Bills Open To Trading Jairus Byrd


According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter the Bills are now open to trading Safety Jairus Byrd, the teams Franchise player.

Byrd had been seeking a trade since it seemed clear that the Bills were not going to come to an acceptable agreement with Byrd and he was going to be forced to play the year on a one year contract. The Bills likely had more trade leverage before the season began when teams had more salary cap space to work with and would have been able to negotiate a long term contract with Byrd. Byrd is now locked into a one year contract and has yet to play this season because of injury. It was rumored that Byrd was healthy enough to play this past Thursday but was held out of the game. In light of this new information its possible the Bills did not want Byrd to aggravate any injury that could dampen their trade possibilities.

In order to trade for Byrd a team must be able to absorb $4,881,882 in salary unless the Bills would be willing to prepay some of that money to facilitate a trade. Unless a team was willing to part with a high second round pick I would find that hard to imagine. Based on the current cap league cap space report the only teams that could absorb the charges are the Browns, Jaguars, Dolphins, Eagles, Panthers, Packers, Buccaneers, Bengals, Titans, Patriots, Broncos, and Cardinals, some of whom would have no interest for a variety of reasons. For a one year rental I could see the Panthers and Bengals both being interested in the player.

View Jairus Byrds Contract and Salary Cap Page

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Status Update on the Eight Franchised Players


It was a big week for a few players playing under the Franchise Tag this season and I figured it was a good time to just check-in and see they are doing so far this season.

The Good:

Michael Johnson – Defensive End – Cincinnati Bengals – Tag $11,175,000

The Cincinnati Bengals defense is playing excellent football and at the heart of that success is Michael Johnson.  Johnson tied for 9th in the league last year with 11.5 sacks and although he has only recorded 1.5 sacks this year, there may not be a defensive end playing better football in the league right now than Johnson.  Johnson watched the Bengals pay out serious money in extensions to fellow defensive end Carlos Dunlap ($40 million) and All-Pro Defensive Tackle Geno Atkins ($55 million) this offseason and both haven’t played up to their billing through three games.  The Bengals have plenty of cap space but also have to worry about the monster deal coming for  All-Pro WR AJ Green and a new deal for Quarterback Andy Dalton (most likely).  With so much money already tied up in the defensive line and only so many dollars to go around, they Bengals might not have a choice but to let Johnson walk, especially if he keeps this elite level of play up leading to his free agency.

Branden Albert – Left Tackle – Kansas City Chiefs – Tag $9,828,000

Branden Albert had a tumultuous offseason to say the least.  It seems as if he was tagged for the sole purpose of being traded and was floated on the trade block leading up and through draft day while at the same time watching the Chiefs spend the 1st overall pick on what is believed to be his replacement, offensive tackle Eric Fisher.  Interestingly enough, Fisher is struggling mightily three games into his NFL career and Albert has protected new quarterback Alex Smith extremely well.  Through three games, Albert has only allowed 4 quarterback hurries and 1 sack despite sustaining a shoulder injury in week 2, which led to his worst performance of the season in week 3.  It will be interesting to see if Albert continues his solid play from the first two weeks or if the shoulder injury will hamper him.  Either way, I believe this will be the last season for Albert in Kansas City.

Pat McAfee – Punter/Kickoff Specialist – Indianapolis Colts – Tag $2,977,000

There isn’t much to talk about here seeing as I seriously lack any experience evaluating Punter’s performance.  But it is worth noting that McAfee has performed near the top third of the league in Punting according to Pro Football Focus, hasn’t showed up on the wrong end of any highlights and is healthy.  As we will see later, half the battle in making the good section of this article is staying out of the news and actually being able to suit up on game day.

