The Shutdown 5: Best players who avoided the franchise tag

5. Paul Soliai, DT, Miami Dolphins. Soliai is a 28-year-old Pro Bowler at a highly coveted position ‒ big, run-stuffing, space-eating defensive tackle. The Dolphins franchised him last year, but opted not to do it again this year because they may need that money to pay a quarterback. Miami still has time to re-sign him, but if they don't, Soliai is likely to be quickly snatched up very quickly, and for big money, on the free-agent market.

4. Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers. The Chargers apparently feel like they can move on without Jackson, despite the fact that he's had 1,000-plus yards receiving in three of the last four years. Chargers GM A.J. Smith says he still wants Jackson in San Diego, but his actions suggest that he's put off by the price tag. The Bears, Redskins and Vikings are the frequently mentioned targets for the 6-foot-5 beast who snatches footballs out of the sky.

[Report: Drew Brees is 'livid' about his franchise tag]

3. Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore Ravens. Another young 2011 Pro Bowler, Grubbs is a guy the Ravens would love to keep, but couldn't do so with the franchise tag, because they needed that for Ray Rice. Head coach John Harbaugh says the Ravens have offered Grubbs a "great number," so they're trying. But Grubbs is 27, in a great negotiating position, and will be in high demand. If he hits the open market, he'll probably get an even greater number.

2. Carl Nicks, G, New Orleans Saints. Nicks is 26 years old and already a two-time Pro Bowler. He's an anchor for anyone's offensive line and arguably the best in the game. Nicks didn't want the franchise tag and didn't get it, because the Saints put it on someone who wanted it even less. What the Saints will end up doing is anyone's guess, with Marques Colston still needing to be taken care of, and the Drew Brees mess. Losing Nicks would hurt, but signing him would make some other team very, very happy.

1. Mario Williams, DE, Houston Texans. If the New York Giants have proved anything, it's that a monster pass rush is the key to building a championship-caliber defense. Teams are salivating over him. If the Texans can't lock him up and he gets to the open market, he may become the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history.

Honorable Mentions:

Stephen Tulloch, LB, Detroit Lions
Jarret Johnson, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Brandon Carr, CB, Kansas City Chiefs
Cortland Finnegan, CB, Tennessee Titans
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints
(Restricted) Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
(Restricted) Lardarius Webb, CB, Baltimore Ravens

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