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Franchise tag numbers not determined yet

IRVING, Texas -- Last week the NFL told its teams they could use the franchise tag on potential free agents starting Thursday. A day later the NFL Players Association said that was not the case and would go to court to stop teams from using the tags.

But there is another problem with the NFL allowing the use of franchise tags: according to the league the exact figures have not been officially determined yet.

The franchise tag is the average of the top five salary-cap figures at each position. The transition tag, which is also available, is the average of the top 10 salary-cap figures at each position.

Teams – as well as media - can approximate but the Management Council has the final say. Normally during Super Bowl week the NFL Players Association makes the figures available but that did not happen this year.

For the Cowboys the only player among their 13 free agents that would be considered a possible tag designee is left tackle Doug Free. Last year’s franchise tag for an offensive lineman was $10.731 million. The transition tag was $9.142 million.

Free made a little more than $1 million in 2010 and started all 16 games as Flozell Adams’ replacement. He had a solid season and is viewed as a cornerstone lineman of the future.

But there’s another issue with Free and the tag. If the 2010 free-agency system is in place, then he would be a restricted free agent and the Cowboys could place the much-lower first- and third-round tender on him, like they did with Miles Austin. If the old free-agency system comes back, then Free will be an unrestricted free agent.