Today is the date that NFL teams can begin to shape their 2014 rosters by applying a franchise tag to a free agent player they would like to retain. While the Falcons have employed this tactic in the recent past, tagging cornerback Brent Grimes in a season that he ended up spending on the sideline with a torn Achilles, it's probably not very likely that they'll use this approach with any of their free agents this season.
If a team applies exclusive franchise rights to a player, they are agreeing to pay that player an average of the top five cap hits in the league at that player's position, and that player is unable to negotiate with other teams. If a team applies non-exclusive franchise rights to a player, that player can still negotiate with other teams. Teams employ the franchise tag to retain key players at a more manageable cost than standard negotiation would bring in most situations.
For example, had the team not been able to work out Matt Ryan's extension in the offseason, the franchise tag might have come into play for Ryan heading into 2014. With the contract extension, Ryan's cap hit in 2014 will be $17.5 million dollars. Had the Falcons been forced to apply a franchise tag to retain the quarterback in 2014, his cap hit would have been the average of Jay Cutler's $22.5 million, Tony Romo's $21.773 million, Eli Manning's $20.4 million, Ben Roethlisberger's $18.895 million, and Drew Brees' $18.4 million, which would average out to $20,393,600. That's a pretty effective snapshot to illustrate why it was important to extend Ryan prior to the season.
While there may be some movement on the franchise front around the NFC South--many people find it difficult to believe that the Saints can get by without applying a franchise tag to Jimmy Graham--it's unlikely that the Falcons will consider it necessary to move forward with a franchise tag for any of their free agents this season. The Falcons do have some tough decisions to make at defensive tackle, with Jonathan Babineaux, Corey Peters and Peria Jerry all entering unrestricted free agency, but the franchise tag for that position would be nearly $15 million dollars, and probably not the most sound financial approach for Atlanta.
Aside from defensive tackles, Atlanta's free agents are primarily young players who have had limited impact and likely wouldn't be terribly expensive to re-sign. It's unlikely the Falcons will use the franchise tag, because it just doesn't make much sense for them this season.
What other players around the league do you expect to see franchised by their respective teams?