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Complete rundown of who was tagged prior to Monday’s deadline 03.03.15 at 7:00 am ET
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Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears

Dez Bryant received the franchise tag from the Cowboys. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Five players received the franchise tag this season, a slight increase from last year, when four were tagged. However, it still represents a seismic dropoff in previous years — down from eight in 2013 and 21 in 2012. Here’s a quick look at who was tagged.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots: New England decided to place the franchise tag on Gostkowski, bypassing the chance to hit safety Devin McCourty. While McCourty could become one of the most coveted free agents on the market if he’s without a new deal by the time the new league year begins on March 10, the Patriots have made sure their former All-Pro kicker will stick around for at least one more season. According to our friend Miguel from, Gostkowski will receiver a salary of $4.59 million in 2015 — $4.44 million for 120 percent of the 2014 cap plus $100,000 for offseason and $50,000 for his Pro Bowl bonuses.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants: The pass-rushing specialist, who has 42 regular-season sacks in five seasons with New York, will get $14,813,000 for the 2015 season.

Outside linebacker Justin Houston, Chiefs: The 26-year-old All-Pro is coming off one of the best year’s in NFL history for a pass rusher — he finished 2014 with 22 sacks, second on the list behind Michael Strahan‘s 22.5 for most sacks in a single season.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant, Cowboys: The occasionally combustible pass catcher, who has had three straight seasons of at least 88 catches, got the tag in Dallas instead of running back DeMarco Murray, and will make a base salary of $12,823,000 for the 2015 season.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Broncos: The 27-year-old Thomas, who evolved into one of Peyton Manning‘s favored targets over the last two seasons, has at least 92 regular-season catches a year the last three seasons with Denver. He’ll also make $12,823,000 next season.

In addition, Dolphins tight end Charles Clay was given the transition tag designation with a tender offer of $7,071,000. The transition tag comes with a lower salary total and allows any team to match any offer to the player. However, it doesn’t provide any compensation in the form of a draft pick if if the player signs elsewhere and the team declines to match the offer.

Read More: Charles Clay, Demaryius Thomas, Devin McCourty, Dez Bryant
Devin McCourty talks about possibility of playing elsewhere in 2015 at 1:10 am ET
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Following Monday’s announcement that he had not received the franchise tag, Patriots safety Devin McCourty acknowledged that there’s the possibility he “could be playing in a different place” in 2015.

In an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson, McCourty reflected on the fact that it was kicker Stephen Gostkowski who was tagged instead of him, and said that there was no real information from the franchise who was going to be tagged until the announcement was made Monday afternoon prior to the 4 p.m. deadline.

“There was no real information from them on if it was going to be me or (Stephen Gostkowski),” he said. “So I was kind of going off of what everybody else was going off, with what people were reporting as far as sources and all that.

“I guess it’s more realistic now that [there’s] a chance that I might not be back there,” McCourty added. “Or there’s still a chance that I will, but I guess [there’s] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process.”

McCourty said the idea of potentially moving on would be tough, but he understands the nature of the business.

“It would definitely be bittersweet,” he said. “You stay somewhere for five years and really make a name for yourself in that place. I’ve gotten a lot of help. I know a lot of people in the area, built great relationships, so it will definitely be bittersweet. But my mom always reminds me that comes with the territory. That’s part of being in the NFL, that change is always coming.

“To me it kind of is what it is. I know from being there for five years, I’ve seen a bunch of moves where a bunch of people kind of didn’t know what they were doing and somehow it always works out. So, it’s just now, I am on the other side. I’m not surprised really. I know [the Patriots] always know what they’re doing, as far as the team, and what they want to do. So, just seeing what’s next for me.”

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Read More: Devin McCourty, franchise tag, New England Patriots,
What does decision not to franchise Devin McCourty mean for defensive back, Patriots? 03.02.15 at 5:25 pm ET
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Devin McCourty could be in line for a handsome payday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Devin McCourty could be in line for a handsome payday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There are two ways to look at the Patriots’ decision not to hit safety Devin McCourty with the franchise tag on Monday. (They instead opted for kicker Stephen Gostkowski.)

