Thoughts as franchise tag deadline passes

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
5:30
PM ET
The NFL's 4 p.m. ET deadline passed without another NFC North team using its franchise tag, meaning that Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton will be the only player with that designation this offseason. A few random thoughts on how the franchise tag deadline impacted the division:
  • Most importantly, some prominent players now have an unblocked road to the free agent market. The list includes Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings, Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril and cornerback Chris Houston, and Minnesota Vikings right tackle Phil Loadholt.
  • Just so everyone is clear, NFL teams still have exclusivity with their free agents. That will end Saturday at 12:01 a.m. ET, when a new three-day window opens for free agents to enter negotiations with other teams. No deals can be made (officially) until Tuesday afternoon after 4 p.m. ET.
  • To this point, there have been no reports of substantive negotiations between the Packers and Jennings. You would think Jennings will test his value on the market unless the Packers surprise everyone with a big offer.
  • The Lions' activity, with Avril and Houston as well as outside free agents, would seem to depend in part on their success in contract negotiations with quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions want to lower his $20.8 million salary cap figure.
  • We've has some discussions about the Vikings pursuing free agent receivers, and that seems especially likely given the decision to release veteran Michael Jenkins, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. But I never considered the Kansas City Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe a credible candidate. He figured to get the Chiefs' franchise tag if he did not sign a long-term deal, and on Monday he got the latter. The Vikings' top two veteran options, if they choose to go that route, are Jennings and Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Decisions to franchise two free agent left tackles, Ryan Clady of the Denver Broncos and the Chiefs' Branden Albert, reduced the size of that market should the Bears decide to get involved.

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