The “Bad”:

Randy Starks – Defensive Tackle – Miami Dolphins – Tag $8,450,000

Despite a scheme and position change, Randy Starks has continued to be an extremely productive defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins since joining the team via free agency prior to the 2008 season.  Starks thrived as one of the league’s best 3-4 defensive ends from 2008-2011 and now is getting the hang of playing defensive tackle in Kevin Coyle’s 4-3 defense.  Unfortunately, there have been some negative reports floating around about Starks during the offseason and now during the season.  One of which was a report that Starks believes the Dolphins punished him for missing offseason voluntary workouts and stripped him of his starting role while he was lobbying for a long-term deal.  While defensive tackles Paul Soliai and Jared Odrick are listed as starters ahead of Starks, the snap counts were all relatively similar prior to Soliai’s week 2 knee injury.  Starks regained his starting role, at least temporarily, after Soliai went down with a knee injury although he didn’t play particularly well in the Dolphins’ win against Atlanta.  To further complicate issues, Starks was caught on camera flipping the bird on the sidelines during the Dolphins’ week 1 victory against Cleveland.  Reports were the gesture was directed at the coaching staff but Starks claims it was him just joking on the sidelines with his teammates.  Who knows what the truth is, but Jeff Ireland and Joe Philbin have been quick to rid themselves of players that cause distractions and the soon to be 30 year-old Starks in the headlines surely isn’t helping his cause to secure a long-term deal with the Dolphins this offseason.

Jairus Byrd – Free Safety – Buffalo Bills – Tag $6,916,000

Muddled in an ugly contract dispute, Jairus Byrd’s 2013 season hasn’t started smoothly to say the least.  As one of the leagues’ top safeties he was hoping to cash in big during the offseason but never could get close enough with the Bills to hammer out a deal.  Unhappy with his current situation, Byrd didn’t sign his franchise tender until August 20th and reportedly was asking to be traded.  To make matters worse, Byrd reported to the team complaining of sore feet, which was determined to be plantar fasciitis.  I can tell you first hand that dealing with plantar fasciitis is extremely painful and frustrating.  Citing his foot pain, Byrd has yet to suit up for the Bills this year despite the rest of their secondary also being decimated by injuries.  Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Ron Brooks, and Leodis McKelvin are dealing with an assortment of injuries of their own.  What complicates Byrd’s injury and contract situation further is the discovery that he played through the injury last season.  Whether it’s fair or not, it looks as if Byrd was willing to play through the pain last year in search of a big payday and now doesn’t see it as worthwhile to risk playing through it this year.  You would have to figure we are going to see Byrd suit up for the Bills soon, but it may very well be the last season he plays for Buffalo unless of course the Bills decide to tag him again, since it would only cost around $8.3 million, and this whole drama plays out again next year.

The Ugly:

Henry Melton – Defensive Tackle – Chicago Bears – Tag $8,450,000

After back-to-back stellar years at the Defensive Tackle position Henry Melton’s shaky 2013 start went from bad to flat out devastating.  As we mentioned in previous articles, the Chicago Bears have a number of key players in contract years and franchised Henry Melton was one of them.  With the Bears thriving under new head coach Marc Trestman, it’s looking increasingly likely that a higher number of the players would be retained.  Unfortunately for Melton, he is going to be a perfect case study of why players value long-term contract security so much and fight so hard to avoid the franchise tag.  Melton suffered a torn ACL vs the Steelers this Sunday and not only is he going to miss the rest of the season, his value in free agency this upcoming offseason just took a crippling blow.  While it seems to be the trend that players can recover from ACL injuries faster and more efficiently than ever, Melton may have to take a shorter “prove it” deal instead of a more substantial free agency haul that he was looking forward to.

Anthony Spencer – Defensive End – Dallas Cowboys – Tag $10,627,200

In 2012, Spencer and the Cowboys were unable to reach a long-term deal and he ended up playing through the season on the $8,856,000 franchise tag.  Not only did he avoid serious injury, Spencer probably played the best football of his career.  With Monte Kiffin bringing in his Tampa 2 4-3 defense, Spencer was asked to switch from 3-4 Outside Linebacker to 4-3 Defensive End and the position change ending up being one of the contentious points that prevented the Cowboys and Spencer from seeing eye to eye on his value and reaching a long-term deal yet again this year.  The Cowboys and Spencer both seemed content to play the year out on the franchise tag again, but as mentioned above with Henry Melton, it comes with serious risk.  Spencer had offseason surgery on his left knee and after missing week 1 was able to play against Kansas City in week 2.  It’s unclear what happened during the game, but after missing week 3, news broke that Spencer would have micro-fracture surgery on his left knee and will miss the rest of the season.  Spencer is now in the same bucket as Melton and will have to prove to teams he is past his injury if he hopes to cash in next offseason in free agency.

