Jets tag Abraham for second year in a row

For the second year in a row, the New York Jets have designated standout defensive end John Abraham a franchise player, essentially limiting his potential mobility as a free agent.

The move was not unexpected, as Jets officials have hinted much of the offseason they likely would use the franchise marker on the six-year veteran. The team's intentions for Abraham, however, might be dramatically different than a year ago.

While the team applied the designation last spring to prevent Abraham from departing as an unrestricted free agent, there continue to be rumors the Jets may have kept him this year in order to trade the three-time Pro Bowl performer. The practice of using the franchise tag to retain a player for a subsequent trade has become far more common in the league the last few years.

Abraham, 27, has said he would prefer a long-term contract.

"The franchise tag is one of the resources we have to protect ourselves in a competitive league," Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said in announcing the move on Tuesday afternoon. "By franchising John, it speaks volumes about what type of player we feel he is, and we stand behind our decision, with the full realization that at this point in time, it is in the best interest of the club, from both a financial and competitive standpoint."

After missing virtually all of training camp and the preseason in 2005, Abraham signed the one-year franchise qualifying offer of $6.666 million. The level of compensation for a defensive end designated as a franchise player for 2006 is $8.332 million. Abraham could guarantee that money by signing the qualifying offer.

The two sides can also attempt to negotiate a long-term contract, although efforts toward that end have proven fruitless for more than a year. Abraham can solicit offers from other teams, but the Jets retain the right to match any such deals. Were Abraham to sign with another team and New York opt not to match the deal, the Jets would receive a pair of first-round picks as compensation.

Abraham is the first player in the league this year to receive the franchise tag. The deadline for designating franchise and transition players is Thursday at 4 p.m. ET.

One of the team's four first-round selections in the 2000 draft, Abraham has ranked among the top pass rushers in the NFL, when healthy. Limited to just 19 appearances in 2003-2004 because of injuries, Abraham played in all 16 games for the Jets in 2005, only the third time in six years he has played a full schedule.

He registered 67 tackles, 10½ sacks, six forced fumbles, one recovery and two passes defensed. For his career, Abraham has 328 tackles, 53½ sacks, 18 forced fumbles, five recoveries and eight pass deflections in 73 games. The former South Carolina star was selected for the Pro Bowl after the 2001, 2002 and 2004 seasons.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.