On last Thursday's "NFL Live" show, ESPN analysts Tedy Bruschi and Eric Mangini played a game of "tag or no tag."
A list of players across the NFL was on the big board and the two had to choose if they would assign the franchise tag or not. When it came time for Patriots receiver Wes Welker, the analysts were in agreement -- he would be tagged.
"On the same lines as Ray Rice, this guy is very valuable. Gronkowski and Welker are the main targets for Tom Brady," Bruschi said on the program. "Get him secured, not let him hit free agency. Tom Brady needs this guy, that offense has got to have him."
Using this as a springboard, here is our "franchise tag tracker", which will chart the tags across the league and add a quick opinion on how the move might affect the Patriots:
1. Eagles -- WR DeSean Jackson (link). Shouldn't have much impact on the Patriots. Jackson is similar to Welker in terms of his fit and value to the Eagles' offense, so one could say it solidifies the thinking that a $9.4 million tag is closer to the market value.
2. Raiders -- S Tyvon Branch (link). Takes a player off the market at a position of need for the Patriots. At the same time, it could create another opportunity for New England if the club is interested in pursuing Raiders running back Michael Bush in free agency as it takes Bush out of the franchise-tag picture.
3. Falcons -- CB Brent Grimes (link). No major impact on Patriots, other than to serve as a reminder that a player who enters the league as a rookie free agent (from Shippensburg University) can eventually become a front-line contributor (e.g. Sterling Moore).
4. Ravens -- RB Ray Rice (link). The franchise figure is about $7.7 million for Rice. Doesn't seem to have much affect on the Patriots. While the team has running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis headed to free agency, Rice and Green-Ellis are at different levels of performance.
5. 49ers -- S Dashon Goldson (link). The Patriots had Goldson in for a free-agent visit last year and reportedly offered him a contract. But the offer wasn't enticing enough for Goldson to say goodbye to San Francisco and now he's a franchise player. This takes another player off the market at a position of need for New England.
6. Cardinals -- DL Calais Campbell (link). Second-round draft choice of the Cardinals in 2008, he has developed into one of the better players at his position. Big, athletic players are hard to find, which is why they often go high in the draft. For the Patriots, there are no defensive linemen in the line for a big pay boost.
7. Bengals -- K Mike Nugent (link). Not a factor for New England, with kicker Stephen Gostkowski under contract through 2014. Gostkowski is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.1 million in 2012. Nugent's tag is a projected $2.6 million.
8. Browns -- K Phil Dawson (link). Similar to Nugent's tag. No strong connection to the Patriots, other than to show the value of Gostkowski's $2.1 million salary compared to Dawson's $3.8 million (20 percent increase from his tag from last year).
9. Redskins -- TE Fred Davis (link). The approximate value of the tag will be $5 million, but the bigger news for the Patriots is that safety LaRon Landry -- thought to be a candidate for the tag in some circles -- did not get it. The Patriots figure to be in the market for safety help (in free agency or the draft).
10. Bears -- RB Matt Forte (link). No major impact on the Patriots. Similar to the Ray Rice tag.
11. Saints -- QB Drew Brees (link). Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is locked up through 2014. Reports indicate the Saints are comfortable paying Brees at Brady's level, but that Brees' camp is seeking more. Brees was given the exclusive franchise tag by the Saints, meaning he can't negotiate with other teams.
12. Titans -- S Michael Griffin (link). The third safety to get the tag, which alters the available players at the position.
13. Jaguars -- K Josh Scobee (link). No impact on the Patriots, as Scobee becomes the third kicker to get the tag. The original intent of the tag was for teams to have a vehicle to keep top players, but the league-wide usage of it on a kicker reflects that the intent hasn't matched the action (remember all the hubbub with the Patriots and Adam Vinatieri?).
14. Lions -- DE Cliff Avril (link). Takes a top pass-rusher off the market. A reminder that top pass-rushers can be found in the draft (third round, 2008) and developed.
15. Broncos -- K Matt Prater (link). Fourth kicker to get the tag. Who had kicker as the position that would be tagged most?
16. Cowboys -- OLB Anthony Spencer (link). Similar to Cliff Avril, this takes another top pass-rush option off the market.
17. Patriots -- WR Wes Welker (link). Expected course of action with the receiver who has led the NFL in catches since 2007. The Patriots will have to account for about $9.4 million on their salary cap for the tag.
18. Chiefs -- WR Dwayne Bowe (link). Like Welker in New England, he is the top receiving threat in Kansas City. While the Patriots figure to look for a bigger target to play outside, Bowe was likely going to be out of their price range regardless.
19. Buccaneers -- K Connor Barth (link). Fifth kicker to get the tag. Patriots weren't in the kicker market.
20. Colts -- DE Robert Mathis (link). Another pass-rusher gets the tag, but reports indicate that the sides are close to a multi-year extension.
21. Giants -- P Steve Weatherford (link). In two games in the 2011 season -- Nov. 6 and Super Bowl XLVI -- the Patriots saw how valuable Weatherford was to the Giants. He had the Patriots playing on a long field. The Patriots have a good punter in Zoltan Mesko, who is signed through 2013.
EXTRA POINT: This will be updated with the tags as they are applied.