Ryan Clady – Left Tackle – Denver Broncos – Tag $9,828,000****

Of the eight players who were franchise tagged this offseason, Ryan Clady was the sole player who reached a long-term extension with their team.  Trusted with protecting the blind-side of early-season MVP Peyton Manning, the Broncos agreed to a 5-year $52.5 million extension.  Clady becomes another example of why players fight so hard to avoid the franchise tag and hold out of team activities while they pursue long-term security from the teams.  Just two games into his new mega-deal, Clady’s foot suffered a season-ending Lisfranc sprain in a seemingly docile collision.  Of the three players now on season-ending IR, Clady is the only one with any multi-year security and doesn’t have to worry about proving his worth and health next offseason in search of a new deal.

A Look at the Options Open for the Bills and S Jairus Byrd


With teams gearing up to play the dress rehearsal game, the one big name player still missing is S Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills. Byrd is the lone Franchise player who has yet to sign a tender to become an active player in the NFL.  From most reports on the situation there seems to be little movement in getting Byrd into uniform.

While I didn’t run the numbers for Byrd the way I might for others I think it’s safe to say he is one of the two or three best Safeties in the NFL and deserves to be paid right at the top of the position. The Buccaneers overpayment for Dashon Goldson probably pushed the asking price for Byrd even higher. Goldson received a five year contract worth $8.25 million a year with $18 million in solid guarantees and  $25.5 million in injury guarantees and three year pay.   The best player is actually Eric Weddle of the Chargers who comes in at $8 million a year, $19 million in full guarantees, and $25 million in the first three years.

Those are the numbers that Byrd is looking for, but the Franchise tag pays him only $6.916 million. One of the worries of signing the Franchise tender is that Byrd opens himself up to being tagged again in 2014. Often times the cost of the second tag, 120% of a players prior year’s salary, makes it prohibitive to tag a player two times in a row, however because this is a low cost position and because the Bills have what looks to be a reasonable cap situation in 2014, tagging Byrd remains a very real possibility.

The NFL puts a deadline on the team that Franchises a player to sign that player to a multiyear extension, a date which has long passed so both sides are locked into a one year contract. From the Bills perspective this creates a bargain situation. Had they signed him to an extension he would have received upwards of $20 million in guarantees. Now he only has $6.9. If they tag a second time they will only pay Byrd $15,215,200 in salary in 2013 and 2014. Goldson and Weddle earned $18 and $19 million respectively in the first two years of their contract.

It really only becomes the third time where tagging Byrd becomes cost prohibitive for the Bills. By that point in time Byrd will be 29. While that is the same age Goldson will be this year many teams will look at that as a decline year and in many cases simply not be interested in signing him.

The bottom line is because of the way the Franchise tag now operates, in which tender amounts are smoothed out, high end players at traditionally lower cost positions (Safety, Tight End, etc…) lose any leverage in negotiating a contract. That is what is happening with Byrd and why he will likely continue to maintain his position as long as possible.

So what is a fair solution at this stage of the game?  Publically both sides say they want one another, but the options right now are limited because the two sides may only sign a one year agreement. However, the price and terms of that contract can be negotiated. The easiest solution would seem to be for the Bills to put a provision in Byrd’s contract that prohibits the use of the Franchise tag in 2014. This is not completely uncommon and would protect Byrd’s rights in 2014.

