A Falcons Discussion: Who Might The Team Franchise In 2011?

ATLANTA GA - JANUARY 15: (L-R) Tyson Clabo #77 Michael Turner #33 and Harvey Dahl #73 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrate after Turner scored a 12-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15 2011 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

As the NFL navigates the minefield that is the looming lockout, there have been a lot of questions about how things like free agency, the draft and training camp will be handled. About all we knew up until this point was that the draft would still go on in the face of a stoppage, which is so awful to think about that I don't want to think about thinking about it.

But on Wednesday, the league shed a little more light on the process. Basically, the NFL is telling teams that they'll be able to use franchise tags come February 10. That's a big deal for teams facing huge free agent classes, as many teams will be in 2011.

But what does it mean for the Falcons? The last time they used a franchise tag was in 2009, and it was for punter Michael Koenen. They're not a franchise known for dipping into that particular bag all that often, so it's possible they may pass again this off-season. Even during the biggest years for the tag, better than half the teams in the NFL usually do so.

Somehow I don't think so, though. The Falcons are facing a critical off-season for their offensive line, which could lose as many as three starters in guards Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl and tackle Tyson Clabo. Obviously the Falcons won't be keen on letting the trio walk, but someone's not coming back. It may also be difficult to reach long-term deals with all of them, if Madden has taught me anything about the way the NFL works.

My opinion is that the Falcons will strongly consider franchising Dahl or Blalock if they can't reach a deal, though I don't pretend to know which one they're targeting. What's your gut feeling? Will the franchise tag be used, and if so, who will be slapped with its fleeting glove?

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