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One guy who wasn't upset being tagged

Posted by Albert Breer  February 3, 2010 03:33 PM

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There are scores of stories about unhappily franchise-tagged football players out there.

So we bring you now the tale of the friendliest tagging I can remember.

Colts DE Dwight Freeney's rookie contract was set to expire in February of 2007, and the two sides weren't within striking distance of an extenstion. So the club put the tag on Freeney, and it wasn't just the standard tag, it was the "exclusive" tag, which kept the star pass-rusher from negotiating with any other team, with a one-year tender of $9.43 million.

Freeney was 27, and had 56.5 sacks in his first five years in the league. Clearly, he was poised to cash in. Yet, as the Colts took Freeney off the free-agent market, limiting his options to one team, he did something that most in this situation wouldn't. He remained optimistic that a deal would get done, and he kept from creating a stir.

"I think it was just the smart thing for them, a formality because we didn't have the deal done at the time," Freeney said. "And that's all it was. It wasn't anything like, 'Well, you need another year to prove yourself.'"

For some five months, Freeney remained unsigned. Was he angry? Nope.

"I knew what type of organization we do have," Freeney continued. "I understood. And you know what? They usually do take care of their guys. I thought about it, and I'd done a lot for this orgnization, so I knew they'd take care of me. They'd always told me, from Day 1, they'd take care of me."

The Colts did -- signing Freeney to a six-year, $72 million contract with $30 million guaranteed, raising the bar for players at his position. It's an interesting case to look at, when considering Vince Wilfork's spot right now, and it illustrates what the spirit of the franchise tag is, allowing a team to extend in exclusive negotiating window for a player the Colts couldn't afford to allow to his the open market.

Bottom line here: When players think a deal is going to get done, the tag doesn't bother them as much. So with Vince? If the sides make progress, and he's tagged like Freeney was, in an effort to extend negotiations without having to deal with the risk of losing him, then I sense he'd be OK with it. If he feels like progress isn't being made and a deal isn't on the horizon, that's where he'd be upset.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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