Beginning on Monday, all 32 NFL teams entered a two-week window where they can place the franchise tag on players on their squad who enter this offseason as free agents. During the next two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers will not have to deal with the drama that say the New Orleans Saints are certain to face if they use the franchise tag on one Jimmy Graham, but that does not mean that the 49ers will be free of having to make a decision.
The player most mentioned as being potentially franchise tagged by the 49ers is safety Donte Whitner. While Whitner is an All-Pro safety and just barely going to turn 30, one would assume that he is in line for a nice payday. The question at hand is whether or not the 49ers should franchise the safety.
Looking at what it would cost if the 49ers placed the franchise tag on Whitner and depending on what the final 2014 salary cap number ends up being, it would be anywhere between $8-$8.11 million which would take up around 6.34 percent of the cap. Although not as steep as what it would cost to franchise a player at another position, for a safety it is still a decent sized number, especially for a player who is not the best player on that defense.
Taking into account then what it would cost along with where Whitner falls on the 49ers’ pecking order, it becomes clear that the 49ers should not and are not likely to franchise tag the safety. For starters, every dollar the 49ers spend on a player who does not fit into the mold of being a young core player takes away from what the 49ers can offer the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati and Aldon Smith. Therefore franchise tagging a player who can be expendable makes little to no sense.
In addition to looking towards the future, the 49ers can look to the recent past for evidence on why not tagging Whitner is a logical choice. Last offseason, the 49ers refused to franchise tag safety Dashon Goldson for a second year running in large part due to the fact they would have paid him $7.45 million. Given Whitner is as good and probably just a bit better than Goldson, it is hard to see the 49ers willing to pay Whitner that extra $450,000-$600,000 for a comparable player who in the end is highly unlikely to settle for anything short of a three-year contract.