NFL franchise deadline looms

There will be significant AFC West franchise tag clarity in the coming hours.

The deadline is at 4 p.m. ET for teams to decide to put the franchise tag on a player. Giving a player the franchise tag all but guarantees he will be with that team in the 2012 season. Here's a quick recap of where each team is at heading to the deadline.

Denver: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Broncos will place the tag on kicker Matt Prater. That is no surprise. The Broncos and Prater have been talking about a long-term contract for some time. They can continue to work on a deal until July 15. Because three other kickers were given the tag, there is a strong chance both the Broncos and the Prater were reluctant to set the market for kickers. Whatever happens, expect the Broncos to figure out a plan to keep Prater in Denver for the long-term. With Prater getting tagged, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley is now Denver’s top player headed to free agency.

Kansas City: Schefter reported Feb. 25 that the Chiefs would place the tag on receiver Dwayne Bowe if a long-term deal isn’t reached. The Chiefs have kept their plans close to the vest. Perhaps Bowe will sign a new deal or perhaps the Chiefs will pull a stunner and place the tag on cornerback Brandon Carr. I think the odds are the Chiefs tag Bowe.

Oakland: The Raiders got a jump on the process by tagging safety Tyvon Branch on Thursday. The team decided to tag Branch over running back Michael Bush, because Branch is a starter and the team has a bigger need in the secondary than at running back. Bush should be popular on the open market.

San Diego: Receiver Vincent Jackson is hours away from being one of the biggest prizes on the open market. There is a remote chance the Chargers tag Jackson. But the team would rather save the franchise money and take its chances in signing Jackson on the open market.