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.
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.
Adam Vinatieri is the only player who has been hit with the franchise tag twice by the Patriots. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
A few notes as we all wait for the 4 p.m. deadline on the franchise tag:
On four of the eight occasions the Patriots hit someone with the franchise tag, they did it on the last day of the window: Wes Welker (2012), Adam Vinatieri (2005), Tebucky Jones (2003) and Vinatieri (2002). The Welker announcement came just prior to the deadline.
Three of the eight tags ultimately led to contract extensions with the Patriots: Logan Mankins (2011), Vince Wilfork (2010) and Vinatieri (2002). Wilfork’s offseason came at the end of the tumultuous few months for the defensive lineman, who was strongly against the idea of being tagged. He eventually acquiesced, and that set the stage for a new five-year deal that made him the highest-paid nose tackle in the league.
In addition, on three occasions, a player played that year under the franchise tag, and then departed as a free agent the following year: Welker (2012), Asante Samuel (2007) and Vinatieri (2005). In retrospect, it was clear that few players wanted to get out of town faster than Samuel. He held out for most of the offseason and into the summer, eventually signing his tender on Aug, 27. He left as a free agent the following offseason – he was in Philly at a press conference announcing his signing with the Eagles less than 18 hours following the start of free agency the next year.
And two players were tagged and then traded: Matt Cassel (2009) to the Chiefs and Jones (2003) to the Saints. While a few different scenarios could play out between now and the end of the offseason if one of the Patriots is tagged between now and the deadline, this is probably not one of them.
When it comes to his future in New England, Darrelle Revis is facing an important stretch. (Getty Images)
This week kicks off an important stretch when it comes to the future Darrelle Revis and the Patriots, as the team and the cornerback are facing a few important deadlines as it relates to his current deal.
March 9 – The deadline for Revis’ option year for the Patriots. If option is picked up, he would make $20 million in 2015 with New England (with a $25 million camp number), including a $12 million roster bonus, which would be due on March 10. Even for a difference-maker like Revis, it’s a massive number, and as a result, it wasn’t a surprise to hear Patriots president Jonathan Krafttell WEEI last month that he viewed the option as a “placeholder” that would keep in New England for another year.
“He is under contract for next year. I realize that it’s probably, people understand that that’s a placeholder,” Kraft said on Feb. 6. “We’ll get to work on trying to make that happen and hopefully both sides will want to make a deal and we’ll get that done. He’s been everything and more since he’s been here.”
As Pro Football Talk notes, if the Patriots do exercise the option on Revis, franchise safety Devin McCourty (at roughly $9.5 million a year) and pay cornerback Brandon Browner the $5.5 million they currently owe him for 2015 ($2 million of which comes in the form of a roster bonus due next week), that would mean they’d be committing more than $40 million to their secondary, a massive amount that could leave some other key free agents (Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Stephen Gostkowski) out in the cold when it comes to potentially re-upping with the Patriots.
If the option isn’t exercised — as previously stated — the Patriots are prohibited from designating Revis as their franchise or transition player for 2015. That would mean he’d be released, and free to negotiate with anyone else. However, there is the remote possibility that the Patriots could exercise the option on Revis, and then circle back around with his reps in an attempt to try and re-work the deal in hopes of gaining more financial flexibility down the road.
Match 10 – The start of the new league year. At that point, if the Patriots have not picked up his option for 2015, Revis is a free agent, and is available to begin negotiations with anyone else. While it would free up a sizable amount of cap space for New England, it would also mean the Patriots would be bidding against the rest of the field for the cornerback.
There would be no shortage of suitors for Revis — Jets owner Woody Johnson said on Dec. 29 he’d love to have Revis back with the Jets, while new Buffalo coach Rex Ryan has a deep relationship with the cornerback who he worked with for six seasons in North Jersey. That doesn’t even take into account the rest of the league, who would gladly pony up the cash for a chance to sign Revis.
