The New England Patriots have opted not to use the franchise tag this off-season as the deadline to franchise a player passed today at 4 p.m. EST. This is the first time since 2008 that the Patriots have not used the franchise tag. In recent years, the Patriots have used the tag on quarterback Matt Cassel, (in order to trade him to the Kansas City Chiefs) defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, guard Logan Mankins and last season on wide receiver Wes Welker.
Early in the off-season, the Patriots made it clear they wanted no part in franchising Wes Welker for a second straight season. If the Patriots used the tag on Welker, they would have owed him $11.4 million this year. Although the Patriots did not tag Welker, reports have indicated the two sides have made progress on a multi-year extension, thanks to Tom Brady’s contract extension, which provided the team with more salary cap space to spend in free agency.
Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was another potential candidate for the franchise tag. But Vollmer’s value dropped when word got out that he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. The Patriots were unwilling to tag Vollmer, which would have cost the team $9.8 million this season, after learning of his knee scope. The Patriots still would love to bring Vollmer back at the right price because he is one of the best tackles in the NFL when healthy.
The top candidate for the franchise tag for the 2013 season was cornerback Aqib Talib. The Patriots declined to use the tag on Talib, avoiding a potential $10.8 million one-year deal with the corner. Talib became the No. 1 cornerback for the Patriots last year after being acquired mid-season in a trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots would love for Talib to return, especially considering cornerback Kyle Arrington is a free agent and since cornerback Alfonzo Dennard is convicted of a crime that could put him in jail for up to six years depending on his sentence.
The Patriots want Talib to return to the team but were against slapping the franchise tag on him because that would handcuffed the team in negotiations with other players in free agency. Now, the Patriots will look to try to sign Talib to a contract extension at a reasonable price, or look for another solid coverage cornerback elsewhere in free agency.