Today marks the opening of the Franchise and Transition Tag period in the NFL, and several front offices around the league are likely to use those tags on free agents-to-be in the coming weeks. One team which is not likely to do so, however, is the Green Bay Packers.
The team has only two free agent players who have played at a Pro Bowl caliber in recent years, and thus those two would be the only reasonable candidates for a tag. Of course, those players are wide receiver Randall Cobb and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Here's the problem: neither player plays a position that lends itself to the high dollar values associated with the Franchise Tag.
Cobb plays the slot receiver almost exclusively; according to Pro Football Focus, about 87% of his passing routes in 2014 came from the slot as opposed to split wide or in the backfield. Furthermore, as has been widely-discussed here at Acme Packing Company, slot receivers simply do not command the same dollar value as players who are primarily (or at least frequently) split wide, despite ostensibly playing the same position. According to these projections, the tag number for a receiver is expected to be about $12.8 million for 2015; even with Cobb reportedly seeking a contract in the $9 million/year range, the tag number is far too much money to pay a slot receiver.
Instead, outside receivers like Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos or Dez Bryant of the Cowboys are much more realistic tag candidates, since that one-year salary is much closer to the annual compensation they would command on a long-term deal.
Likewise for Bulaga, his position works against him in the battle for a big contract. If he had been healthy and made the switch to left tackle in 2013, this might be a different story; as it is, he's an established right tackle and nothing else. While top left tackles can earn upwards of $10 million per year, the highest-paid right tackle in the NFL is the Colts' Gosder Cherlius, whose deal pays him $7 million a season. Since all offensive linemen are lumped together for the Franchise Tag amounts, the tag number is projected at $12.93 million this year; once again, that's just not going to happen.
Still, it's worth mentioning that this year's tag deadline is March 2nd; if the Packers don't place the tag on either player by then, they will be unable to do so afterwards.
As far as recent history goes, the Packers have used the Franchise Tag just twice since 2007, and both times they did so was placed on a defensive tackle. Most recently, Ryan Pickett got the tag in 2010, but signed a four-year contract shortly thereafter. Two years prior, Ted Thompson put the non-exclusive tag on Corey Williams, but traded him to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round draft pick. Unfortunately, that deal did not work out particularly well for either side; the Browns signed him to a six-year contract just days after the trade, but shipped him off to Detroit after just two seasons. Meanwhile, the Packers used the second-round pick to select quarterback Brian Brohm.