The other option would be for the Bills to show that they want Byrd and actually increase his salary. If the Bills are adamant about not prohibiting the use of the tag for fear of setting precedence for other free agents, they could agree to raise the price for Byrd to put his payouts closer to that of the high end of the market. While that may also set a bad precedent as well, if they are truly committed to keeping Byrd it is a fair option.

To accomplish this The Bills would give Byrd a raise of $1,266,000 in 2013. The one year contract would then be for a total of $8,182,000. If the Bills were to tag Byrd again his 2014 salary would then equal $9,818,400. That salary accomplishes two things. One it is high enough to where the Bills may consider not using it, in effect acting as the “no tag” provision Byrd wants. If they choose to use it, Byrd’s two year payout would be $18,000,400 which is exactly in line with where he should be had he signed a long term extension this year based on the Goldson and Weddle numbers. That is a good faith gesture by the Bills about their desire to keep Byrd in Buffalo.

Time is certainly running out for both sides. It is rare for a player to miss games but Byrd certainly seems pretty dug in on his stance right now. We will have to wait and see how the next two weeks unfold, but there are ways that the two sides should be able to find common ground to get him on the field in a Bills uniform.


State of Rebuild – Buffalo Bills


How do you build a winning football team?  Over the next few weeks I am going to look at a handful of teams that are either relatively early in their rebuilding process or on the verge of a possible rebuild.  The purpose of this is not to reflect on past regime decisions compared to the current decisions but rather to start the analysis from day one and evaluate personnel decisions along with contract structures and styles to see if certain trends help produce a winning franchise.

doug_whaley.jpg_30ea03e4d780625de53d9a55a525f2f0State of the Franchise and Front Office

Since the 1999 season, 31 of the 32 NFL teams have made the playoffs in at least one season.  After five straight seasons finishing last in the AFC East, its fourth in a row under now former GM Buddy Nix, the Buffalo Bills are the lone team not to make a playoff appearance since 1999 and are in the process of a full rebuild.  With new General Manager Doug Whaley, Head Coach Doug Marrone, and first round quarterback selection E.J. Manuel, the Bills are hoping they can turn the franchise around and end the long playoff drought.  Whaley, who served under Nix as Assistant General Manager since 2010, assumes the vacated GM position created by Nix’s resignation after this years NFL draft.  Whaley received a contract extension in February and had been heavily involved in the coaching search that eventually led to former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone replacing Chan Gailey as the Bills new head coach.  Nix’s resignation as GM is not a clean cut from the organization though, as he is being retained as a Special Assistant to the team.

Contract Strategies and Trends

The succession of Nix to Whaley and subsequent retaining of Nix on staff poses an interesting question – will anything actually be different?  The Bills have not been shy about using both roster and workout bonuses in significant deals.  Over the past few years, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, and Leodis McKelvin all received substantial roster and workout bonuses in their respective extensions and Kyle Williams also received yearly roster bonuses in his.  Free agent acquisitions Manny Lawson and Kevin Kolb received both roster and workout bonuses as well in their deals this offseason.  Lawson is due a $500,000 roster bonus in 2014 and 2015, a $250,000 roster bonus in 2016, and a yearly $50,000 workout bonus as part of his 4-year deal while Kolb is due $250,000 roster bonus in 2013, a $1 million dollar roster bonus in 2014, and a yearly $100,000 workout bonus as part of his 2-year deal.

USA Today

The big elephant in the room though is Mario Williams’ behemoth contract he signed last offseason.  Williams’ 6-year/$96 million contract also has substantial roster and workout bonuses including a $10,600,000 roster bonus in 2014 and a yearly $500,000 workout bonus in 2013-2016.  Jason did a great job summarizing exactly why this deal does not make any sense considering the circumstances and why its such a cap killer in his Best and Worst Contracts: The Buffalo Bills.

