A record 21 players received the franchise tag this offseason, and 12 of them got new multiyear contracts, including Matt Forté, Josh Scobee and Ray Rice, who all signed on the July 16 deadline. Connor Barth, Tyvon Branch, Drew Brees, Calais Campbell, Michael Griffin, DeSean Jackson, Robert Mathis, Matt Prater and Steve Weatherford also signed long-term deals.
When that deadline passed, nine players knew they would play the 2012 season on a one-year franchise tender. The price tag of the franchise designation is a pay raise for each player in terms of base salary, but like all NFL players, each would prefer the security of a long-term deal.
Here is a look at the nine players who will play the 2012 season under the franchise tag and their outlook for next offseason. (Players are listed alphabetically.)
DE Cliff Avril / Lions — Avril was outspoken about his situation when he didn’t get a long-term deal. He has said he will play in 2012, but as of presstime, he had not signed his tender and missed the start of camp. His tag is worth $10.605 million, and Avril, who had 11 sacks last season, could create bidding wars next spring with teams always looking for top pass rushers. However, he could get tagged again in ’13.
WR Dwayne Bowe / Chiefs — Bowe has yet to sign his franchise tender and the two sides reportedly aren’t close regarding a long-term deal. GM Scott Pioli wants value, and Bowe wants big money. It’s not likely Bowe remains in K.C. after 2012, especially if ’11 first-round WR Jon Baldwin realizes his great potential in ’12 as the team expects.
TE Fred Davis / Redskins — Davis’ troubles off the field — a pending legal case and two positive drug tests, the latter of which led to a four-game suspension late last season — did not help his cause in getting a long-term deal. He was one of Washington’s top weapons last season (59 catches for 796 yards), and if his numbers get a boost from the presence of QB Robert Griffin III, he could get a long-term deal in 2013.
PK Phil Dawson / Browns — Dawson turns 38 years old in January and this is his second consecutive season with the franchise tag. It’s not likely he would get a third franchise tag in 2013, so his future with the club, where he has been a mainstay in playing 199 games over 13 seasons, is somewhat uncertain.
S Dashon Goldson / 49ers — Goldson, who signed his franchise tender on July 26, had a career-high six interceptions last season in 14 games. He watched as teammates QB Alex Smith and CB Carlos Rogers got new deals, but Goldson did say if he has to play under the tag he will do so this season. The 49ers have big contracts coming up in the next couple years, so the team will have to figure out where Goldson ranks among its priorities for a long-term deal.
CB Brent Grimes / Falcons — Grimes signed his tag in April and there didn’t appear to be an urgency to get a long-term deal done, especially after Atlanta traded for veteran CB Asante Samuel. If Grimes stays healthy (he played in only 12 games last season) and has a good season, there will be a market for him at an important position, though the Falcons have shown they are not afraid to invest heavily at cornerback.
PK Mike Nugent / Bengals — Nugent is talented, but he has had some injury issues. He may need another strong season to enhance his value. The Bengals had the cap space to tag Nugent, who made 33-of-38 field-goal attempts last season.
OLB Anthony Spencer / Cowboys — The sixth-year veteran is a consistent player and a solid run stopper, although he isn’t a prolific pass rusher. He hasn’t missed a game since 2008 and had 66 tackles and six sacks (tying a career high) last season. If he hits the open market in ’13, he won’t get the kind of deal an elite pass rusher like teammate DeMarcus Ware received.
WR Wes Welker / Patriots — Welker decided to sign his tag late in the spring and reports indicated the two sides were far apart on a new deal. Are the Patriots responsible for making Welker one of the league’s most productive receivers, or is Welker, 31, a big reason why the Patriots have one of the league’s top offenses? The Patriots have shown they will not overpay for any player’s services, including Welker. If a young receiver impresses this season and the two sides don’t agree on terms, the Pats likely would let him walk.