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A serious game of tag


The 2012 NFL free agency field is set – for the moment, anyway.

At the very least, as of 4:01 p.m. EST Monday, there was a bit more clarity around which players may nor may not be available when the NFL's pro free agency period begins at 4:01 p.m. EST March 13.

With 4:01 p.m. Monday the deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag, 21 teams used the tag, essentially removing the "tagged" players from the 2012 free-agency pool and clarifying to an extent which players will and won't hit the open market.

While several teams such as New Orleans (Drew Brees), Baltimore (Ray Rice) and Philadelphia (DeSean Jackson) had applied the tag late last week or over the weekend, Monday as expected was a flurry of activity as the deadline approached.

The Jaguars used the tag on kicker Josh Scobee Monday morning, and as the day went on, players such as defensive end Cliff Avril of Detroit, kicker Matt Prater of Denver, linebacker/end Anthony Spencer of Dallas, safety Michael Griffin of Tennessee and wide receiver Wes Welker of New England also received the tag.

Some teams waited until late in the day, with the Kansas City Chiefs officially announcing they had franchised wide receiver Dwayne Bowe about 20 minutes before the deadline.

Also near the deadline, the Colts franchised defensive end Robert Mathis, but reportedly the sides were close to a long-term deal.

Just because the franchise tag deadline has passed doesn't mean the market is set. Teams can still re-sign their own players until the start of free agency.

One reason for the heavy tag use this off-season: the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the old CBA, the tag was based on average salaries of the five highest-paid players at the free agent's position.  Now, it's set by a formula based on franchise tags for the previous five years, which has lowered the tag.

Once again, here are the "tag" figures:

*Quarterback, $14.4 million ($16.1 million in 2011); running back, $7.7 million ($9.6 million in 2011); wide receiver, $9.4 million ($11.4 million in 2011); tight end, $5.4 million ($7.3 million in 2011); offensive line, $9.4 million ($10.1 million in 2011); defensive end, $10.6 million ($13 million in 2011); defensive tackle, $7.9 million ($12.5 million in 2011); linebacker, $8.8 million ($10.1 million in 2011); cornerback, $10.6 million ($13.5 million in 2011); safety, $6.2 million ($8.8 million in 2011); kicker, $2.6 million ($3.2 million in 2011).

Teams have until July 15 to reach long-term deals with franchised players, at which point the tag is removed and the players play under the agreed-upon contract.

Quickly, a look at how teams used the franchise tag, as well as a look at the top players now scheduled to become free agents from each team:

AFC South

Houston: Tag not used. Notable potential free agents:DE Mario Williams, C Chris Myers, TE Joel Dreessen. Off the market:Arian Foster (signed Monday).

Indianapolis:DE Robert Mathis. Notable potential free agents:WR Reggie Wayne, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Anthony Gonzalez, TE Jacob Tamme.

Jacksonville:K Josh Scobee. Notable potential free agents:DE Jeremy Mincey, S Dwight Lowery, DE Matt Roth, CB Rashean Mathis.

Tennessee:S Michael Griffin. Notable potential free agents:CB Cortland Finnegan, DE-DT Jason Jones.

AFC East

Buffalo:Tag not used. Notable potential free agents: LT Demetrius Bell. Off market: WR Stevie Johnson (signed Monday).

Miami:Tag not used. Notable potential free agents: DT Paul Soliai, QB Chad Henne.

New England:WR Wes Welker.Notable potential free agents: DE Mark Anderson, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

New York Jets:**Tag not used.Notable potential free agents: NT Sione Pouha.

AFC North

Baltimore:RB Ray Rice. Notable potential free agents: G Ben Grubbs, LB Jarrett Johnson, CB Lardarius Webb (restricted), LB Jameel McClain, DE Cory Redding.

Cincinnati:K Mike Nugent. Notable potential free agents: S Reggie Nelson, DT Pat Sims, RB Cedric Benson.

Cleveland:K Phil Dawson. Notable potential free agents: RB Peyton Hillis. Off the market:LB D'Qwell Jackson (signed last month).

Pittsburgh:Tag not used. Notable potential free agents: WR Mike Wallace (restricted), CB William Gay.

AFC West

Denver:K Matt Prater. Notable potential free agents: DT Brodrick Bunkley.

Kansas City:WR Dwayne Bowe. Notable potential free agents: CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton.

Oakland: S Tyvon Brach. Notable potential free agents: RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell.

San Diego:Tag not used.Notable potential free agents: WR Vincent Jackson, LT Jared Gaither, DT Antonio Garay, DT Tommie Harris.

NFC South

Atlanta:CB Brent Grimes. Notable potential free agents: LB Curtis Lofton, DE John Abraham.

Carolina: Tag not used. Notable potential free agents:TE Jeremy Shockey.

New Orleans:QB Drew Brees. Notable potential free agents: G Carl Nicks, WR Marques Colston, WR Robert Meachem, CB Tracy Porter, DT Aubrayo Franklin, DT Shaun Rogers.

Tampa Bay:Tag not used.

NFC East

Dallas:LB/DE Anthony Spencer.Notable potential free agents: TE Martellus Bennett, WR Laurent Robinson.

New York Giants:P Steve Weatherford. Notable potential free agents: CB Aaron Ross, WR Mario Manningham, CB Terrell Thomas.

Philadelphia:WR DeSean Jackson. Notable potential free agents: G Evan Mathis, QB Vince Young.

Washington:TE Fred Smith. Notable potential free agents: S LaRon Landry, LB London Fletcher, QB Rex Grossman.

NFC North

Chicago:RB Matt Forte.Notable potential free agents: CB Tim Jennings, DT Amobi Okoye, DE Israel Idonije.

Detroit:DE Cliff Avril.Notable potential free agents: LB Stephen Tulloch, QB Shaun Hill.

Green Bay:Tag not used.Notable potential free agents: QB Matt Flynn, C Scott Wells, RB Ryan Grant. Off the market:TE Jermichael Finley (signed last month).

Minnesota: Tag not used.Notable potential free agents: TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

NFC West

Arizona: DE Calais Campbell.

San Francisco:S Dashon Goldson.Notable potential free agents: CB Carlos Rogers, QB Alex Smith.

Seattle:Tag not used.Notable potential free agents: DT Red Bryant, MLB David Hawthorne, TE John Carlson. Off the market: RB Marshawn Lynch (signed Monday).

St. Louis:Tag not used.Notable potential free agents: WR Brandon Lloyd.

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