Teams looking to help their defense suffered another major blow Friday when the Patriots took away one of the top defensive players on the market -- cornerback Asante Samuel.
Samuel became the third player to receive the franchise tag. He was given a one-year tender at $7.79 million. For a team to try to sign him, they have to be willing to give up two first-round draft choices and then have to wait seven days after reaching agreement to see if the Patriots will match.
"Asante Samuel is an outstanding player who has been a consistent contributor for us for several years," coach Bill Belichick said in a statement the team issued Friday night. "We hope Asante remains a Patriot for many seasons to come."
Samuel, who had 11 interceptions last season, was too valuable for the Patriots to lose. In 11 career playoff games, he returned three interceptions for touchdowns.
In the past 24 hours, the Bengals franchised defensive end Justin Smith and the Bears franchised linebacker Lance Briggs. The Colts are expected to franchise defensive end Dwight Freeney if they don't get a deal. Thursday is a final day to designate franchise players.
By franchising Samuel, the Patriots could potentially lose tight end Daniel Graham, who is a free agent. There was some thought given to franchising Graham but the Patriots felt it was more important to keep Samuel.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.