Today is the first day NFL teams can use the franchise tag, and Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has made it clear twice this off-season that he has no plans to do so.
“No,” Mayhew said when asked if he would use the tag last week. “We’re not going to franchise anybody.”
Of their 23 unrestricted free agents, the Lions have two players who might be candidates for the tag under difference circumstances.
Last year, the Lions placed the non-exclusive version of the tag on defensive end Cliff Avril, effectively keeping him off the free agent market. Avril had a team-high 9 1/2 sacks last year, but the Lions would have to pay him $12.7 million, or 120% of his 2011 salary, if they want to tag him again.
Safety Louis Delmas once was considered a candidate for the tag, but injuries to both knees have cost him 13 games over the past two seasons. The Lions still would like to re-sign Delmas but probably on a short-term deal for less than the $6.8-million tag in place for safeties.
Even though the Lions won't use the franchise tag, their free agent shopping list could be affected by it.
Because the tag number for safeties is so cheap, most of the top free agents at the position (Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd, Atlanta’s William Moore and Houston’s Glover Quin) are candidates for the tag. That would both limit the options for the Lions at the position -- they need to sign two safeties this off-season -- and potentially drive up Delmas’ price, should he hit the open market.
At defensive end, Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson is a candidate for the tag, which would remove a fallback option if Avril leaves.
While Lions won't franchise anyone, other teams' tags could affect them
Detroit Free Press | Feb 18