The deadline for teams to use the franchise (or transition) tag has come and gone. Six players had the tag applied. Franchise Tag: New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy, Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo, New York place kicker Nick Folk. Transition tag: Cleveland center Alex Mack and Pittsburgh linebacker Jason Worilds.
As expected, the Bengals didn't use either tag.
Had the Bengals used the tag, it would have been placed on two players: offensive tackle Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Johnson.
To keep Collins in Cincinnati via the franchise tag, it would have cost the team $11.654 million -- all of it guaranteed. Because Johnson was franchised in 2013, the cost for franchising him for a consecutive season is either 120 percent of his previous salary or the 2014 franchise tag number -- whichever is greater. For Johnson, we're applying the former, costing the team $13.41 million -- nearly $300,000 more than the franchise tag number for a defensive end in 2014.
The franchise tag, originally used to keep your best player, has become a negotiation ploy for continued negotiation towards a long-term extension. There was a possibility that Collins could have been tagged for the sake of exclusive negotiations and eliminating the threat of another team jumping into the fray, if an agreement was close (but not close enough for a solid March 11 target).
Unless an agreement is made prior the new league year, Collins and Johnson will become unrestricted free agents on March 11.
That said, the Bengals haven't had much success in signing franchise players to long-term extensions.
The last five to sign a franchise tag prior to Michael Johnson were Justin Smith, Stacy Andrews, Shayne Graham, Mike Nugent and Rudi Johnson. Smith, Andrews and Graham left the following season. Smith signed the franchise tag in 2007, which was worth $8.644 million. He left for the 49ers the following season. The team used their franchise tag on Andrews worth $7.455 million in 2008 -- he left for the Eagles the following year. Graham signed his franchise tag worth $2.483 million in 2009 and left the following year, signing a deal with the Ravens.
Before Mike Nugent returned in 2013 (after his franchise tag expired), the last player to stay in Cincinnati after signing the franchise tag was running back Rudi Johnson in 2005. Johnson was the last player to sign a long-term deal during the same offseason that he was franchised.