Using the franchise tag seems unlikely for Bucs
The Bucs and the rest of the NFL can begin assigning franchise or transition tags on players today, but don’t expect Tampa Bay to use theirs.
That’s not to say the Bucs don’t have good players. Instead, it’s reflection of the fact that this year’s free-agency situation just doesn’t lend itself to the Bucs needing their tags.
Of the team’s impending free agents, defensive end Michael Bennett is the headliner. While there might be some appeal in essentially taking a good player off the market – a franchise tag would prohibit other teams from signing him without forking over two first-round picks – the problem is Bennett is a defensive end. As such, the franchise number for that highly-paid position is expected to exceed $10 million based on a new formula that factors in league-wide salaries from the previous five seasons.
Twenty-one teams used a franchise tag last season, the most ever. But the Bucs weren’t among them. In fact, they rarely are.
The Bucs have used a franchise tag only twice in the past 13 years, slapping it on receiver Antonio Bryant in 2009 when he and the team failed to come to terms on a long-term extension, and on kicker Connor Barth last year. Barth ended up negotiating a long-term deal before the season, but the franchise-player salary for kickers would have been just $2.65 million anyway.
But Bryant, battling a persistent knee injury, caught just 39 passes for 600 yards – his lowest in five seasons – while earning a huge one-year, $9.88 million salary. Ultimately, it wasn’t a great financial decision, though the Bucs were thin at receiver and were desperate to keep Bryant.
There might be some remote scenarios under which the Bucs could consider using a tag, but given their history and an apparent lack of need, it seems unlikely, at best.