by | CBS Sports NFL Insider

Breaking down chances of teams securing franchised players to long-term deals


Matt Forte appears dead-set on playing out this season and becoming a free agent in 2013. (AP)  
Matt Forte appears dead-set on playing out this season and becoming a free agent in 2013. (AP)  

The NFL is a deadline-driven business. And for some of the best players in the game, a major deadline is looming. Two weeks from now we'll know which of the league's franchised players are going to be with their current teams long-term, and which may be a year away from an exit.

Teams have until July 16 to secure the players to a new deal, otherwise they must play out the 2012 season on the one-year franchise designation (of course, a player could in theory sit out the season, but it's a no-leverage move and is fairly unprecedented and won't be happening this season). There is always some danger in allowing a player to play it out, most aren't thrilled about being tagged in the first place and, unless a team is then willing to franchise him in 2013 at a 20-percent raise, then it often serves as a precursor to a free-agent departure.

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Some teams and players on the tag have already done business, like DeSean Jackson (Eagles) and Calais Campbell (Cardinals), but the majority will take it down to the wire this month, and negotiations will heat up in earnest after the July 4 holiday. With that in mind, here's a hunch on how those contract talks might resolve for the offensive and defensive players on the tag (we'll omit the kickers for now).

Drew Brees: The only quarterback in the bunch and the most high-stakes, high-profile scenario, especially given all the Saints have been through this offseason. They can't afford to let him go, and the reality is Brees is in line to become the highest-paid player in NFL history. The only real question is, how high will it go?

Aribitrator Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of Brees and the NFLPA on Tuesday, meaning his salary on a one-year deal would be a 140 percent raise based on being franchised for a third time in his career. But, ultimately, people around the league don't expect it to come to that. With the ruling, it becomes more likely he gets $20 million per season. New Orleans knows the only real solution here comes in the form of a five-year deal, and Brees, after all he's been through in that city post-Katrina, knows just as well that leaving now over money would be silly. They'll find a way to make it work.

He's going to end up averaging about $19 million a season and he's going to get something like $55-60 million guaranteed. It just may come right down to the final hours, but anything less than a long-term deal doesn't make sense. Not with a quarterback this superior who means so much to the fan base and who has positioned himself as the ultimate man of the people. Not after all the Saints have been through this offseason. They have to get it done.

Odds on a new deal: Strong

Matt Forte: This one should have been done a year ago, under the Bears old regime and the price tag would have been cheaper then, too. New GM Phil Emery has done an excellent job of repairing relations between the front office and the locker room, but his biggest challenge remains. Forte's position was only emboldened following his season-ending injury. Playing out this season, if need be, and then trying to hit the market in 2013 seems to be OK with him. Of course, the Bears could always franchise him again, but that would exacerbate the already tenuous relations here.

Talks to this point have been fruitless, and running back is a tricky position to negotiate. Their relative value has decreased in the game and the injury risk is significant. Forte seems resolved to play it out. Things can always change quickly in a negotiation, but everything to this point, and how long this situation has lingered even back to last season, wouldn't point to a quick solution now. Shady McCoy and Arian Foster and other top backs have already been paid in that span, while Forte and the Bears haven't built up any momentum. I suspect Forte ends up sitting out a good chunk of camp, if not all of it, before eventually signing the franchise tender.

Odds on a new deal: Weak

Ray Rice: As we just noted, things can be tricky with running backs, but the Ravens are in a different situation here. Things never got close to acrimonious, unlike the Forte situation, and the history of this organization would indicate a strong willingness to tie up their best young talent long-term. Rice is a weapon in the pass game, like Forte, and Baltimore also knows it may need that franchise tag for quarterback Joe Flacco next year, which puts a premium on getting Rice done now.

The cap-strapped club may even be able to create a little cap wiggle room by redoing Rice, which would help. A year ago they got Haloti Ngata off the tag and made him one of the richest defensive linemen in league history. Rice, yet to sign his tag, isn't going to get into that Chris Johnson stratosphere, but in the end I figure he gets as close to $9 million a year as possible and the sides work something out.

Odds on a new deal: Solid

Wes Welker: I don't sense any real motivation to get this extended. The Patriots seem perfectly fine with the talented, but older, receiver playing out the tag. While Welker, clearly, would like a little more money and security from a longer deal, I don't see it happening now after all this time. He loves being a Patriot and playing with Tom Brady, and the sides could always work out a new deal down the line, and in the meantime he gets roughly $10 million.

Sources with knowledge of this negotiation have believed for months that Welker would end up playing 2012 on the tag and that became even more clear when he signed it and joined offseason work a while back. It would take a fairly drastic turn of events to get off that track now.