“I mean, you guys know my contract — there’s no reason to really get into it,” he said in June. “I’m here. I’m here for this year.
“Everything else will take care of itself after the season.”
And now, both sides have arrived at that point. While it’s important to note that the team-building process is a year-round activity, it’s clear that the first steps in the creation of the 2015 team — and whether or not Revis will be part of the mix — will start to come into sharper focus over the next few days.
Marshawn Lynch spoke at length for the first time about the end of Super Bowl XLIX over the weekend, telling a Turkish reporter that he was “expecting the ball” at the end of last month’s Super Bowl contest against the Patriots, but said he “had no problem” with the playcalling.
“To be honest with you, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was expecting the ball. Yes, I was expecting the ball. But in life, these things happen. Like I told a reporter after the game, it’s a team sport.
“I had no problem with the decision of the playcalling. I mean, you know … I think it was more of a … how do I say this? When you look at me, and you let me run that ball in … I am the face of the nation. You know, MVP of the Super Bowl … that’s pretty much the face of the nation at that point of time. I don’t know what went into that call. I mean, maybe it was a good thing that I didn’t get the ball. I mean, you know, it cost us the Super Bowl. I mean, I have full … I have full confidence in my teammates to execute that plan because we’ve done it so many more times. But would I love to had the ball in? Yes, I would have.”
Price calls Butch to discuss the March 2nd deadline for franchise tags, free agency and the Pats' plans going forward.
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Will Devin McCourty be tagged before Monday’s deadline? (Getty Images)
1. With the franchise tag window set to close on Monday at 4 p.m., it appears we could be in for a record-low number of tagged players. Four players were tagged last offseason, down from eight in 2013 and 21 in 2012. At this point, no players have received the tag. That doesn’t mean no one will be hit with the designation — the Chiefs and linebacker Justin Houston are apparently moving closer to the franchise tag, while the same appears to be the case with the Broncos and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and the Cowboys and wide receiver Dez Bryant. But three would represent a significant dropoff from year’s past. According to Albert Breer of NFL Media, the tag for linebackers is $13.17 million, while wide receivers are at $12.8. Locally, the two leading candidates for the tag remain safety Devin McCourty (who could get a one-year payday worth $9.6 if he’s tagged) and kicker Stephen Gostkowski ($4.12 million). McCourty seems cool with the idea of being tagged, but we’ll see what happens if the Patriots do decide to pull the trigger.
We’ve published this before, but in the context of this week’s conversation, it’s worth revisiting how New England has utilized the franchise tag in year’s past, and how it has eventually played out:
For the record, the Patriots have utilized the tag fairly early in the process, with one exception — Welker in 2012. He was tagged at the last possible moment, just hours before window closed on March 5 that year. He signed his tender that spring, played out his deal and left as a free agent the following spring.
2. The Patriots have seen plenty of turnover on their coaching staff the last two seasons, as special teams coach Scott O’Brien, tight ends coach George Godsey, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and linebackers coach Pepper Johnson have all departed since the end of the 2013 campaign. At the same, the three men at the top of the coaching food chain (head coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia) can now boast one of the longest continuous working relationships of any team in the league, having all worked together in the same capacity since the 2012 season. The only trio that predated the Belichick-McDaniels-Patricia (specifically when it came to working titles as head coach, OC and DC) combo this year was in San Francisco, where Jim Harbaugh (head coach), Greg Roman (offensive coordinator) and Vic Fangio (defensive coordinator) took over together in 2011. With Harbaugh moving on to the University of Michigan, that all changed. And now, with the resignation of Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh and the breakup of the Atlanta coaching staff, only the Packers‘ trio of head coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Tom Clements and defensive coordinator Dom Capers dates back to 2012, along with New England. For what it’s worth, you can certainly make an argument that the Belichick-McDaniels-Patricia relationship runs even deeper than just the last three years. McDaniels was offensive coordinator with the Patriots from 2006 through 2008 before stops in Denver and St. Louis eventually led back to New England. Meanwhile Patricia was fundamentally a defensive coordinator without the title for a long stretch, as he had a major role in defensive game planning after Dean Pees left for Baltimore following the 2009 season before officially getting the DC title in 2012. But any way you slice it, it’s hard to argue that the continuity of the staffs in New England and Green Bay have played a sizable measure in their success in recent years.
