Starting on February 17th, NFL teams will be allowed to slap the franchise tag on one of their players. The last day they will have to use the tag is two weeks later, on March 3rd.
The New England Patriots are in a bit of tricky situation when it comes to the usage of their tag, because the two prime candidates, Julian Edelman and Aqib Talib, would cost way too much money with the tag. According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston, franchising either Edelman or Talib would cost the Pats about $11 million, which is a huge number for a player on a one year deal. As Reiss points out, if either Edelman or Talib were given the tag, only Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork‘s cap number would be higher than the franchised player.
From a numbers standpoint, using the tag probably isn’t the best idea. But at the same time, New England needs to keep one of these two players, but in my mind, Talib is far more important than Edelman. When he is healthy, the Pats have one of the best cornerback groups in the NFL. Throwing against them when they went to man coverage became extremely tough for opposing offenses, and a lot of the credit has to be given to Talib. This means that the Pats have to work out a long term deal with Talib, or he will have to be franchised. Talib played on a one year deal in 2013, so I doubt he would be willing to do that again. He proved that he deserves to be paid, even if he did get injured in the most important game of the year.
As for Edelman, I would rather see the Patriots sign Talib, and go after a guy like Emmanuel Sanders than bring back the former Kent State quarterback. I love Edelman, and other than Brady, he was the MVP of the 2013 season. But this offense needs some explosion, and he isn’t the guy that is going to bring it. If Danny Amendola can stay healthy, the slot position will be fine. Bringing Sanders in allows New England to open up the offense a little bit, and it might be enough to get them over the hump, and back into the Super Bowl.
When it comes to the franchise tag, the bottom line is $11 million is probably too much to spend on any player on this squad, save for Brady. Re-signing Talib should be priority number one for the Patriots, and doing it without the franchise tag is the best option.