Tag... who's it? Teams start to plan for free agency

OAHU, Hawaii -- Now that Super Bowl XLII is over the next game that will be played is a game of tag.

NFL teams can begin placing franchise tags on players Feb. 7, and have until Feb. 21 to do it.

When a player is tagged, that means his team can match any offer sheet the player signs with another team, or opt to receive two first-round picks instead.

Around the league, multiple NFL sources are expecting a handful of prominent free agents to be slapped with franchise tags, which assures the player of receiving a one-year deal that pays the average of the top five starters at that position.

Oakland is expected to slap its franchise tag on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who would be one of the hottest commodities on the open market if he were not tagged. The franchise cornerback tag this year is $9.465 million. But Oakland knows that on the open market, Asomugha might be the No. 1-rated free agent.

If Arizona cannot sign linebacker Karlos Dansby to a long-term contract extension in the coming weeks, it will slap its tag on him as well.

The linebacker franchise tag is $8.065 million. Yet by using their tag on Dansby, the Cardinals will risk losing defensive end Calvin Pace, who had something of a breakout season last year with 6.5 sacks.

Carolina is planning to take a similar approach with offensive tackle Jordan Gross. If it cannot sign him to an extension before free agency, it will franchise Gross, which carries a $7.455 million tag.

But Carolina has some issues to address on its offensive line with its other starting tackle, Travelle Wharton, also scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent.

Tennessee will tag Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth if it cannot sign him to a long-term extension. The Titans should because it's a relative bargain. The franchise defensive tackle number is $6.363 million.

New England could opt to tag Pro Bowl wide receiver Randy Moss, which would carry a price of $7.848 million. Even for a 31-year-old receiver, paying that number for Moss might turn out to be the wisest short-term investment the Patriots could make. New England is prohibited from slapping its franchise tag on Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel. That's because Samuel was the Patriots' franchise player last year, and the collective bargaining agreement prevents a player from being stuck with the franchise tag in back-to-back years.

The Philadelphia Eagles could tag tight end L.J. Smith, as the tight end franchise tag is $4.522 million.

Seattle could wind up tagging cornerback Marcus Trufant, CB tag is $9.465 million, if it can't sign him to an extension. Trufant is from Washington and the Seahawks suspect that the cornerback is unwilling to leave. But those who know Trufant insist he is -- all part of the chess match leading up to and into free agency.

The Ravens could tag linebacker Terrell Suggs.

The Chiefs could tag Pro Bowl DE Jared Allen at $8.879 million.

Talk of tags has filled the air in Hawaii, where players have gathered for Sunday's Pro Bowl. But even before that game is played, the big money games will begin.

Still running

An Associated Press story out of Washington on Tuesday stated that Steve Mariucci no longer is a candidate for the Redskins head coaching job.

As soon as Redskins owner Dan Snyder heard about it, he and Mariucci spoke. Snyder assured Mariucci that the story was false, bogus.

Snyder was unsure where it came from. Mariucci is as much in the running today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow.

It's between Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, former Giants head coach Jim Fassel, Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks and Mariucci.

The Redskins would love to be able to make their decision by the weekend, though there are no assurances that they will.

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