After 13 players received the franchise tag in 2011, and an NFL-record 21 players received the franchise tag in 2012, the National Football League announced on Monday that just eight players received the franchise tag from their respective clubs in 2013.
The "lucky" eight (and the value of their one-year tender) were:
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd - $6.916 million
Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton - $8.45 million
Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson - $11.175 million
Dallas Cowboys linebacker/defensive end Anthony Spencer - $10.627 million (120 percent his 2012 tender)
Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady - $9.828 million
Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee - $2.977 million
Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert - $9.828 million
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks - $8.45 million
The Baltimore Ravens avoided the use of the franchise tag by re-signing quarterback Joe Flacco, the marquee unrestricted free agent this offseason, to a six-year, $120.8 million contract that included over $50 million in guaranteed money.
Seven of the nine players who played out the 2012 season under the franchise tag now have a clear path towards the free agent market.
The New England Patriots did not use a franchise tag on any of their potential free agents, which means wide receiver Wes Welker could test the market on March 12. The Patriots also elected to not use the tag on offensive tackle Sebastien Vollmer or cornerback Aqib Talib. The Detroit Lions opted to not use a second tag on defensive end Cliff Avril, which would have cost the Lions $12.726 million in 2013, and the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers did not use a second tag on Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson.
Other players franchised in 2012 who were not tagged in 2013 were Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent, Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson and Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis. Grimes, Nugent and Davis finished the 2012 season on injured reserve.
The Chiefs avoided a second franchise tag for wide receiver Dwayne Bowe by re-signing the 2007 first-round pick out of LSU to a five-year extension.