Odds on a new deal: Weak

Cliff Avril: The Lions too have spent a lot of money recently, and have had some cap issues to navigate this offseason. Talks with Avril haven't been fruitful and a divide remains between the sides. Given all the Lions are already investing in their defensive line and what kind of money Avril, yet to sign his tag, stands to make -- Calais Campbell, who will earn $17 million in 2012 as part of his new deal, is one legitimate comparable in this instance -- it may end up that this gets tabled for the future.

There will be communication and a renewed vigor in talks, I'm sure, but bridging this gap might not be easy, and it won't be cheap. Avril was playing excellent football when Ndamukong Suh wasn't on the field, so the argument that the other talented pieces in that front four make him doesn't hold up. He's been improving rapidly for years now, and at his age, if able to hit the open market, he would be coveted. Giving up that kind of leverage will take some convincing.

Odds on a new deal: Fair

Dwayne Bowe: The Chiefs have gone into the past few years with a lot of cap space and seems like that will be the case again. Carrying Bowe around $10 million against the cap isn't an issue, and they have used several recent high draft picks on wide receivers, trying to build some depth there ... So many in the league wonder how willing they would be to do the kind of deal it would take to lock up Bowe long-term.

Bowe, who hasn't signed his tag, has done some special stuff with Matt Cassel, but how long will Cassel be running the show at quarterback? It certainly seems there could be more transition to come on the offensive side of the ball unless the overall productivity greatly spikes. Seeing how 2012 plays out and then making long-term decisions at quarterback and receiver could be a smart approach for the Chiefs, especially if some of their draft picks start to develop more rapidly.

Odds on a new deal: Weak

Tyvon Branch: The Michael Griffin deal from last month, which took the Titans safety off the franchise tag, provides a pretty good template for Branch and the Raiders working something out. New GM Reggie McKenzie has worked hard to secure young talent and navigate a brutal cap situation that forced him to part with some talent.

The mere fact the Raiders were able to create the room to franchise Branch showed their intent, and there is motivation on both sides to do something beyond the one-year franchise Band-Aid. If you take the Griffin deal, but spread some guaranteed money a little more into the contract, provide a little more third-year protection in the form of a guaranteed portion of base play or a roster bonus due early in the league year, then there is ample potential here.

Odds on a new deal: Strong

Dashon Goldson: The 49ers have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball in particular, and with a growing cast of young standouts there, who will continue to merit new contracts? Do they need to invest heavily at safety now for the long-term? A year ago Goldson, who has yet to sign his tag, was a free agent and the market was soft for him. He lingered for a while and ended up being a bargain for San Francisco.

GM Trent Baalke has done a great job assembling talent and finding value in free agency. But given normal budget limitations, and the fact the team is building a new stadium, and with guys like Navarro Bowman around the corner,how much do your pour into the back end? Especially with all of the production they get from the front seven. With all of that in mind, maybe it makes sense to wait and see what happens with other contracts at the position as well.

Odds on a new deal: Fair

Brent Grimes: After spending big on Dunta Robinson, with minimal return, the Falcons need to keep Grimes around long term. They know it and he knows it. And in building a perennial playoff team under GM Thomas Dimitroff, they have consistently tied up their best players well into the future.

But they did just trade for Asante Samuel, and they restructured Robinson's deal in a way that essentially lets them wait and see on him for a year and then could cut ties. So, say six months from now, they may have considerably less money allocated to the corner position than they do right now, and Grimes is going to command top dollar. There isn't a threat of any holdouts or distractions, as Grimes already signed his tender, so if a deal isn't done by mid July it's not the end of the world.

Odds on a new deal: Fair

Anthony Spencer: Spencer changed agents this offseason and then promptly signed his tag. While his play has improved, he has yet to merit his draft position and getting franchised was no insult here. It makes sense for both parties, as the Cowboys get another year to see what his upside is in Rob Ryan's scheme and he gets well-compensated and gets to stay in familiar surroundings.

There is no rush to get something done for the linebacker, and many linebackers this past offseason ended up not getting close to the kind of deals they wanted in free agency. This one seems to have wait-and-see written all over it.

Odds on a new deal: Weak

Fred Davis: Some were surprised the Redskins even franchised the tight end at all, given his suspension for the final four games for failed drug tests. They figured the team could let him hit the market, with no one willing to guarantee much money to a player who will be suspended for a season if he fails another test, and then Washington could bring him back for a few million bucks.

The Redskins didn't want to take that chance ... but doing anything other than letting Davis play out 2012 on and off the field would be crazy. Davis quickly signed his franchise tag and, with his latest saga involving a fairly bizarre civil case, he seems to know as well as anyone that this franchise tag is as good as he's going to do right now.

Odds on a new deal: Weak

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday during the season on The NFL Today.

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