Franchise tag time has officially arrived for NFL teams. Around here, there’s always a little drama and suspense. Will the Patriots actually use it, and designate someone during the two-week window they have starting today, or will they stand pat?
Based on some of the key personnel involved, you have to believe there’s a good chance they’ll exercise their option.
So who gets hit from the list of most likely suspects? Wes Welker? Aqib Talib? Sebastian Vollmer?
For starters, let’s eliminate Welker right away. It won’t be him. No way they risk paying him the $11.4 million price tag for one season. Plus, colleague Ron Borges has it on good authority it ain’t happening. So it really comes down to Talib or Vollmer.
Cornerback or offensive lineman?
If you think like the Patriots and what they’ve valued — and paid — in the past, it’s a no-brainer. At the top of Bill Belichick’s value chart are offensive and defensive linemen. Right tackle, the position Vollmer has played for the most part since he was drafted in the second round in 2009, falls into that category.
If the Pats believe negotiations are headed in the wrong direction, they’ll tag Vollmer — just as they did Logan Mankins in 2011 — and assure keeping him another year with hopes of doing something more.
Remember, the Pats have built the line around their twin tower tackles, Vollmer and Nate Solder, who are both listed at 6-foot-8, 320 pounds. They’ve invested heavily in the hulk-like athletic duo, an integral part of keeping Tom Brady safe this past season. And keeping Brady healthy is always a top priority.
What helps the Patriots is the fact there are a lot of linemen, tackles in particular, in the free agent pool. Couple that with the specter of Vollmer’s back issue looming over a big payday in the open market, and it’s possible the desired long-term deal could be worked out.
Talib or Vollmer? Game of tag begins
Boston Herald | Feb 18