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Franchise-tag values will be down across the board in 2012

Little was made of it at the time, but the change in calculating procedures for franchise tags could have major implications on several contract negotiations, including those with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.

The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association includes a new formula for the franchise tag, and league sources have said those tags will be considerably lower this offseason than in years past.

Franchise-tag values for 2012

   Figures for next season by position and players who could be impacted 

Quarterback: $14.4 million (down from $16.1 million in 2011, $16.4 million in 2010); Drew Brees

Running back: $7.7 million (down from $9.6 million in 2011, $8.2 million in 2010); Matt Forte, Ray Rice

Wide receiver: $9.4 million (down from 11.4 million in 2011, $9.5 million in 2010); DeSean Jackson, Vincent Jackson*, Steve Johnson, Wes Welker

Tight end: $5.4 million (down from $7.3 million in 2011, $5.9 million in 2010); Fred Davis, Jermichael Finley

Offensive line: $9.4 million (down from $10.1 million in 2011, $10.7 million in 2010); Ben Grubbs, Carl Nicks

Defensive end: $10.6 million (down from $13 million in 2011, $12.4 million in 2010); Jason Jones, Mario Williams*

Defensive tackle: $7.9 million (down from $12.5 million in 2011; it was $7 million in 2010); Paul Soliai*

Linebacker: $8.8 million (down from $10.1 million in 2011, $9.7 million in 2010); Stephen Tulloch

Cornerback: $10.6 million (down from $13.5 million in 2011; tag was $9.6 million in 2010); Cortland Finnegan, Brent Grimes

Safety: $6.2 million (down from $8.8 million in 2011, $6.5 million in 2010); LaRon Landry

    • Player who'd receive more money because it'd be his second year in a row on the franchise tag, meaning he'd make 120 percent of his 2011 salary

League sources have provided figures that will be extremely close to what those salary totals look like, by position, when teams being placing those tags on players in February.

In the past, a franchise tag was derived from averaging the top five salaries at a particular position from the previous season. The new formula is much more complicated and is formed by determining the franchise tags at that position over the last five years as a percentage of the overall cap figure in each of those five years.

The yearly cap itself now plays a bigger role -- the 2012 cap projects to be very close to the 2011 cap of roughly $120 million -- thus these tags will not go up much.

Furthermore, with 2010 being an uncapped year, a number of teams threw massive years of spending on particular deals into that contract year, which in turn drove up 2011 franchise tags. Years like that no longer will be the case, and despite all the record contracts given out just after the lockout -- like ones signed by Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson and linebacker Jon Beason and San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle among others -- figures in most position groups will drop by several million dollars and in some cases upwards of 20 percent, according to the figures we have obtained.

So at a time when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick averages $16.6 million per season, and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning receive $18 million per season, Brees could receive a franchise tag for just $14.5 million. The NFLPA and NFL Management Council still are going back and forth over the salary numbers used for some of these calculations, sources said, but the QB tag will be between $14.4 million to $14.5 million.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is receiving $14.75 million in 2011 alone, while Manning is in line to collect $35 million in total for 2012 if the Indianapolis Colts pick up his options, making Brees an extreme bargain.

The Saints could use franchise tags on Brees in 2012 and 2013 and end up paying him about $32 million total. The goal is a long-term deal, but these tags are more than affordable. The QB tag in 2011 was $16.1 million.

According to league sources, Forte is looking to receive $20 million guaranteed or more, but the running back tag for 2012 will be just $7.7 million, down from $9.6 million in 2011. If Forte receives the franchise tag, expect a lengthy holdout as he refuses to sign the tender.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice also is a candidate to be tendered. Given that Wes Welker is 30, the $9.4 million franchise tag for wide receivers might make the most sense for the New England Patriots.

No doubt the new formula will impact several negotiations, and teams could end up using the franchise or transition tag in abundance this offseason.

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @JasonLaCanfora.

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