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Dez Bryant received the franchise tag from the Cowboys. (David Banks/Getty Images)

Five players received the franchise tag this season, a slight increase from last year, when four were tagged. However, it still represents a seismic dropoff in previous years — down from eight in 2013 and 21 in 2012. Here’s a quick look at who was tagged.

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots: New England decided to place the franchise tag on Gostkowski, bypassing the chance to hit safety Devin McCourty. While McCourty could become one of the most coveted free agents on the market if he’s without a new deal by the time the new league year begins on March 10, the Patriots have made sure their former All-Pro kicker will stick around for at least one more season. According to our friend Miguel from Patscap.com, Gostkowski will receiver a salary of $4.59 million in 2015 — $4.44 million for 120 percent of the 2014 cap plus $100,000 for offseason and $50,000 for his Pro Bowl bonuses.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants: The pass-rushing specialist, who has 42 regular-season sacks in five seasons with New York, will get $14,813,000 for the 2015 season.

Outside linebacker Justin Houston, Chiefs: The 26-year-old All-Pro is coming off one of the best year’s in NFL history for a pass rusher — he finished 2014 with 22 sacks, second on the list behind Michael Strahan‘s 22.5 for most sacks in a single season.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant, Cowboys: The occasionally combustible pass catcher, who has had three straight seasons of at least 88 catches, got the tag in Dallas instead of running back DeMarco Murray, and will make a base salary of $12,823,000 for the 2015 season.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Broncos: The 27-year-old Thomas, who evolved into one of Peyton Manning‘s favored targets over the last two seasons, has at least 92 regular-season catches a year the last three seasons with Denver. He’ll also make $12,823,000 next season.

In addition, Dolphins tight end Charles Clay was given the transition tag designation with a tender offer of $7,071,000. The transition tag comes with a lower salary total and allows any team to match any offer to the player. However, it doesn’t provide any compensation in the form of a draft pick if if the player signs elsewhere and the team declines to match the offer.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Following Monday’s announcement that he had not received the franchise tag, Patriots safety Devin McCourty acknowledged that there’s the po

Following Monday’s announcement that he had not received the franchise tag, Patriots safety Devin McCourty acknowledged that there’s the possibility he “could be playing in a different place” in 2015.

In an interview with ESPN’s Josina Anderson, McCourty reflected on the fact that it was kicker Stephen Gostkowski who was tagged instead of him, and said that there was no real information from the franchise who was going to be tagged until the announcement was made Monday afternoon prior to the 4 p.m. deadline.

“There was no real information from them on if it was going to be me or (Stephen Gostkowski),” he said. “So I was kind of going off of what everybody else was going off, with what people were reporting as far as sources and all that.

“I guess it’s more realistic now that [there’s] a chance that I might not be back there,” McCourty added. “Or there’s still a chance that I will, but I guess [there’s] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process.”

McCourty said the idea of potentially moving on would be tough, but he understands the nature of the business.

“It would definitely be bittersweet,” he said. “You stay somewhere for five years and really make a name for yourself in that place. I’ve gotten a lot of help. I know a lot of people in the area, built great relationships, so it will definitely be bittersweet. But my mom always reminds me that comes with the territory. That’s part of being in the NFL, that change is always coming.

“To me it kind of is what it is. I know from being there for five years, I’ve seen a bunch of moves where a bunch of people kind of didn’t know what they were doing and somehow it always works out. So, it’s just now, I am on the other side. I’m not surprised really. I know [the Patriots] always know what they’re doing, as far as the team, and what they want to do. So, just seeing what’s next for me.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Devin McCourty could be in line for a handsome payday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Devin McCourty could be in line for a handsome payday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There are two ways to look at Monday’s decision not to hit safety Devin McCourty with the franchise tag.

If you are a glass-is-half-full type, the Patriots’ decision not to franchise McCourty was made because the two sides are closing in on a long-term deal that would keep him in New England for the foreseeable future, and allow the Rutgers product to grow old in a Patriots uniform.

If you’re more of a glass-is-half-empty type, this is the first chapter of a story that ends with McCourty at a press conference posing next to Chuck Pagano, John Harbaugh, Gary Kubiak or a coach for any of New England’s other AFC rivals while talking about “new challenges” and “new beginnings.” (That doesn’t even begin to take onto account the possibility of him playing alongside his brother Jason in Tennessee, or any of the other NFC teams that might be flush with cash once the free-agency buffet opens next week.)

Now, instead of slapping the $9.6 tag on him for the 2015 season, the Patriots are gambling with the idea that they can retain McCourty for the long term. The defensive back has grown up in the New England system, and come of age in an age of unprecedented success with the Patriots: He’s been to four straight AFC title games, made two Super Bowl appearances, been twice named a second-team All-Pro (at two different positions) and won a Super Bowl ring, all before the age of 28. It’s hard to imagine him reaching the same sort of heights at another stop over the next five years.

But when you consider the market, he’s going to get paid like one of the best safeties in the league. In truth, he’s a rare talent: He’s not an All-World corner along the lines of a Darrelle Revis. But his knowledge of the system, leadership skills, ability to play alongside a multitude of different players while displaying an amazing positional flexibility (at corner and safety) make him extremely valuable to the New England system. And when you take into account the free agent market — as well as the apparent choices that could be available in this year’s draft at safety — it’s a considerable gamble, especially when you consider what some comparable defensive backs have made on the market over the course of the last few years.

— T.J. Ward: Signed a four-year, $22.5 million contract last March, a deal contains $13.5 million guaranteed.

Earl Thomas: Last April, he signed a five-year, $44.725 million contract with $27.725 million guaranteed, including a $9.5 million signing bonus.

