estimates for now, using the top-5 salaries from each position.

Related

Here's a look at each team and the potential players who might get tagged -- even if they end up not meaning a thing:

Arizona Cardinals: They likely won't use any tags. They could opt to put a franchise tag on receiver Steve Breaston, but that would take his salary up to the $10 million range. He's a good player they'd love to have, but I can't imagine keeping him at that number.

Atlanta Falcons: They have two top candidates in right tackle Tyson Clabo and corner Brent Grimes, although Grimes likely will be classified as a restricted free agent, which might not warrant the tag. I say it's either Clabo or punter Michael Koenen, a player the Falcons tagged in 2009. Clabo would cost roughly $10.5 million if he is the pick. That's pricey.

Baltimore Ravens: They almost certainly will put the franchise tag on defensive end/tackle Haloti Ngata. (Editor's note: Ngata was franchised Tuesday by the Ravens). He is one of the best defensive linemen in the league, and would command a huge deal on the open market. The Ravens have to keep him.

Buffalo Bills: They could use one of the tags on linebacker Paul Posluszny. If he were to hit the open market in a free-agency period, he would get some play. The knock on him is his injury history, but when he's on the field he's a good player.

Carolina Panthers: They have options. They could tag running back DeAngelo Williams or center Ryan Kalil or defensive end Charles Johnson, who had a breakout season in 2010. Williams is marquee player, but I think a better choice would be Kalil, who has developed into a top-tier center.

CB Johnathan Joseph: Too expensive for a franchise tag? (US Presswire)  
CB Johnathan Joseph: Too expensive for a franchise tag? (US Presswire)  
Chicago Bears: The Bears have said they will not use any of the available tags.

Cincinnati Bengals: My guess is the Bengals might use a tag on corner Johnathan Joseph. But that price -- expected to be $14 million or so for a franchise corner -- could turn them away. Joseph is a good player, but they also have Leon Hall, the other corner, coming up as a free agent next season. They could tag running back Cedric Benson, but that really doesn't make sense. You can always find backs.

Cleveland Browns: They don't have any players who can become free who would be worth tagging. Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson might have been a possibility, but he missed last season because of a torn pectoral muscle.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys could use a tag on left tackle Doug Free, who was their best offensive linemen last season in his first full season as a starter. He has four accrued seasons, so he's a candidate.

Denver Broncos: Would they use the franchise tag on corner Champ Bailey? He had a great season, but he's 32. It's doubtful. Bailey wins in either scenario. He gets a big deal if he's not tagged but gets $14 million if he is.

Detroit Lions: They don't have any players worth using the tag on due to become free agents and doubt they use any.

Green Bay Packers: They have a lot of guys set to become free agents, but the only candidate to be tagged is defensive end Cullen Jenkins. He missed some time because of injuries in 2010, but he's a big part of their defense. Even so, the projected price of $13 million or so for the franchise tag is a bit high for him.

Houston Texans: Tight end Owen Daniels is their only real candidate to be tagged, but he's been injury plagued the past couple of seasons. The $10 million franchise number for tight ends could keep him off the list.

Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning is the biggest no-brainer of them all and will get the tag. (Manning was franchised Tuesday by the Colts). Manning would be paid $23 million if he plays for the franchise tag next season. Wow. He is willing to do it, although he prefers a new deal.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Tight end Marcedes Lewis is almost a lock to get tagged. He is too valuable to an offense that lacks a big-play receiver. The franchise number also isn't prohibitive for a tight end. Lewis isn't going anywhere.

Kansas City Chiefs: Outside linebacker Tamba Hali emerged as a pass-rush force at just the right time in 2010. He is set to become a free agent and the Chiefs have to tag him. He's too valuable to what they do. Young pass rushers are walking, talking gold.

Nose tackle Paul Soliai could be tagged after a standout season. (Getty Images)  
Nose tackle Paul Soliai could be tagged after a standout season. (Getty Images)  
Miami Dolphins: The best tagging possibility would be nose tackle Paul Soliai, who had a great season in 2010. But the Dolphins have given indications he will not be tagged. They have no other free agent who is worth one.

Minnesota Vikings: They have tough decisions to make. Do they franchise linebacker Chad Greenway or receiver Sidney Rice? Do they transition the other one? If they franchise Greenway, his number will be roughly $10.2 million, while Rice's transition number would be about the same. If Rice is franchised, he will cost about $1 million more.

New England Patriots: It was almost certain the Patriots would put the franchise tag on left guard Logan Mankins. (Mankins was franchised Monday by the Patriots). He's one of the best in football. He sat out part of last season in a contract dispute, so you know the tag won't make him happy.

New Orleans Saints: The two top candidates are left tackle Jermon Bushrod and safety Roman Harper. It's doubtful either gets tagged. Bushrod is a good, young tackle, but he would be way overpriced if he were to get tagged. Same for Harper, whose last game against Seattle was a disaster. It's unlikely they tag anybody.

New York Giants: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Steve Smith would seem to be the best possibilities, but I doubt either gets tagged. Smith is coming off an injury and Bradshaw is good, but not elite.

New York Jets: They will likely tag inside linebacker David Harris if they can't get him signed to a new deal. (Harris was franchised Tuesday by the Jets). The other marquee free agents will be Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, but Harris is the more likely choice.

Oakland Raiders: They put the tag on Richard Seymour last season, but he would be paid $15 million if the tag were put on him again. That's a lot for 32-year-old defensive end. They could choose to put it on tight end Zach Miller, a younger player who is a good tight end wasted by some bad quarterback play the past couple of years.

Philadelphia Eagles: The second biggest no-brainer is the Eagles putting the franchise tag on Mike Vick. It makes too much sense. (Vick was franchised by the Eagles on Tuesday). It gives them a way to see if his 2010 season can carry over before giving him a long-term deal.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley is vital to the success of the Steelers' 3-4 defense. The Steelers will usually allow free agents to leave, but this is a player in his prime who might be the best player on the defense in a year or two.

St. Louis Rams: I can't see them using a tag on anyone in their less-than-impressive free-agent group.

San Diego Chargers: The most likely choice is receiver Vincent Jackson. (Jackson was franchised Tuesday by the Chargers). He missed much of last season in a contract dispute, watching from the sidelines. He probably won't be happy if he's tagged, but the $11 million will ease that pain. Safety Eric Weddle is another possibility

San Francisco 49ers: They put the franchise tag on nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin last year. If they did it again, he would be paid roughly $13 million. He didn't play as well in 2010 as he did in 2009. That's too much. Safety Dashon Goldson is another possibility, but unlikely.

Seattle Seahawks: Do they use the franchise tag on veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck? I wouldn't. Who will make a run at him at his age? They could tag underrated defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. They probably pass on both.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are likely to pass on using the franchise tag. They would love to keep guard Davin Joseph and linebacker Barrett Ruud, but they might take their chances without using a tag.

Tennessee Titans: Defensive end Jason Babin was one of the big surprises from 2010. He had 12 1/2 sacks after signing a one-year deal. If the Titans were to put the franchise tag on him, he'd be getting roughly $13 million. Is he worth that? Not likely, especially when you consider the Titans are the third team he's played with.

Washington Redskins: Wide receiver Santana Moss will have his contract voided, which means he's a free agent. Do the Redskins tag him? Is he worth it? The other top free agent is corner Carlos Rogers. The Redskins might pass on both.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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