“Williams was never a top pass rusher in the NFL. He has always been good but more like top 20 good, not top of the NFL good. Williams makes 14% more than Julius Peppers and about 26% more than Charles Johnson and Jared Allen, the next three highest paid players at the position. Williams 3 year average leading into his deal with the Bills in both sacks and tackles was worse than all 3 of those players yet he earned significantly more. Williams will cost the Bills $17.8 million in dead money if cut in 2014 and $12.4 million in 2014, making him a near impossible player to move on from in the near future. Williams can be productive but it is unlikely he can ever be productive enough to match the price that the Bills agreed to pay for him.”

One final thing to take a quick look at is the Bills’ dead money situation.  As part of their massive rebuild, the Bills released Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrence McGee, Nick Barnett, George Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson and Mark Anderson among other players and as a result racked up about $11.6 million in dead money so far for the 2013 season.  In year 1 of a rebuild, that figure is nothing to really worry about and by comparison is fairly low.  Other teams in the midst of a full rebuild like the Jets and Raiders have upwards of $21 million (mostly $13 million from trading Revis) and a whopping $50 million respectively this year.  The part to keep an eye on is 2014 where right now the Bills have the most dead money going into the 2014 season at $10 million due to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s $7 million and Mark Anderson’s $3 million respective charges.  By comparison, the Jets don’t have a single dollar of dead money charges right now and the Raiders only have Michael Huff’s $6.2 million charge.

JairusbyrdBiggest Upcoming Roster Decision

A few months ago, this section would have been all about what to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick and would have looked like a much more basic version of Jason’s great write up here.  Now the biggest decision for the Bills is how to handle their All-Pro free safety Jairus Byrd.  Instead of letting Byrd test free agency, the Bills used their non-exclusive franchise tag on him.  The non-exclusive tag for a safety this year is $6,916,000, contingent on Byrd signing his tender.  Under the non-exclusive tag, Byrd was free to negotiate with other teams, but if he agreed to terms with that team, the Bills had the right to match the offer or receive two 1st–round picks as compensation for Byrd.  Unsurprisingly, no team agreed with Byrd, and after extensive attempts by the Bills and Byrd to come to an agreement, a long-term deal could not be reached by the July 15 deadline.  Currently, Byrd refuses to sign his tender and his holding out of training camp.  The Bills’ hands are tied – by rule, they are unable to sign Byrd to a long-term extension until after the 2013 season or trade him until Byrd signs his tender.   Byrd’s options are now to sign his tender before week 1 of the regular season and play out the year under the franchise tag or wait until week 10 and sign his tender in time to play 6 games and get credited for the league year.  The best Byrd can hope for is to sign his tender and collect a nice paycheck this year and try to prevent the Bills from franchising him again in 2014.

Reports are that Byrd wishes to be the highest paid safety in the league and Bills seem to not be willing to match that demand.  Will that demand change by the end of the 2013 season? At the high-level Byrd has played consistently over the past few years, probably not.  Assuming that Byrd signs his tender at some point and gets credited for the league year, the Bills will have a few options once the season ends.  They can agree to a new deal with Byrd, franchise him for a second year in a row, or let him test free agency.  If they decide to tag him again, the price will be at 120% of his tag price this year, which comes out to about $8.3 million.  The bottom line is this situation is a long way away from being resolved whichever route the Bills decide to go.

Past ‘State of Rebuild’ Articles

San Diego Chargers


Ryan Feder
Tulane University Law School
J.D. Candidate 2015

Contract Year Series, Jairus Byrd


Jairus Byrd #31 FS, Buffalo Bills

by Paul Carrozzo

When Barry Bonds was in the midst of his steroid stupor, MLB pitchers strategically began walking him for the opportunity to face the next hitter in the San Francisco Giants lineup.  The logic was simple enough for even the most casual baseball fan to understand.  The risk of pitching to Bonds had exceeded to value of offering the Giants a free base.  It became the equivalent of handing money to the bully as a preemptive strike as to not go through the hassle of him attempting to take it with force.