— Eric Weddle: In 2011, the bearded defensive back signed a a five-year, $40 million contract with $19 million guaranteed and a $13 million signing bonus.

While McCourty might not be at the top of that food chain, he’s not too far removed, especially in this environment.

The Patriots have exclusive negotiating rights with McCourty until Saturday. That’s when the weird tampering window involving impending unrestricted free agents opens, which allows reps from around the league to get in touch with him and gauge what he might be interested in. While no deals can be consummated until Tuesday, expect there to be plenty of potential suitors lined up outside of McCourty’s door for several reasons, not the least of which could be simply driving up the price for New England.

Regardless of what happens, McCourty has now entered into a brave new world, one where he could command a sizable payday. As is the case with his fellow defensive back Darrelle Revis, where both sides decide to go from this point over the next week will provide some level of insight into just how the New England secondary will look in 2015 and beyond.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots made it official Monday afternoon, announcing they had placed the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The team issued the following statement:

The Patriots made it official Monday afternoon, announcing they had placed the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski. The team issued the following statement:

“Stephen has been extremely productive and a vital component to our success since joining our team in 2006. Utilizing the franchise designation allows both sides more time to try to reach an agreement, which is the goal.”

Here’s a portion of the release, as issued by the franchise:

Gostkowski was named to the Pro Bowl for the second straight season in 2014 and for the third time overall since joining the team as a fourth-round selection in the 2006 NFL Draft out of Memphis. He led the NFL in 2014 with 156 total points. Gostkowski also led the NFL in points in 2008, 2012 and 2013, becoming just the third player to lead the NFL in points in at least four seasons. He has connected on 86.8 percent of his regular-season field goal attempts since entering the NFL (243-of-280), the best field goal percentage in Patriots history.

Gostkowski became the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer in the win vs. Miami on Dec. 14 and now has 1,179 career points. He was 35-of-37 on field goals in 2014 for a 94.6 field goal percentage, the highest field goal percentage in a single season for the Patriots.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The Patriots have used their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The franchise tag will pay Gostkowski $4.1 million in 2015, less than half of the $9.6 million it would cost to franchise safety Devin McCourty.

This is a big week for Darrelle Revis, as the Patriots have until March 9 to pick up his $20 million team option for 2015.

Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a preseason 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

Stephen Gostkowski (3) converts a preseason 60 yard field goal at the end of the first half. (Getty Images)

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots have used their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

The franchise tag will pay Gostkowski $4.1 million in 2015. The Patriots drafted Gostkowski in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft to replace Adam Vinatieri. In nine seasons in New England, Gostkowski has converted 243 of his 280 field goal attempts and has become one of the most dependable kickoff specialists in the league.

He enters 2015 only 20 field goals shy of Vinatieri’€™s franchise record.

The franchise tag is a designation a team may apply to a player scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. The tag binds the player to the team for one year if certain conditions are met. Each team has access each year to only one franchise tag (of either the exclusive or non-exclusive forms) and one transition tag. As a result, each team may only designate one player each year as that team’s franchise player.

A franchise tag affords the retaining team the privilege of strategically retaining valuable free-agent players while seeking talent through the NFL draft or other acquisitions without exceeding the League’s salary cap. A team may also franchise tag a player with 2 or more years left on a contract.

The designated franchise player will have his one year salary guaranteed if he elects to play for the team that designated him with the franchise tag and if he does not negotiate a contract with another team.

Last season, Gostkowski connected on 35 of his 37 field goal attempts and posted a career-high 94.6 conversion percentage. He connected on his only attempt in the postseason, and is 20-for-22 lifetime in the playoffs.

In a Week 15 win over the Dolphins, Gostkowski, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, became the Patriots’€™ all-time leading scorer with 1,179 points, surpassing Vinatieri’€™s old mark in just his 134th game with the team.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

This is a big week for Darrelle Revis, as the Patriots have until March 9 to pick up his $20 million team option for 2015.

Appearing on ESPN Radio’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd, NFL insider Adam Schefter shed some light on what might happen with Revis. According to Schefter, the star cornerback will be hitting the market as he said he would be “surprised” if the Patriots picked up his $20 million option.

Darrelle Revis has a clause in his contract that says he can’t be [franchise] tagged again. There’s a $20 million option bonus payment that would cause a $25 million cap number,” Schefter told Cowherd. “The bottom line is it would surprise me if New England picked that up. The chances are — not the chances are — it’s going to happen, Darrelle Revis is going to hit the market. He will be another coveted free agent.”

Even if Revis hits the free agent market, he can still return to New England with a new contract. If that is the case, he would likely take less than what he might get from another team. Going into his 10th season, turning 30 years old next summer, and making as much money as he already has over his career, as well as winning a Super Bowl, it all comes down to what Revis ultimately wants.

“This all comes down to what Darrelle Revis wants to do,” Schefter said. “He’s got a Super Bowl ring. He’s career has been validated. He’s got one more big score left — big score in terms of big contract. Does he want to go take that big contract with a team like the New York Jets who are dying to make a run at Darrelle Revis, or the Buffalo Bills? Or, is he willing to take less to go back and play with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and be in the environment that he’s been in in New England. That is a call only he can make.

“At this point in his career he’s made a ton of money — a ton of money. All together with marketing, contracts, he’s probably made $100 million. So what do you want to do in your very last big deal? That’s the decision Darrelle Revis has to make.”

With the Patriots reportedly placing the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, the team has about a week to reach a long-term deal with safety Devin McCourty, or else he too could be headed for free agency, thus making for interesting times with the Patriots’ secondary.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable