Multiple franchise tag options on table for New England Patriots

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The NFL’s off-season officially begins this week with teams having access to use their franchise tag on an anticipated unrestricted free agent.

The Patriots, now reigning champions, will be busy this off-season with 11 players possibly heading into free agency. Six of those players are considered starters, with starting cornerback Darrelle Revis leading the group as the most expensive and valuable player.

Revis is unlikely the option for the franchise tag because the Patriots are expected to work out a better contract with him instead of paying him a second year option which would cost $20 million.

The possible options for the franchise tag consist of starters, safety Devin McCourty, running back Shane Vereen, and running back Stevan Ridley, who missed the 2014-15 season with an ACL injury.

The reason the two running backs are an unlikely choice for the tag is because it would be about an $11 million hit on the salary cap. Since franchise tag contracts are only one year and the player tagged earns a top-10 salary at his respective position, tagging one of the running backs would hurt the team as much as losing them, financially.

This leaves the media favorite McCourty. He is the realistic option for the franchise tag, but the safety salary for a tagged player would be about $9.6 million. His contract would still be very costly, but he is also the most sought after safety heading into free agency. If the Patriots cannot negotiate a deal with McCourty, tagging is an option.

The hardest part about deciding who to use the franchise tag on is tagging a player the team hopes to sign an extension.

The Patriots, under Bill Belichick, have failed to re-sign five of the eight players they tagged. Meaning, if a player does not sign an extension within a year, the franchise tag contract hurt the team’s salary cap.

In the 2014 off-season, the Patriots chose not to use their franchise tag. They re-signed receiver Julian Edleman and chose not to re-sign cornerback Aquib Talib, who went on to sign with the Denver Broncos.

It all comes down to if the Patriots’ expected free agents are willing to negotiate a new contract before free agency starts. Like Edleman last year, some players are open to sign with the team and take less money, which they would make with another team.

The Patriots do have another option up their sleeve: tag kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The idea of tagging a kicker is not popular, but is still realistic. In 2014, the New York Jets tagged kicker Nick Folk.

It is all about money in the NFL and how a team can save it. The Patriots would only pay Gostkowski $4.12 million for a kicker’s salary. He was solid kicking field goals this season going 35-for-37 and has proven he is one of the top kickers in the NFL.

This option is cheap and realistic for the Patriots, but it is also important because kickers do not grow on trees. The Detroit Lions went through three different kickers this past season because they could not find someone trustworthy.

Whoever the Patriots tag, it is important to be aware of the salary cap, but also retain the players who are vital to the organization.

 

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