A very similar function is happening in the NFL but with much less fanfare.  We all remember Deion Sanders, in his prime, taking half the field away from the offense.  Teams decided to just not throw to Deion’s side of the field.  To a lesser extent, (although listening to the New York media you would think an even greater) Darrell Revis has had a similar effect on offensive play calling in recent years.  What the casual fan has not realized is a Free Safety in Buffalo that has built a reputation to stay away from.  Jairus Byrd was the 42nd pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and afforded the Bills the ability to trade their 2008 FS, Ko Simpson, a week before the ’09 season started.  The son of a former 2-time Pro Bowler Gil Byrd, Jairus impacted the league almost immediately.

Even though Byrd had a solid first three seasons, 2012 was by far his best.  Already having a reputation to avoid throwing at him, the QBs in the NFL almost completely shut off the spiget.  According to Pro Football Focus, Jairus Byrd played 1047 snaps for the Bills last year and was thrown at 21 times.  Need to repeat that… twenty one times!  By comparison Eric Weddle (the best market comparison and 2nd highest paid FS in the NFL) was thrown at 34 times allowing 2 touchdowns against 3 interceptions.  Byrd did not allow an interception and picked off 5 passes.  Almost one quarter of the time teams threw at Byrd, he converted the opportunity into a turnover.  No wonder teams have decided to penalty box throwing at him.

Analysis of Byrd’s future contract value starts and ends with Weddle.  Even though Dashon Goldson just signed the highest contract for FS last year, it was a terrible value for the Bucanneers as they will soon find out that he can’t hold a flame to Weddle or Byrd..  As we can see Byrd minimally should be in the ballpark of Weddle’s record breaking 5 year $40mm signed just prior to the 2011 season.  Based upon his consistency and the progressively more respect that he has gained from the league, my argument is that he should exceed that contract.  The Bills decided to use their franchise tag on Byrd this season, which will make him a 27 year old free agent after this season.

Estimated New Contract: 5 years, $43mm

The Franchise Tag and the July 15 Deadline


The NFL calendar is filled with little dates here and there that are very important for salary cap purposes that sometimes get lost in the shuffle. We are now coming up on one of those dates- July 15, just 9 days away from the time I am writing this. July 15 is the final day that a team can sign their Franchise player to a long term contract. If they fail to come to a contract agreement by 4:00 PM on the 15th the player can only play the season on a one year contract with his current team with no extension allowed until after the conclusion of the season.

I am not a big fan of allowing players to play out the season on the Franchise tag. It compromises your salary cap and puts you right back at square one after the season. Normally when you tag a player the players is an exceptional player and when his contract is up for extension again the following season he is still an exceptional player. His value doesn’t go down it is only going to go up.

Obviously drafting skilled players and hiring the right coaching staff are two major factors in team success, but much of a team’s success, specifically long term, is predicated  on efficient and effective contract management. The prime years for most NFL talent is between the ages of 26 and 29. The longer past the age of 30 a contract runs and the more dead money linked to those post 30 years the more compromised a team becomes in the future.

The problem with tagging a 26 or 27 year old player rather than signing a 5 year extension that runs until he is 30 or 31 comes at both the front end and back end of the contract. For example Anthony Spencer of the Cowboys had proven himself to be a pretty solid player thru 2011. Dallas had him play the year out on the tag in 2012, when he had just turned 28. Spencer did nothing to decrease his value as he is playing in the prime of his career, and if anything increased his value in free agency.

Rather than locking him up at 28 years of age the cap-strapped Cowboys put $8.85 million on their cap instead of using the benefits of proration and contract management to limit the cap obligations on the front end. Now 29 the Cowboys have tagged him again, this time at $10.63 million, contributing in part to the execution of a string of bad contract restructures to be cap compliant in 2013.

The Cowboys, who have called off negotiations with Spencer this season, supposedly still want to do a long term deal after this season. Assuming they do so they will have paid Spencer around $19.5 million in cash and cap for 2012 and 2013 and will now be stuck in a contract with him until 34 or 35 years old, with him likely earning the same deal and guarantees he would have earned back in 2012 with the Cowboys having an option to release at 31 years of age.

