Adam Schefter writes, through a league source, that the Bengals won't slap the franchise on T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Instead, they're going to effort a long-term deal before he hits the free agency market.
We're somewhat surprised by this news, because the Bengals haven't always been the most successful franchise negotiating deals; especially for an existing player on (or after) the final year of his contract. They did get Houshmandzadeh signed after the 2004 season, to a four-year deal that expires in a few months.
Taking the franchise tag off the table, if Schefter's source is accurate, seems a bit limiting and doesn't make sense. If the team is negotiating a deal for the team's best receiver, why wouldn't you keep that possibility of franchising the player over their head?