If you are a glass-is-half-full type, the Patriots’ decision was made because the two sides are closing in on a long-term deal that would keep him in New England for the foreseeable future, and allow the Rutgers product to grow old in a Patriots uniform.

If you’re more of a glass-is-half-empty type, this is the first chapter of a story that ends with McCourty at a press conference posing next to Chuck Pagano, John Harbaugh, Gary Kubiak or a coach for any of New England’s other AFC rivals while talking about “new challenges” and “new beginnings.” (That doesn’t even begin to take onto account the possibility of him playing alongside his brother Jason in Tennessee, or any of the other NFC teams that might be flush with cash once the free agency buffet opens next week.)

Now, instead of slapping the $9.6 million tag on him for the 2015 season, the Patriots are gambling with the idea that they can retain McCourty for the long term. The defensive back has grown up in the New England system, and come of age in an age of unprecedented success with the Patriots: He’s been to four straight AFC title games, made two Super Bowl appearances, been twice named a second-team All-Pro (at two different positions) and won a Super Bowl ring, all before the age of 28. It’s hard to imagine him reaching the same sort of heights at another stop over the next five years.

But when you consider the market, he’s going to get paid like one of the best safeties in the league. In truth, he’s a rare talent. He’s not an all-world corner along the lines of a Darrelle Revis. But his knowledge of the system, leadership skills, ability to play alongside a multitude of different players while displaying an amazing positional flexibility (at corner and safety) make him extremely valuable to New England. And when you take into account the free agent market — as well as the apparent choices that could be available in this year’s draft at safety — it’s a considerable gamble to expose him to the rest of the market, especially when you consider what some comparable defensive backs have made on the market over the course of the last few years.

— T.J. Ward: Signed a four-year, $22.5 million contract last March, a deal contains $13.5 million guaranteed.

Earl Thomas: Last April, he signed a five-year, $44.725 million contract with $27.725 million guaranteed, including a $9.5 million signing bonus.

— Eric Weddle: In 2011, the bearded defensive back signed a a five-year, $40 million contract with $19 million guaranteed and a $13 million signing bonus.

While McCourty might not be at the top of that food chain, he’s not too far removed, especially in this environment.

The Patriots have exclusive negotiating rights with McCourty until Saturday. That’s when the weird tampering window involving impending unrestricted free agents opens, which allows reps from around the league to get in touch with him and gauge what he might be interested in. While no deals can be consummated until Tuesday, expect there to be plenty of potential suitors lined up outside of McCourty’s door for several reasons, not the least of which could be simply driving up the price for New England.

Regardless of what happens, McCourty has now entered into a brave new world, one where he will command a sizable payday. As is the case with his fellow defensive back Darrelle Revis, where both sides decide to go from this point over the next week-plus will provide some level of insight into just how the New England secondary will look in 2015 and beyond.

Read More: Devin McCourty, franchise, New England Patriots,
Patriots place franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski at 3:11 pm ET
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Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a preseason 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a preseason 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

The Patriots have used their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The franchise tag will pay Gostkowski $4.1 million in 2015, less than half of the $9.6 million it would cost to franchise safety Devin McCourty.

Reading the tea leaves, it would suggest the Patriots are working on a long-term deal with McCourty that would achieve the end goal of locking up both players and save money against the cap that could wind up becoming critical in their ultimate decision on Darrelle Revis.

The Patriots drafted Gostkowski in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft to replace Adam Vinatieri. In nine seasons in New England, Gostkowski has converted 243 of his 280 field goal attempts and has become one of the most dependable kickoff specialists in the league.

He enters 2015 only 20 field goals shy of Vinatieri’€™s franchise record.