The only times the franchise tag is acceptable, in my opinion, is if you have a question mark “one season wonder” or it is an player on a win now team that has no intentions of ever re-signing the player to a long term deal. When the Carolina Panthers tagged Matt Moore it made sense because he was totally unproven and as things turned out he was pretty bad in a starting role and ended up as a backup in Miami. The tag saved Caroline a ton of money.  The New York Jets tagging of John Abraham in 2005 fit the second criteria, and helped the team control his rights to collect a first round pick for a player they had many reservations about keeping.

Our look at the positional Franchise players who could get deals done this week:

Branden Albert– Albert will turn 29 during the course of the 2013 season and the Chiefs really shot themselves in the foot by franchising him for the sole purpose of trading him. When they failed to accept what the market would offer they got stuck with a $9.8 million dollar cap charge on a player they don’t really want. Albert is versatile and you can get a few extra years out of that position than some others, but considering where both sides are it probably serves no purpose for the Chiefs to sign him long term, though the cost of the tag has hurt their cap flexibility with the season approaching.

Jairus Byrd– Byrd is 27 years old and one of the best two or three Safeties in the NFL. Bills could be thinking that two years of tagging at a low cost position rather than paying $8 million a year for top end of the market is worthwhile, especially on a team that should experience some defensive turnover in the next year or two. That would cost the Bills an extra $4 million in cap but save them about $4 million in cash over a two year period if benchmarking against Eric Weddle in San Diego. The Bills should extend him but my guess is they will not.

Ryan Clady– Clady is another 27 year old and a 3 time Pro Bowler. The cost of franchising an offensive lineman is high- $9.8 million, but finding a fair value contract for any lineman is difficult. The Broncos are built to win now and may perceive investment at the position not worth the long term cost. I think the decision should be made in part based on how many years the team expects Peyton Manning to start. Considering his salary in 2014 is fully guaranteed it puts Denver in a position to play the tag game again next year as its doubtful they will throw a rookie in at LT with Manning. As a point of reference Jake Long will only cost the Rams $13.5 million in cap over the next two years and an additional $10.5 million if they keep him in the third season. I have not heard anything about discussions between the two sides and they may be financially too far apart, but he is a player that should be signed long term.

Michael Johnson– A head scratcher. The Bengals have no cap issues and Johnson has produced 17.5 sacks over the last two seasons and is a vital part of the defense. He is only 26 years old and would give the Bengals a head start on extending a core of young players that can get very expensive n a few years. They should extend Johnson but may balk at Johnson looking for premier pass rusher money while the market for pass rushers has somewhat shrunk, though none as young as him. The Bengals should work hard on locking him up as the cost to franchise next season if prohibitive.

Henry Melton– Melton has produced 13 sacks the last two seasons and won’t turn 27 until October. Right now the Bears have limited long term visions with a number of high priced contracts set to expire. In many ways you can say the Bears have a cap filled with franchise tags based on the cost, lack of dead money, and remaining seasons on the contract.  Paying a DT on the tag is almost worthless due to the high cost compared to positional value. Bears should have never even tagged him in the first place. Based on everything the Bears are doing they are likely just giving one last shot with this group and will let Melton walk after this season.

Anthony Spencer– We discussed Spencer above and the Cowboys have really just botched this from day one. Their best option at this point would be to see if a team was willing to trade for Spencer. Dallas always has an inflated view of themselves and I am sure see themselves as a win it all this year type of club which will be the justification for keeping him this year on the franchise tag.

Randy Starks– Starks will be 30 towards the conclusion of the season and already has nine years of wear and tear on his body. The Dolphins clearly went all in on the season making the retention of Starks very important to the team. He is a solid player for a somewhat underrated defense and should be a key contributor in 2013. At his age a long term extension is really not a wise decision. Older players at this position often end up on lower cost one and two year deals and the Dolphins could look to that model for the future if the market dries up for him next year. He is one of those rare players where it makes more sense to play on the tag then extend, and I fully expect Miami to hold firm on Starks this year.