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Extra Points: Tag you're it

10:55 AM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Monday's deadline to use the franchise or transition tags on impending veteran NFL free agents resulted in four additions to a list which already included Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd, Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson, Denver left tackle Ryan Clady and Indianapolis punter Pat McAfee.

Miami decided to go all in on defensive tackle Randy Starks, while the Chicago Bears locked in fellow interior presence Henry Melton. The Dallas Cowboys limited Anthony Spencer's options for a second straight year, and Kansas City made the most noise of the day, re-signing possible franchise targets Dwayne Bowe and Dustin Colquitt, before placing the tag on offensive lineman Branden Albert.

Under the franchise designation, players will earn the average of the top-five players at his position in 2013 or 120 percent of his salary from 2012, whichever is greater. They can all still work out long-term deals, however. The transition tag, which guarantees the average of the top-10 players at any position, wasn't used by anyone this time around.

As usual, though, the more interesting aspect of the deadline ended up being who didn't get tagged, repercussions that gave a little insight in to what certain teams are thinking as free agency gets set to begin on March 12.

When Miami tagged Starks, it meant that cornerback Sean Smith and left tackle Jake Long, a former No. 1 overall pick, will likely hit the open market.

Smith seems to be far more highly regarded outside the Miami organization and it's almost a fait accompli he'll be filing a change of address form by mid- March. Long, meanwhile, was once regarded as one of the premier players at one of the game's most important positions, but injury concerns and another potential huge outlay have the Dolphins contemplating life after Long.

After breaking the bank to re-sign quarterback Joe Flacco, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens gave fellow 3-4 defensive teams around the league reason to lick their chops by passing on the ability to tag pass rushing outside linebacker Paul Kruger, as well as inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbee, two big keys in their championship run. Both players are just 27 and the kind of ascending talent teams will throw big money at in free agency.

The NFC champion San Francisco 49ers decided to let Dashon Goldson hear from other suitors and while Jim Harbaugh almost certainly wants his Pro Bowl safety back in the Bay Area, Goldson should command a huge payday, cause for concern for a player whose greatest attribute is run support, not coverage.

The same mentality evidently infiltrated Atlanta, Houston and North Jersey where the he Falcons decided to take their chances with the thumping William Moore, and the Texans let Glover Quin measure his worth. The Giants, meanwhile, voted against locking up Kenny Phillips.

Clearly, there is a dearth of coverage safeties around the NFL but giving up on difference makers because they aren't as well-rounded as clubs might like is probably not the prudent decision moving forward.

The tagging rules actually helped Dallas keep Spencer but hindered Minnesota's efforts to hang onto right tackle Phil Loadholt as well as Pro bowl fullback Jerome Felton.

The Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Spencer for the second straight year, guaranteeing him the going rate for an elite outside linebacker even though new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who is switching the 'Boys from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive alignment, has the pass-rushing threat penciled in at defensive end, a higher-paying position.

The Vikings, meanwhile, couldn't tag important pieces like Loadholt and Felton because the NFL doesn't differentiate between left and right tackles or fullbacks and running backs. Guaranteeing Clady-like money for a right tackle like Loadholt is just not financially viable, and giving running back money to a lead-isolation option at fullback, even the NFL's best like Felton, is a non-starter.

The New England Patriots didn't use the franchise tag on any of their potential free agents, but rumors persist they are close to a deal with slot receiver Wes Welker. Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and cornerback Aqib Talib, however, remain very attractive options for outsiders.

Detroit, which has the No. 5 overall pick in April's NFL draft, decided against franchising Cliff Avril for a second straight year, something that would have cost the franchise $12.726 million. Letting Avril walk in the coming days could signal the Lions are high on at least one of the pass- rushing options available in the draft, perhaps Georgia star Jarvis Jones or Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner.

Other players franchised in 2012 who were not tagged again were Atlanta cornerback Brent Grimes, Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent, Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson and Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis. Grimes, Nugent and Davis, finished the 2012 season on the sidelines, so injuries were a concern.

In Kansas City, the new brain trust of Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey was the big winner, locking up one of the best punters in the game -- Colquitt -- before bringing back a top-tier receiving threat -- Bowe -- for new quarterback Alex Smith.

Those signings also enabled the Chiefs to tag Albert and explore their options on draft day. Kansas City, which currently has the No. 1 overall pick, could select Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel and slide Albert inside or snare the best available defender to pair with solid pass rushers like Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

The Sports Network

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