Franchise tags and the NFC West

As promised, a look at the franchise and transition tags in relation to the NFC West in 2011:

  • The NFL says the tags remain in place to help teams restrict potential free agents, but the league also says there won't be free agency without a labor agreement. The NFL Players Association says the tag will not matter without an agreement. Both sides could be right. Teams planning to use the tag lose nothing by designating franchise and transition players just in case.

  • The collective bargaining agreement says teams can designate franchise and transition players beginning 22 days before the new league year. That period began Thursday. The period closes at 4 p.m. ET on Feb. 24, identified as the eighth day preceding the first day of the new league year.

  • The collective bargaining agreement requires the league to provide the NFLPA with information to calculate franchise and transition values by position "no later than February 1 of each League Year during the term of this Agreement." The agreement does not expire until March 4.

  • The NFLPA usually provides these franchise and transition values to reporters as part of a broader information packet during Super Bowl week. The information packet did not include those figures this year.

  • The San Francisco 49ers named nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin their franchise player last season. Doing so again would guarantee him 120 percent of his 2010 salary or the average of the five highest salaries at defensive tackle, whichever is greater. Albert Haynesworth's inflated 2010 salary drove up the average enough to make franchising Franklin seem impractical. The 49ers would have to offer him nearly double the $7 million he received last season.

  • The high price for defensive tackles makes it very difficult to envision the Seattle Seahawks using the franchise tag for Brandon Mebane. The team previously used the tag for kicker Olindo Mare. His contract is expiring again.

  • The 49ers wouldn't have to lay out nearly as much if they chose to use the franchise tag for safety Dashon Goldson. I've heard nothing to indicate the 49ers plan to go that route. The team has a new coaching staff, so it's difficult to know how San Francisco values certain players.

  • The St. Louis Rams' Oshiomogho Atogwe does not become eligible for the franchise tag if the Rams release him to avoid paying an $8 million bonus due Feb. 21.

  • The franchise tag for linebackers could again fall around $10 million. It's tough to envision the 49ers paying that much for Manny Lawson.

  • The Arizona Cardinals presumably would not use the franchise tag for receiver Steve Breaston. They value him, but using the tag for Breaston would move his salary past the $10 million average for teammate Larry Fitzgerald.

I've reached out to the NFL and NFLPA for additional information. In the meantime, Brian McIntyre's projections could be helpful.