The franchise tag is a designation a team may apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The tag binds the player to the team for one year if certain conditions are met. Each team has access each year to only one franchise tag (of either the exclusive or non-exclusive forms) and one transition tag. As a result, each team may only designate one player each year as that team’s franchise player.

A franchise tag affords the retaining team the privilege of strategically retaining valuable free-agent players while seeking talent through the NFL draft or other acquisitions without exceeding the League’s salary cap. A team may also franchise tag a player with 2 or more years left on a contract. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, franchise tag, New England Patriots
Devin McCourty: Franchise tag ‘worst-case scenario,’ but not stressing over it, ‘I love it [in New England]’ 02.25.15 at 4:15 pm ET
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Patriots safety Devin McCourty is set to become a free agent once the new league year begins in early March, but the Patriots and McCourty have a few options between now and then.

The team could place the franchise tag on the safety, which would pay him just over $9 million next season, or they could sign him to a long-term contract, or the organization could let him test free agency with the potential of him signing with another team.

McCourty has spent all five of his NFL seasons with the Patriots.

“I’ve kind of broken it down as the worst-case scenario would be that I get franchised and come back to play for another year here,” McCourty said to reporters (via at a Fuel up to Play 60 event at Lowell High School on Wednesday. “To me that’s no reason to stress. I love it here. The franchise tag is player-friendly now. It’s a good number. There’s no reason really for me to be stressed. If I hit free agency, I hope there’s some teams that want me to play there. Hopefully that goes over well. It’s still exciting.”

The Rutgers product acknowledged the team and his representatives have discussed a long-term deal, but the franchise tag hasn’t been brought up.

“They haven’t said so we’ll see,” McCourty said. “I guess every player you’d rather have a long-term deal or a chance to get a long-term deal. But like I said, it’s not a bad situation to be in.”

McCourty was a major part in the defense this past season for the Super Bowl Champions, often being the last line of defense in the secondary as a single-high safety, which allowed the rest of the defense to play free in front of him. He finished the season and postseason with 78 tackles and three interceptions.

Ultimately, he doesn’t know where he will be playing next season, but hinted he wants to stay in New England.

“I really don’t know,” McCourty said. “I could say anything right now, but being honest, I don’t know. It could go either way, I think.”

“If all things are equal, I’ll be back here,” he added.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty,
If Patriots use franchise tag, why they’re more apt to use on Devin McCourty than Stephen Gostkowski 02.16.15 at 10:31 pm ET
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If the Patriots use their franchise tag, Devin McCourty is the top candidate. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

If the Patriots use their franchise tag, Devin McCourty is the top candidate. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Monday marked the first day of the NFL’s franchise tag window, where teams can designated one player who is set to be a free agent on their roster the franchise tag.

The most common designation is the non-exclusive franchise tag where the player must be offered a one-year deal based on the average of the non-exclusive franchise numbers at his position over the last five seasons and their percentage of that year’€™€™€™s salary cap or 120 percent of his prior year’€™€™€™s base salary, whichever is greater. If a player does get a non-exclusive franchise tag, they can talk with other teams, but if he signs an offer sheet with another club, his team has five days to match the offer. If the offer is not matched, his team will receive two first-round picks as compensation from the signing team.

The two-week window ends March 2, right before the start of free agency.

Of the players on the Patriots roster, the two who seem most likely to be designated the tag, if at all, are safety Devin McCourty and kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The Patriots have not used the tag since 2012, when New England franchised Wes Welker, only to see him depart via free agency the following offseason. Prior to Welker, the team used it on Vince Wilfork in 2010 and Logan Mankins in 2011 and then eventually settled to contract extensions, which could be the case again this year (For a complete look at the Patriots’ history with the franchise tag, check out Chris Price’s Sunday Notes from this week).

