Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald examines what, if anything, the Patriots will do with the franchise tag this offseason. She notes that, after the 2012 season, New England had three players who were considered legitimate candidates for the tag: Aqib Talib, Wes Welker, and Sebastian Vollmer. Of course, the Pats let Talib hit the open market, eventually re-signing him to a one-year deal. They locked up Vollmer to a long-term contract, and they let Welker walk.
This year, there are only two Patriots free agents who could realistically receive the tag: Talib and Julian Edelman. Although the cost of the franchise tag for cornerbacks and wide receives is fairly similar, somewhere in the $11MM ballpark, Guregian believes New England will not consider tagging Edelman. After all, Welker was not tagged last season–when the cost of the tag for wide receivers was $11.4MM– and he had a more extensive history of productivity and chemistry with Tom Brady.
However, given Talib’s importance to the defense and the possibility that the cost for all talented defensive backs might spike with the recent play of the Seahawks’ secondary, it will not be so easy to let him test free agency for the second straight year. Nonetheless, Guregian, perhaps with the Patriots’ relatively small cap space in mind, thinks Talib will indeed have a chance to shop his services to other teams, while New England will look to negotiate a long-term deal with him. She believes the team will not tag Talib to buy extra time to work out a deal, as they did with Vince Wilfork in 2010.
Speaking of Wilfork, ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss believes the Patriots will not cut the big defensive tackle just yet. He will cost the team $11.5MM against the cap, but even at age 32, Reiss feels Wilfork’s performance will still justify the price. As noted previously, Joel Corry on CBSSports.com sees the Patriots trying to restructure Wilfork’s contract to gain some cap flexibility for 2014.