Tuesday night Adam Schefter wrote that the Pittsburgh Steelers are planning to use their franchise tag on outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley. This came after the Baltimore Ravens slapped the non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome wrote in a statement to the press that "The tender allows us to secure Haloti as a Raven right now. As we have said, our intention is to enter into a long-term contract with him. We want him to be a Ravens."
How could this differ than the Bengals?
The Bengals are reportedly not expected to use their franchise tag on the team's best free agent and arguably, one of the best defensive players when healthy. The Ravens and Steelers realize the use of the franchise tag helps prolong negotiations for at least another year, avoiding unforeseen issues that will come with uncertainty regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
It's not a question of signing Johnathan Joseph to a deal worth $14 million guaranteed -- though based on salaries in the NFL today, if you want one of the best cornerbacks, you're going to have to pay him.
The issue is extending the negotiation period for Joseph, at least until March of 2012, initiating negotiations for a long-term deal once the Collective Bargaining Agreement is resolved. If no franchise tag is applied, then Joseph hits the free agency market when the CBA is resolved. And based on the team losing most of their free agents into free agency, there's a slim chance that Joseph would return, especially when you consider that the team is showing so much adversity, headlined by Carson Palmer's trade demand.
Alternatively speaking, the Bengals could view it this way. Joseph is often hurt, therefore wouldn't be worth the cost of signing Joseph long-term. Adam Jones and Leon Hall are signed for 2011 and in Mike Brown's mind, that's enough. Sacrifice your depth to ease the burden of rising payroll costs. That in mind, the Bengals could already be targeting a prospect at cornerback, such as LSU's Patrick Peterson or Nebraska's Prince Amukamara.
That might be well and good, but consider this. The Steelers and Ravens have each made the playoffs four times since 2005 and 13 playoff wins between them. The Steelers alone have made the Super Bowl three times, winning twice. The Bengals, since 2005, have made the playoffs twice, losing both times in the opening round and winning only four games in two of the past three seasons.
There's a reason the Steelers and Ravens do things one way, and the Bengals do it another. Not that we're making connections with the franchise tag or anything.