Tag time arrives


NFL teams can start using the franchise tag today, meaning Vince Wilfork is now on the clock.

Last year, a dozen players were tagged, meaning more than a third of the league used the franchise designation. The list … Cardinals LB Karlos Dansby, Falcons P Michael Koenen, Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs, Panthers DE Julius Peppers, Bengals K Shayne Graham, Texans CB Dunta Robinson, Giants RB Brandon Jacobs, Chargers RB Darren Sproles, Seahawks LB LeRoy Hill, Rams S O.J. Atogwe, Buccaneers WR Antonio Bryant and Titans TE Bo Scaife. Ultimately, only Suggs, Jacobs and Hill got long-term deals. The other nine remained with their teams, playing under their respective one-year tenders.

Here are the tenders for 2010. Wilfork would cost $7.003 million to tag, and he certainly will be if a long-term deal can’t be worked out quickly. The team could also slap the “exclusive” tag on him, which would be more expensive and keep him from talking to any other team. Suggs got that one last year.

So what’s next? Well, the Patriots have until February 25 to apply the tag, so there’s still plenty of time before they have to do anything. And the club might want to exhaust all options before actually franchising Wilfork, which would mean taking negotiations right to the wire on that Thursday, which happens to be the first day of the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

I do know that the Patriots reached out to a number of their veterans with expiring contracts at the beginning of this week, looking to start negotiations with free agency opening just three weeks from tomorrow. And so the offseason begins.


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