It's hard to pin a value on the players who receive the Franchise Tag from their teams but sometimes when you hear which player was "franchised" you scratch your head and wonder. Most of the time a player receives the tag, it is to give both sides a chance to reach a long term deal while still retaining rights to that player. What is tough to stomach is that using the tag means the player mus receive either the average of the top five players at their position or if they already make that or more, they get a 20% raise. From the player's point of view, while that is always good money, it does not come with the huge signing bonus that is usually part of a long term contract.
In the AFC North, three of the four teams decided to exercise their right by placing the tag on who they think is a key member of their franchise. Of course, the Baltimore Ravens place their Franchise Tag on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, paying him just over $12 million in 2011. Both sides plan to get a long term deal in place that will make Haloti among the top couple of players at his position as he is one of the two or three main ingredients in the Ravens success and certainly one of if not the best DT in the game. The team has repeatedly said that he will get paid and stay a Raven for a long time.
The Pittsburgh Steelers laced their Franchise Tag on linebacker LaMarr Woodley. Woodley has been a sack-machine for the Steelers and a key part of the top one or two defenses (along with the Ravens) in the NFL. He should also get a long term deal from Pittsburgh, but might have to settle for only $10 million this season.
Depending on how you choose to look at it, the Cleveland Browns decided the most important player on their squad to use the Franchise Tag on was their placekicker, Phil Dawson. Dawson is definitely one of the better kickers in the league and to tag him certainly does not break the bank based on that position's average salary. Dawson will make $3.25 million in 2011 unless a long term deal is reached. However, the thought of even needing to retain a kicker this way seems unusual to me, especially for a position where you are only as good (or bad) as your last kick. For what it's worth, the Browns are a bit more than just retaining their placekicker from competing for the AFC North title, much less a .500 season.
The Cincinnati Bengals must have looked at their roster and all their on and off the field ssues and decided no one on their roster coming out of a contract was worth utilizing the Franchise Tag on. Thus, it has been reported that they will not place the tag on any of their players this off season. This might actually be a solid decision depending on whom they might be letting go test free agency when and if the Collective Bargaining Agreement is renegotiated in time for the 2011 to go on as planned without affecting the off season as well.