The roll on franchise tag designations for NFL teams, which could hit an all-time high this year based on financial considerations, has started in earnest. The first player to get locked up by his team was Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who was tagged on Thursday. Per the rule that has any franchised player making the average of the five highest-paid players at his position, Jackson will make $9.4 million this year, guaranteed -- unless the Eagles are able to agree with Jackson on a long-term deal. Things have been contentious between the two sides, but general manager Howie Roseman believes that this is the first step towards making Jackson an Eagle for the next few seasons at the very least.
"We want DeSean to be an Eagle for the long haul and this is a step in the right direction to accomplish that," Roseman said. "DeSean is a talented player and a proven playmaker in this league and we look forward to him continuing his career in Philadelphia. It's our understanding that he has the same desire. We will continue our efforts on getting a long-term deal done with him."
Jackson espoused the same notion. "I am honored that the Philadelphia Eagles organization perceives me as a franchise player," he said in a statement. "I look forward to getting a long-term deal done soon and being an Eagle for many years to come."
The first player in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl at two different positions in the same year (receiver and returner in 2009), Jackson is an integral part of the Eagles' vertical West Coast offense. He grabbed 58 passes for 961 yards and four touchdowns in 2011, despite holding out in the preseason because he wanted a better number than the $600,000 he was due. Jackson was also suspended for one game after being late to a team meeting.
The Oakland Raiders, a team looking to redefine their secondary after the departure of cornerback Stanford Routt, tagged safety Tyvon Branch on Thursday. Branch is more a box defender and in-line tackler than a true coverage player, but he's also a bastion of consistency in a defense looking to get younger in a hurry. 2011 was the third straight year in which Branch posted more than 100 tackles.
On Friday morning, more teams tagged the pass defenders who might be tasked with covering Jackson sometime this upcoming season.
The Atlanta Falcons announced that they put the tender on cornerback Brent Grimes, one of the most underrated players in the NFL. Grimes proved his value by his absence -- injured for the team's playoff game against the New York Giants, he had to watch as Eli Manning riddled Atlanta's defense in a 24-2 demolition on his way to another Super Bowl ring.
Also, Adam Schefter of ESPN believes that the San Francisco 49ers will franchise safety Dashon Goldson, who played on a one-year contract with a $1 million base salary after rejecting a five-year offer from the 49ers. It was a wise investment on Goldson's part - he picked off six passes and made his first Pro Bowl. One of several players to leave Drew Rosenhaus' agency in recent days, Goldson signed with CAA and now has a more positive outlook about his future with the team.
"I think those guys are excited about me being there and I'm sure they want me back," Goldson told the San Francisco Chronicle in early February. "They've expressed how much they want me back. I want to be back there. Like I said, if I'm not there, I'd be shocked."
Two players who were expected to receive the franchise tag but won't are Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace and Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan. Reports indicate that the Steelers will give Wallace a first-round tender instead of the franchise designation, and per Schefter, the Titans are expected to let Finnegan test the open market when free agency begins on March 13.
We'll keep you posted on more franchise designations as they happen ... or don't. Names you should expect to hear: Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker, Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte and Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril.
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