The NFL’s deadline to place the franchise tag on a player passed today at 4:00 PM today, and for the first time since 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals did not exercise that option. Last season defensive end Michael Johnson played under the tag, while kicker Mike Nugent received it the year before. With such a talented and young roster, the chances of the Bengals using their franchise tag this year were small, but fans waited to find out for sure.
There were only a few options for the Bengals had they decided to use the tag. The first would have been to, once again, use it on Johnson. The soon-to-be free agent is coming off of a very good season where he didn’t have big sack numbers, but was integral to the success of the defense. With Margus Hunt still an unknown quantity, re-signing a talented pass rusher like Johnson would certainly be helpful. However, the team likes Hunt, and with some of the other defensive line talent on the team, tying up that much money in one player is a risky proposition.
The other option for the franchise tag was offensive tackle Anthony Collins. Collins has been mostly a backup in his tenure with the team, but he’s been a valuable backup. In 2013, when injuries to key players on the line started to mount, Collins stepped in and played as well as any starter. Starting caliber left tackles command big money and are highly sought after. The Bengals would love to keep him on board as the backup and possible eventual starter. However, the cost to do so would be very high, and not the most efficient use of cap space.
In the end, the Bengals decided that spending a very large chunk of salary on one player wasn’t the best move for a team trying to get over the hump in the playoffs. They’ll keep doing what they’ve been doing for the past few seasons, trying to add the right pieces and win a championship.