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How frequently have the Bengals used the franchise tag over the years?

We explore the history of the Bengals' use of the franchise tag.

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

NFL free agency often sees several teams lose one of their best players with little-to-no compensation in return.

However, the NFL does have something no other major pro sports league has, and that's the franchise tag. The one-year tag is a way for teams to extend one of their best players for at least one more season in hopes of working out a long-term deal before they hit free agency.

Today marks the first day NFL teams can begin utilizing the tag and the franchise tag period runs until 4:00 p.m. EST on March 1, which is the deadline to use the designation, about a week before free agency begins.

But using the tag can be very costly, especially for certain positions. That's why the Bengals and many teams often avoid using the tag. It also helps that the Bengals have been very good about re-signing their own before the threat of a franchise tag is needed.

This is why we've only seen the Bengals utilize the tag six times since 2005, and two of those times were on kickers for a manageable cost. That means Cincinnati has used the tag just four times on position players, including running back Rudi Johnson (2005), defensive end Justin Smith (2007), offensive guard Stacy Andrews (2008) and defensive end Michael Johnson (2013).

Some of the deserving players Cincinnati decided against using the tag on were wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2009, left to sign with Seattle Seahawks), cornerback Johnathan Joseph (2011, left to sign with Houston Texans), safety Reggie Nelson (2012, though he re-signed after free agency began) and Clint Boling (2015, who also re-signed after free agency began).

It's also worth noting that when the Bengals have used the tag, the end result has typically not been good. They've lost four of the five players they’ve tagged since 2007 after the tagged season. Smith (2008), Andrews (2009), kicker Shayne Graham (2010) and Johnson (2014) all left the following year after being tagged.

Ironically, Johnson is back after a one-year hiatus in Tampa Bay, which saw Johnson playing on a disaster of a contract for the Buccaneers. Kicker Mike Nugent was tagged in 2012 and re-signed in 2013. He's since signed another two-year deal in 2015.

Here are the projected costs to franchise tag players in 2016, per ESPN.

Projected 2016 franchise tag*
POSITION TAG
Cornerback $14.8M
Defensive End $15.5M
Defensive Tackle $13.4M
Linebacker $14.1M
Offensive Line $13.7M
Punter/Kicker $4.5M
Quarterback $19.8M
Running Back $11.8M
Safety $10.7M
Tight End $9.1M
Wide Receiver $14.5M
* Based on a $154 million salary cap


I don't anticipate the Bengals using the tag this year. Guys like safety George Iloka, Reggie Nelson, Marvin Jones and Adam Jones certainly have played at high levels during their careers, but not enough to warrant the tag. With Adam Jones and Nelson, the problem is age as they're 31-years-old.

As for Iloka and Marvin Jones, they've shown flashes of being franchise-type players, but not enough so that the Bengals should feel good about committing $10-15 million on them for one year. Iloka is probably the most likely candidate to get tagged, but he's replaceable with Shawn Williams waiting in the wings and Nelson likely able to be re-signed for much less.

So don't got your hopes up on the Bengals playing tag this offseason.