There is optimism a new collective bargaining agreement could be reached this summer between the NFL and NFLPA. With that said, free-agency rules remain unknown, and that includes whether the franchise tag will stick on 14 top NFL players.
Three of the players reside in the AFC North, and all of the situations are different. Here is an update:
Team/Position: Baltimore Ravens, defensive lineman
2010 stats: 63 tackles, 5.5 sacks
Analysis: Despite the franchise tag, the Ravens intend to make Ngata a lifetime Raven this offseason. He finished the final year of his rookie contract last season and developed into arguably the NFL's best defensive lineman. Baltimore won't have the usual amount of time to negotiate but would be wise to extend Ngata now. Two big names -- quarterback Joe Flacco and tailback Ray Rice -- will be looking for extensions in 2012. Baltimore has the best chance of keeping this trio intact by getting Ngata in the fold now, while taking care of Flacco and Rice next offseason.
Team/Position: Cleveland Browns, kicker
2010 stats: 23 of 28 field goals, 28 of 28 extra points
Analysis: This has been an under-the-radar situation Cleveland has yet to resolve. The Browns want Dawson back. But at the end of last season, Dawson appeared ready to move on and tired of the instability and regime changes in Cleveland. Dawson also was unhappy about not getting a contract extension the past few seasons. Dawson wants to play for a contender, and to date he hasn't signed his franchise tender. Dawson's return to Cleveland remains up in the air.
2010 stats: 50 tackles, 10 sacks, two interceptions
Team/Position: Pittsburgh Steelers, outside linebacker
Analysis: Woodley, who made just $550,000 in 2010, will get a significant pay raise to approximately $10 million this season if the franchise tag remains in the new CBA. I asked Woodley at the Super Bowl if he would be opposed to that kind of one-year contract and salary? Not surprisingly, Woodley said no. The Steelers said they intend to work out a long-term deal, but a shortened offseason could make things interesting. Either way, Woodley will be happy with this year's salary.