A full quarter of the NFL teams placed their franchise tag on a player by Monday’s deadline and the Vikings were not one of them, as expected. Their only real candidate for the tag was right tackle Phil Loadholt, but it wasn’t too surprising that the Vikings were not willing to invest nearly $10 million into one year of service from Loadholt. Instead, they will probably try to negotiate a more financially feasible contract that keeps him in purple for years to come, or move on and begin the search for his replacement.
Two offensive tackles did receive the franchise tag this year, however, as Branden Albert of the Chiefs and Ryan Clady of the Broncos both were too valuable to their respective teams to let them just walk away. In my free agent rankings for tackles I had Clady at #2 and Albert at #5, with Loadholt between them at #4. These two are left tackles, however, and being taken off the free market shouldn’t provide Loadholt with too much leverage over the Vikings.
The Chiefs tagging Albert is interesting for two reasons. First, they were able to pull the trigger on the tag because they reached a last minute agreement with receiver Dwayne Bowe in the form of a five year agreement. I listed Bowe as my #1 ranked free agent wide receiver, so it is disappointing to see those options begin to dwindle. Second, keeping Albert in the fold provides an added sense of mystery when it comes to how the Chiefs will use their first overall draft pick.
Defensive tackle is also a major need for the Vikings and two top options were taken away via the franchise tag there, as well. Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton was my top overall defensive tackle, with Randy Starks of Miami coming in 5th, but now both have been tagged and are essentially unavailable.
Safety Jairus Byrd of the Bills ranked atop his position, as well, but the Bills placing the franchise tag on him means some other interesting options may be available including guard Andy Levitre and cornerback Leodis McKelvin.
Defensive end Michael Johnson of the Bengals, defensive end Anthony Spencer of the Cowboys, and Colts punter Pat McAfee were the remaining three players to be tagged.