The Bengals will almost certainly use their franchise tag this offseason with several key players set to become free agents. Most have believed offensive tackle Andre Smith would be the one to receive that, as he has established himself as one of the elite right tackles in the NFL today. He finished the 2012 season with a +26.9 grade by Pro Football Focus, the 4th-best by an offensive tackle, and the best by a right tackle.
Smith is clearly a franchise tackle that cannot be allowed to leave Cincinnati, and after a rocky career in Cincinnati that began with a prolonged contract holdout, multiple serious foot injuries, and weight concerns, it’s hard to think the Bengals are ready to invest a long-term contract worth $50 million+, but they can’t afford to lose him, and thus far, there’s been to hint of an agreed long-term extension being close.
Despite that, Geoff Hobson reported weeks ago that Johnson was the clubhouse favorite to be tagged:
(Michael) Johnson is the leader-in-the-clubhouse to get franchised if there’s no deal before March.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk isn’t buying it, as he’s seen oner Mike Broiwn ho the cheapest route possible far too often, and thinks if he gives the tag to any player, it will be kicker Mike Nugent:
Last year, the tag was used on kicker Mike Nugent; tagging him again would cost only $3.48 million. Which could make him the most likely candidate.
Logic says the Bengals should use the tag on Smith or Johnson, but moeny talks with Brown, and the moeny may just be on Nugent, or even his end-of-the-season replacement, Josh Brown, who converted 13/14 attempts with Nugent out with a calf injury.