Exploring possible Pats' tag usage

As the New England Patriots take their initial steps into building their 2014 roster, one of the next parts of the process will be answering this question: "Are there any free agents that might be considerations for the franchise or transition tags?"

Teams can begin using the tag on Feb. 17. We haven't seen the official franchise-tag numbers at each position, but a projection can be made that puts us in the general ballpark.

The key positions for the Patriots are receiver (Julian Edelman) and cornerback (Aqib Talib), and the franchise tag for each of those will be in the $11 million range on a one-year deal.

That's a big number for a team to absorb on the 2014 salary cap -- it would rank third on the team behind Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork -- which makes us think it's unlikely the Patriots would use the tag.

If they do, Talib would be the more likely option, perhaps in a scenario where it buys the sides more time to work toward a long-term agreement (similar to Wilfork in 2010).

As colleague Field Yates detailed last week, the Patriots' salary-cap situation for 2014 is a bit of a moving target because the NFL has yet to set the actual cap (projections have it ranging from $123 million to $128 million). We know the Patriots have $128 million committed to their cap for 2014, but will get a $4.1 million credit because that is the amount they are rolling over from 2013.

So if the Patriots are indeed considering a franchise tag for someone like Talib, some significant moves would need to be made to create salary-cap space.

At a time when Patriots coaches are currently off, and team offices are a bit quieter than the norm, this is the type of strategic thinking that they will soon be exploring.