The window for NFL teams to designate one restricted or unrestricted free agent with the franchise or transition opened on Feb. 18. There was no movement on this front until Friday, as three NFL teams officially placed the franchise tag on a potential unrestricted free agent.
The Buffalo Bills got the ball rolling by announcing that they have used the franchise tag on safety Jairus Byrd, a 2009 second-round pick out of Oregon who has two Pro Bowls on his resume. Byrd made his first Pro Bowl after tying for the NFL lead with nine interceptions as a rookie. In 62 games over the last four seasons, Byrd has 18 interceptions, two of which he's returned for touchdowns, with two sacks and 10 forced fumbles.
As the No. 42 pick in the 2009 draft, Byrd's four-year rookie contract was worth $4.362 million with $2.4 million in guaranteed money. The franchise tag for a safety in 2013 is worth $6.916 million in base salary, which will become fully guaranteed once Byrd signs the tender.
On the heels of the Byrd tagging, the Cincinnati Bengals announced that they had used the franchise tag on defensive end Michael Johnson.
Johnson was a 2009 third-round pick (No. 70 overall) out of Georgia Tech by the Bengals who had 11.5 sacks as a starter in 15 of his first 48 games in the NFL. The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Johnson had a breakout season in 2012, starting 15 of 16 games and leading the Bengals with 11.5 sacks. Johnson earned $3.5 million over his first four seasons in the NFL and could received a long-term contract worth $10-12 million per season had he hit the open market. Barring a long-term deal with the Bengals, Johnson will earn $11.175 million on the franchise tag in 2013.
In yet another sign that the franchise tag is no longer used to prevent "franchise" players from moving on in free agency, the Indianapolis Colts announced that punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee would be designated with the franchise tag.
McAfee was a seventh-round pick out of West Virginia in 2009. Over the last four seasons, McAfee has a net average of 38.6 yards per punt and has placed 89 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. On kickoffs, McAfee has 123 touchbacks, including 86 touchbacks since the NFL moved the kickoff point up by five yards prior to the 2011 season. McAfee earned $2.578 million during his four-year rookie contract and will earn $2.977 million if he plays out the 2013 season under the franchise tag.
The deadline for teams to use the franchise tag is 4 p.m. ET on Monday, March 4. For a primer on which players could receive the franchise tag, "Shutdown Corner" listed potential candidates for each team during our "TPS report" series.
AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins
NFC North: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers
NFC South: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers
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