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Will the Saints Use the Franchise Tag?

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We've been discussing the contract statuses of free agents ad nauseam since the Saints boarded the team plane in San Francisco. The major topics like how much they're worth, if they'll get paid and which teams are willing to pay them have all been covered already. But rarely has the possibility of the team using the Franchise Tag been a part of those conversations.

The nonexclusive Franchise Tag got a slight overhaul in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement so for those that aren't familiar with the change or for those completely unfamiliar with the tag, here is the exact wording from the CBA:

(A) Average of the 5 largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position, calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the 5 preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the 5 preceding League Years (using the average of the amounts of the 2009 + 2011 Salary Caps as Salary Cap amount for 2010 League Year); and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year (e.g., when calculating the Tender for the 2012 League Year, dividing the aggregate sum of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the 2007-2011 League Years by the aggregate sum of the Salary Cap for the 2012 League Year); or (B) 120% of Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater.

Basically, a player given the Franchise Tag would be paid the average of the top five salaries at a player's position for the preceding five years. The difference being that previously, a player tagged would be paid the average of the top five salaries at a player's position for just the preceding year. Even more simply, the tag is now worth less for the players.

But it's still a lot of money and it shows just how much a team values that player, even if it's not a long-term deal. That means there are only a few players worthy of getting tagged because the Saints aren't going to use it on someone like Jeff Charleston and be forced to pay him equivalent to the best defensive ends around the league. So who then might the Saints want to tag?

I think Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Carl Nicks are the only legitimate options. Robert Meachem? Tracy Porter? I don't see it happening. But Brees, Colston or Nicks are all potential candidates if the two parties can't reach a long-term deal.

All of this leads to my original question and the entire purpose of this post: will the Saints pull the trigger on the tag? The hell if anyone really knows; we're just speculating here. If contract talks aren't going well with the aforementioned players, however, and the Saints want to buy some more negotiating time, the Franchise Tag would be an option. For Drew Brees, that would be about $14 million for 2012. Colston would receive something in the neighborhood of $9.5 million.

What do you guys think? Will the Saints use the Franchise Tag and who would they use it on? Would it be a good move or a bad move?