While the Patriots have used the franchise tag on a kicker before (Adam Vinatieri), it doesn’t seem to make much sense this time around. Gostkowski just wrapped up a five-year, $15,759,000 contract where he made just over $3 million a year. According to NFL Media’s Albert Breer, the value of the franchise tag for a kicker for 2015 would be $4.12 million. The highest paid kicker in the NFL is currently Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, making an average of $3.75 million a year.

Gostkowski, who turned 31 during Super Bowl week has emerged as one of the best kickers in the game (finishing second in the NFL in field goal percentage this past year), and will seemingly want to be the highest paid kicker in the game. With plenty of good seasons left in him, why not make him the highest paid kicker in the game (above $3.75 million a year), and sign him to a multi-year extension? There’s no need to mess around with the franchise tag, especially when the value is over $4 million. So by not using it on Gostkowski and making him the highest paid kicker in the game, New England would actually likely save themselves money.

From this viewpoint, McCourty is the more likely to be designated the tag. He’s finished his rookie contract, and could not be at a better point in his career. After being moved from cornerback to safety, he’s become one of the better safeties in the game and it doesn’t hurt he’s coming off a Super Bowl win. From a New England perspective, he seems to enjoy being a member of the Patriots and is well-respected in the locker room, as well as by coach Bill Belichick.

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Read More: Devin McCourty, franchise tag, Stephen Gostkowski, Vince Wilfork
Free Agent Snapshot: Rahim Moore at 12:26 pm ET
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Being one of the best available safeties on the market Rahim Moore could be in for a big payday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Being one of the best available safeties on the market Rahim Moore could be in for a big payday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

When free agency begins in early March, there are a handful of players across the league who could appeal to New England. With the understanding that the status of these players could change because of the franchise or transition tag, here are a few possibilities for the Patriots to consider. We have to stress that all of these guys aren’€™€™t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class –€” instead, they’€™€™re players we think would be a good fit in New England. We already featured C.J. Spiller,  Hakeem Nicks, Torrey Smith, Pernell McPhee and Charles Clay. Today we’re featuring: safety Rahim Moore.

Rahim Moore
Position: Safety
Age: 25 (Feb. 11, 1990)
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 195 pounds

The skinny: The Denver safety really came into his own this season in his fourth full season in the league. The Broncos‘ second-round pick in 2011 played in all 16 games this past year and finished with 49 tackles, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had an interception in Denver’s playoff loss to the Colts. The safety only played in 10 games in 2013, as he suffered a left leg injury called compartment syndrome on Nov. 18. The UCLA product came back strong this season, having his best season as a pro in his contract year, making him one of the most coveted free agents on the market, and likely to receive a nice payday.

Moore may be most remembered for his first career playoff game — a Wild Card game in 2013 — when Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco launched a 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones over a stumbling Moore, which tied the game with less than a minute left in regulation. The Ravens ended up by winning the game in overtime on the road at Mile High.

By the numbers: Moore has been a star player since his days at UCLA when he recorded 10 interceptions as a sophomore in 2009, which led the entire nation.

Why it would work: It would make a lot more sense for the Patriots if safety Devin McCourty did not return next season, but it seems very unlikely at his point that McCourty will be playing for a team other than New England next season. Moore emerged as one of the better safeties in the league this past season, and while he may not be at the same level as McCourty, he would be one of the better available safeties if McCourty were to go elsewhere. Moore was Pro Football Focus’€™ No. 8 ranked safety in 2013 before being diagnosed with lateral compartment syndrome and requiring emergency surgery on his leg. He would also be an upgrade over Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon next to McCourty, but it is extremely unlikely the Patriots would pay that much for a second safety to go along with possibly franchising/a new contract for McCourty, as well as a potential new deal for Darrelle Revis.

With the coaching changes in Denver, it would seem unlikely Moore returns to the Broncos, but if the Patriots were to pick up Moore, it would surely take him away from Denver and make them significantly weaker at the safety position in the process, as they would really only have T.J. Ward at the position.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 Free Agent Snapshot, Denver Broncos, Devin McCourty, Rahim Moore
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