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Clayton: What to expect for NFL’s ‘franchise tag season’

Former Seahawks DT Sheldon Richardson has reportedly signed with the Vikings. (AP)

The franchise tag season officially started Tuesday and last for two weeks until March 6.

It should not be a surprise that tagging activity is off to a slow start. What used to be a team-friendly process has turned more in favor of the players. The reason is the rapidly rising costs of the franchise tag.

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In 2011 when the NFLPA and the NFL struck a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement, the price of franchise players dropped for a couple of years because players agreed to having it tied to the average cap numbers of the top five players spread over a five-year period. Because the salary cap was at a predetermined number during the first couple years of the agreement, some of the positions had a 25 percent drop in the tag.

All this has changed in favor of the players. With the cap-per-team rising more than $10 million a year, the numbers have skyrocketed, making teams become more cautious about using the franchise tag.

The wide receiver position, for example, rose a little less than a million dollars, jumping from $15.682 million to $16.5 million this year. The quarterback tender jumped from $21.268 million to $23.3 million.

At least 20 teams aren’t considering using the tag at all this year. At the very most, expect 10 or less players to be franchised, and the number probably be around five or six.

The Seahawks have to decide if they want to franchise defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, and so far the team isn’t tipping off one way or another where those talks are going. The defensive tackle franchise tag should be around $14.5 million.

That $14.5 million defensive tackle franchise tag is the second-lowest among defensive players. Defensive ends get $17.6 million, cornerbacks $15.4 million, and linebackers $15.9 million. The only position on defense lower than defensive tackle is safety ($11.1 million).

Still, $14.5 million is a pretty good chunk of the salary cap. So much of the decision the Seahawks have to make is how they value Richardson as a player. Great run-stoppers make between $8 million and $12 million a year. There are seven interior defensive tackles making more than $14.5 million a year, so the number might be higher than the Seahawks would like to invest, but it’s not totally out of line.

If the Seahawks don’t franchise or re-sign Richardson, they would get a third-round compensatory pick in 2019. If they do franchise him and can’t reach a long-term deal, it’s not out of the question for the Seahawks to trade him for a second-round pick or more.

That’s why the Seahawks might need to full two weeks to figure what to do.

The Miami Dolphins were the first to make a franchise decision and it was interesting. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry was hoping to get a deal similar to Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers, who signed a four-year, $58 million deal. That’s $14.5 million a year. Instead, they franchised him at around $16.5 million.

Two other teams are trying to determine if they want to franchise wide recievers. Allen Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Sammy Watkins of the Los Angeles Rams are franchise candidates. The Minnesota Vikings have to decide if they want to franchise Case Keenum. Le’Veon Bell could get a second franchise tag with the Pittsburgh Steelers if the doesn’t get a long-term deal.

It will be interesting to see if the New York Giants place a tag on guard Justin Pugh, but that price is around $14.7 million. Two candidates on defense are ends DeMarcus Lawrence of the Dallas Cowboys and Ezekiel Ansah of the Detroit Lions.

These are big decisions for big money. Stay tuned.

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
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