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Niners' Franklin latest NT to be tagged; Pickett, Hampton likely next

NFL teams have a message for nose tackles this offseason: Tag, you're it!

Aubrayo Franklin became the second nose tackle to receive the franchise tag when the San Francisco 49ers applied that designation to him Tuesday.

Like the New England Patriots' Vince Wilfork, who was tagged Monday, Franklin was given the non-exclusive tag. That means the 49ers can match any other offer Franklin receives, but if they don't, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation -- a steep price that teams rarely pay.

"Aubrayo has proven to be a valuable contributor to our defense, and we are looking forward to having him on our team going forward," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said in a statement released by the team. "Although a contract extension has not been completed at this time, we will continue to have discussions with Aubrayo and his agent."

Unless a long-term deal is struck, Franklin will be paid a one-year salary of $7.003 million, the average of the top five highest-paid players at his position.

Two other nose tackles -- Ryan Pickett of the Green Bay Packers and Casey Hampton of the Pittsburgh Steelers -- likely will be tagged before Thursday's deadline, league sources told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora.

Pickett and the Packershave been discussing a long-term contract and will continue to do so, but the team isn't willing to let their run stopper hit the free-agent market. The Steelers feel the same way about Hampton, who started his career in Pittsburgh in 2001 and has been selected to five Pro Bowls.

Cost of tagging players

   The amounts of this year's franchise and transition tags have been set, with QBs at a high of $16.405 million. 
  **Complete list ...**

Because of the probable uncapped 2010 season, teams that use a franchise tag also might have a transition tag to apply. So far, the Steelers are the only team that appears likely to use it, with kicker Jeff Reed being the recipient of a one-year, $2.629 million deal. That's the average salary of the top five highest-paid kickers in the NFL.

La Canfora reported Tuesday that Reed wants a deal similar to what Sebastian Janikowski received last week from the Oakland Raiders -- $16 million over four years, with $9 million guaranteed.

One player who doesn't have to worry about the franchise tag is Julius Peppers. The Carolina Pantherssaid Tuesday that they will allow Peppers to test the free-agent market because tagging the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end for a second consecutive year would cost the team at least $20.1 million.

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