3. While free agency doesn’t technically begin until the start of the new NFL year — March 10 — several teams around the league have already started jettisoning veterans in hopes of becoming cap compliant sooner rather than later. Reggie Bush, A.J. Hawk, Jacoby Jones, LaRon Landry, DeAngelo Williams, Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson and Mathias Kiwanuka are just a few veterans who have suddenly found themselves out of a job as teams try and clear space between now and next month. At least publicly, the chance to release a player at this relatively early stage of the process suggests that the veteran will get plenty of time to latch on with another team. At the same time, just because a player is cut loose now doesn’t mean he can’t eventually return at a reduced rate down the road — in 2005, the Patriots cut loose beloved receiver Troy Brown on March 1, and he was brought back on May 23. He went on to play the better part of two more years with New England. (In that same vein, the Patriots got a jump on this process last February when they released veteran safety Steve Gregory before the start of free agency.) In the end, it’s important to remember that the recent flood of veteran releases simply represents the start of the team-building process for the 2015 season, one that will pick up speed over the course of the next eight weeks with the rush of free agency, followed by the draft.
4. One of the more intriguing veterans who was cut loose was Jackson. While it’s clear the former Ram and Falcon may have hit that wall that most veteran backs collide with when they turn 30 (after eight seasons of 1,000-plus yards on the ground, he’s had 543 yards and 707 yards in the last two years since he turned 30), Belichick has always displayed an affinity for the former Oregon Stater. The Patriots coach spent the day with Jackson before the 2004 draft, and even though the Patriots ended up acquiring a big back in free agency as opposed to the draft (Corey Dillon), Belichick came away a big fan. In 2012, he lauded Jackson’s durability and consistency. “It’s impressive. It’s real impressive,” said Belichick. “He’s had a 1,000 yards it seems like every year, or close to it, whatever it is. But he dishes it out. I think he probably gives out about as much as he takes. It’s not like that with all backs, but he’s got the quickness to be elusive on the second level and avoid guys and he’s also got the power to put his shoulder down and run through guys. He’s a hard guy to tackle.” No one is suggesting that Jackson is on the next plane to Foxboro, but when you start to craft free agent predictions, a past history between a coach and player always figures into the equation.
5. In that same vein, it’s going to be interesting to see how potential free agent situations involving Bush and Shane Vereen impact each other. Both are third-down backs who are expected to hit the free agent market on March 10, and while Bush isn’t nearly the offensive option that he used to be (NFL.com referred to Vereen as a “younger version of Reggie Bush right now” this week), he will almost certainly draw interest because of his reputation. That will have an effect on Vereen’s situation, as both are similar multidimensional threats out of the backfield. As how this all relates to the Patriots, as Rich Hill noted here, it is worth mentioning the fact that after a few rough seasons, Bush enjoyed a career renaissance of some sorts with the Dolphins in 2011, when he rushed for a career-high 1,086 yards (and five yards per carry) to go along with 43 catches for 296 yards. That season, current Patriots tight end coach Brian Daboll was working as Miami’s offensive coordinator, while offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was employed in a similar capacity by the Dolphins. If anyone is aware of a what a healthy Bush might do, it’s probably those two. Something to watch for as free agency develops.
