Players like Charles Woodson and Ahmad Bradshaw might disagree, but the NFL offseason truly begins this week. We have the week-long rumorfest known as the NFL Scouting Combine starting Saturday, not to mention the start of franchise tag season.
Monday is the first day that NFL teams can apply the franchise tag on prospective free agents. Teams have two weeks -- until March 4 -- to franchise tag a player.
A record 21 teams used the tag last year. Let's forecast how we think the next two weeks will go:
The players we fully expect to stay put.
1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens quarterback: There's no way the Ravens will let another team bid on Flacco. Barring a deal in the next two weeks, Flacco should get the highest "exclusive rights" franchise tag (translation: Cleveland Browns fans shouldn't waste their time with front-loaded contract fantasies).
The tougher calls
We expect these players to also get tagged, but they aren't slam dunks.
Unofficial list of free agents
10. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver: The new regime in Kansas City is trying to get Bowe and offensive tackle Branden Albert signed to long-term deals. If the Chiefs sign one, they can tag the other. Bowe would get $11.4 million as a franchise player because he was also tagged last year.
14. Will Beatty, New York Giants offensive tackle: Notice a trend here? Teams are not going to let young starting tackles hit the market. Beatty picked a great time for a career year after struggling with back issues. A long-term deal is even more likely than the tag (and yes, he's more likely to get tagged than safety Kenny Phillips).
Not quite worth it
Players that could get considered for the franchise tag, but don't make the cut.
Teams with no realistic tag candidates
Just in case you thought we forgot about your team