Patriots rank 4th in franchise tag usage

We started the day with a blog entry on the franchise tag, so the thought here was to end it with one as well.

Good stuff, as usual, from ESPN.com NFC West reporter Mike Sando in breaking down the league-wide usage of the tag. What we learned is that since the tag was instituted in 1993, the Patriots have used it eight times, which ranks as the fourth highest total in the NFL. Only the Colts (10), Seahawks (10) and Cardinals (9) have used it more.

As Sando notes, the Patriots have used it three times on offense, three times on defense, and twice on kicker Adam Vinatieri.

Time will tell if the Patriots will use it this year, but if I had to make a guess right now, I'd project that they won't because of how high the projected franchise-tag numbers are for receiver Wes Welker ($11.4 million), cornerback Aqib Talib ($10.6 million) and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer ($9.6 million).

My sense is that if any of those players were to be tagged, they would sign the tender immediately, which would guarantee that salary on a one-year term. Those are good numbers for the players, and in signing the tender, it would significantly limit the Patriots in making other moves in a year when the salary cap isn't growing.

One possibility could alter the opinion that the Patriots wouldn't use the tag, and it's if the team has made enough progress in contract extension talks that it's a vehicle that buys the sides a little more time to consummate a deal. That's what happened with Vince Wilfork and the team a few years ago.

We'll see how it plays out, but in attempting to assess the Patriots' approach, the high tag numbers seem more prohibitive this year compared to when the team has used them in the past.