Texans seem unlikely to use franchise tag in 2014

Texans seem unlikely to use franchise tag in 2014
February 18, 2014, 5:00 pm
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November 18, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans tight end Garrett Graham (88) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium.

(USA Today Images)

The NFL saw just eight franchise tags used in 2013, a dropoff from 21 in the previous season.

But no matter how many are used in 2014, it's seems very unlikely the Texans will be one of the teams to use one during the franchise period, which opened on Monday.

First, they haven't really used the tag in the past. They last used it for Dunta Robinson in 2009.

And second, they don't really have any players who are worthy of a tag this year.

Their top unrestricted free agents in 2014 will be Antonio Smith, Earl Mitchell, Ben Tate and Garrett Graham.

While the team would probably like to have Smith back, the franchise tag number for a defensive end, according to NFL.com, would be $12.6 million. The Texans won't give that to Smith.

Mitchell will probably end up with a team that runs a 4-3 defense. He's better suited to be a tackle in a 4-3. And even if he wasn't, they wouldn't be willing to drop a huge cap number on him.

Tate would make just over $9 million with a tag. He's very, very likely gone (and he knows it). The Texans still have Arian Foster under contract.

Finally, Garrett Graham, the player with the best chance among the four to return to Houston ... but it won't come under a franchise tag. A tag would pay him about $6.8 million with the same cap hit. That would actually be more than Owen Daniels' $6.25 million cap hit in 2014. If anything, the Texans might elect to cut Daniels and sign Graham to a long-term deal with a cap-friendly number in 2014.

Teams have until March 3 to use their franchise tags. And from then, they have until July 15 to reach long-term deals with those franchise players if they choose.

Keep an eye on the situation in Baltimore, though. Baltimore might slap one on tight end Dennis Pitta. Why keep an eye? Because with Gary Kubiak there as the offensive coordinator, the Ravens might be a potential fit for Graham if he hits free agency.

But if Pitta gets the franchise tag, the Ravens wouldn't need Graham, which might make him more affordable for the Texans. But if Pitta does get tagged, he'll likely argue it should be as a wideout instead of a tight end; tags pay receivers much more.