6. Optimism is running in high in Buffalo, and not just because the new head coach recently got his truck re-done with a flashy red, while and blue color scheme. The return of playmaking linebacker Kiko Alonso could very well make one of the best young defenses in the league even better in 2015. Alonso tore his ACL last summer, leaving him sidelined for the duration of the 2014 campaign and unable to build on an impressive rookie season. Without him in the lineup, the Buffalo defense was still one of the best in the league, finishing in the top 10 in most major categories, including yards and points per game allowed. As a result, the Bills finished at 9-7, their first winning record since 2004. While it remains to be seen how Rex Ryan is going to go about finding a serviceable quarterback, with Alonso back in the lineup, there’s reason to believe the defense can get to another level. “I anticipate being 100 percent before camp,” Alonso said, via the team’s website. “By camp, I definitely feel I’ll be at 100 percent. I feel very good with where I’m at. By camp I’ll be full go.”
March 2: Minnesota, Virginia, Wake Forest. March 3: Auburn, Northwestern, Pitt. March 4: Purdue, Texas A&M, Arkansas Mississippi State. March 5: Clemson, Illinois, Mississippi, Nebraska. March 6: Appalachian State, Arizona State, Southern Mississippi. March 10: Arizona, Army, Harvard, Kansas State, Kent State, UCLA. March 11: Alabama, Cincinnati, Louisville, Marshall, Oklahoma, Rutgers, South Florida, USC, Wisconsin. March 12: Oregon, Fresno State, Michigan, Oklahoma State, UNLV, Washington State. March 13: Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Oregon State, West Virginia. March 17: California. March 18:Boston College. Baylor, Boise State, Georgia, Memphis, Michigan State, Virginia Tech.
8. From this viewpoint, the idea of changing some of the combine drills is a fantastic plan. The initial series of events — the 40, vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, 3-cone, and shuttle run — are good indicators of how a prospect might measure up physically, and should still be a part of the overall evaluation process. But the game has changed so dramatically over the years on a number of levels — including the increased specialization of players — that a change is overdue. “We run the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. Why? The only reason anyone can ever give you is, that’s how it’s always been done,” NFL director of player development Matt Birk said on Friday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Birk and Saints coach Sean Payton both discussed how things might change, including more position-specific drills. “I think you’ll gradually see position-specific change where it won’t be just one whole new set of drills,” Payton said. “It will gradually phase itself in as we know more and more what we’re looking for for an offensive lineman, compared to a running back.” While some have worried that the idea of changing things up will make it harder to compare future prospects to past ones, the evaluation process needs a bit of a reset, and this will certainly help refine things.
9. We’ve listed these before, but now that we’re in the post-combine, pre-free agent period window, it’s worth revisiting some of the key dates on the upcoming NFL schedule through a Patriots’ prism:
Monday – The two-week franchise tag window closes. If the tag is applied, the likeliest candidates figure to be either McCourty or Gostkowski. If the Patriots choose not to tag anyone, it would mark the first time they have gone three consecutive years without using the tag since the turn of the century.
March 7-10 – Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4 p.m. ET on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. ET on March 10.
March 10 – New league year, free agency begins. Before 4 p.m. ET, clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts. In addition, teams must submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents with expiring contracts, and clubs must be under the salary cap before 4 p.m. ET.
March 22-25: Owners meetings, Phoenix – Usually, one of the handful of times both Belichick and owner Robert Kraft speak with the media in the offseason.
April 6 – Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2014 regular season may begin offseason workout programs. (April 20 is the date teams with returning head coaches may begin off-season workout programs)
April 30-May 2: NFL draft, Chicago – The Patriots have eight overall picks, including four in the first three rounds.
May 2 – Deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets.
10. And finally, for those of you inclined to revisit the Patriots’ championship season — and the Super Bowl XLIX win over the Seahawks — the commemorative DVD and Blu-Ray are scheduled to be released on Tuesday. Get a look at the trailer here. There have been a ton of really sharp looking snippets released over the course of the year from NFL Films, but in terms of sheer emotion, I’m not sure anything can top this video. We’ve posted this before, but because it’s the one-month anniversary of the game, it deserves a second look.