A year ago, the Buccaneers used their available franchise tag on sure-footed kicker Connor Barth, who later signed a four-year contract with the team through the 2015 season. That marked the first time the Buccaneers had used their franchise tag since 2009, when they kept wide receiver Antonio Bryant around for one more year after his enormous 2008 comeback season.
The sequence of events worked out well for both the player and the team last year. Barth got the multi-year security he surely desired, and the Buccaneers were able to negotiate with their kicker without too much fear of losing him in 2012.
Barth was one of a record 21 players who got the franchise tag in 2012, and that was a direct result of the new collective bargaining agreement. A change in the way the salary figures associated with the tag are calculated (essentially, averaging the top five salaries of the previous five seasons instead of just the previous season) made it a more attractive option for NFL teams. That was especially true at certain positions that carried lower tender-offer numbers, such as kicker and punter. In 2012, six kickers or punters were tagged across the league, as well as six safeties.
Well, the time for tagging has arrived again. Teams could begin designating franchise players as early as Monday (February 18) and can continue to do so through March 4. There is a very good chance that last year’s record total of tags will be approached in 2013.
The franchise tag may be applied to any pending unrestricted free agent. Unlike in the past, teams can tag a player, then work out a long-term deal and remove the tag. In the past, if a player signed a long-term deal while the tag was in place, that tag would be unavailable to the team for the length of that contract, whether or not the player was still with the team.
The Buccaneers have 10 players eligible for the franchise tag: CB Ronde Barber, DE Michael Bennett, CB E.J. Biggers, TE Dallas Clark, LS Andrew Economos, CB Brandon McDonald, DT Roy Miller, WR Roscoe Parrish WR Sammie Stroughter and T Jeremy Trueblood. Most believe that if the Bucs choose to use their franchise tag again in 2013, the most likely candidate would be Bennett, the team’s sack leader in 2012.