<
>

A look at 49ers franchise tag options

NFL teams won't have to make decisions on whether to use the franchise tag for another month or so.

At first glance, it doesn't appear likely the San Francisco 49ers are big candidates to use the franchise tag this winter.

Their high-priority unrestricted free agents are receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson and cornerback Tarell Brown.

Perhaps the most likely to be tagged is Dawson. The exact franchise tag will be set later next month, but for kickers it will likely be slightly above $3 million. He made $2.25 million last season. I could see him getting a short-term deal worth around $3 million so I'm not sure the franchise tag will be needed.

Boldin and Brown won't command deals anywhere near the high franchise numbers for their positions.

The franchise tag numbers for safeties will likely be in the $7-8 million range. Whitner signed a three-year, $11.5 million deal in 2011. He is a key part of the defense and the 49ers need him back. If they sense the safety market will be robust, they could decide to franchise Whitner. But I'm not sure the market will go that high.

Again, there is plenty of time for franchise tag decision to be made. As of now, there doesn't appear to be any obvious choices for the 49ers.