Most of the players hit with the franchise tag this offseason have made little progress toward signing long-term deals, and some have already missed the start of their team's offseason work. On Monday, when most buildings open around the NFL, the trend will continue.
Teams with new head coaches were allowed to get a jump on the April 16 start to offseason work. Oakland Raiders players first assembled early this month at the team's facility, with rookie head coach Dennis Allen taking over, but safety Tyvon Branch, who had yet to sign his franchise tag, did not take part, according to sources. Likewise in Jacksonville, where new coach Mike Mularkey is taking the reins, franchised kicker Josh Scobee stayed away and worked out on his own.
This issue will draw more attention next week. Drew Brees, Wes Welker, Dwayne Bowe, Ray Rice and Matt Forte are among the franchised stars who, barring a major shift in negotiations, won't be present when their teams open offseason work, according to league sources. It would take an unforeseen degree of progress in talks over the weekend to get any of them signed long-term -- a scenario that is highly unlikely at this point.
One agent who represents a franchised player accurately summed up the prevailing sentiment. Asked if there is a zero percent chance that the player will report without signing a new contract over the weekend, the agent quipped, "No, that's too high."
Brees and the New Orleans Saints, for instance, have been at loggerheads, roughly $5 million per season apart on a long-term deal, according to league sources. Welker and the New England Patriots have also made little progress; a source with knowledge of those conversations believes Welker will most likely play this season on the franchise tag. Running backs especially face a tricky situation. The franchise-tag value for them is around $7 million, a bargain for their employers. Teams could place the franchise tag on players like Rice and Forte in back-to-back seasons, securing their services from 2012 through 2013 at a total cost of around $17 million.
Some players, like Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis, have already signed their tags, while others, like Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, avoided playing under the franchise tender by reaching a long-term deal in March.
Others who remain tagged include Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer and Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril.
Teams have until July 15 to secure a franchise player to a long-term deal. It's common for numerous franchised players to remain unsigned at this stage of the offseason, and there often isn't much urgency -- on the part of the team or most veteran players -- to get deals signed before OTAs begin. The negative ramifications of waiting are generally minimal, though some cases are obviously different, as is true of Brees. He is an elite quarterback who runs the offense of a Saints team trying to deal with the consequences of its "bounty" scandal, including the season-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton, and Brees could be compelled to report sooner rather than later.
As a practical matter, a player sitting on an unsigned franchise tender offer could still participate in offseason programs and OTAs by entering into an offseason workout program and minicamp participation agreement. However, players who have much at stake financially are extremely unlikely to do that.
Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @JasonLaCanfora.