Bears on watch as franchise tag period begins

One of the biggest weeks of the NFL offseason kicks off Monday with the beginning of the period in which teams may designate a franchise or transition player in order to protect his rights.

Then on Wednesday, the NFL community will congregate in Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine that takes place Thursday through Tuesday.

The Bears don’t have a standout candidate for the franchise tag. After protecting their rights to defensive tackle Henry Melton that way last winter, it would be a surprise if the Bears used the franchise tag between Monday and the March 3 deadline to do so.

General manager Phil Emery has expressed his general aversion to tagging a player because it guarantees the player a relatively expensive one-year contract, which limits the team’s ability to sign free agents. The Bears enter the week roughly $6 million under the projected salary cap, which is not expected to be finalized until the end of February at the earliest.

Although unlikely to apply their franchise tag, the Bears are sure to closely monitor other teams’ decisions over the next two weeks. Whether teams use their franchise tag to protect their rights to top defensive players will impact the supply of potential solutions for the Bears in free agency, which opens March 11.

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson and Seattle Seahawks end Michael Bennett are among the best pass rushers scheduled for free agency.

On the back end, keep an eye on the statuses of Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd and Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward. Even if the Bears aren’t interested in signing such top-tier talent, their availability will have a trickle-down effect on the free-agent market for defensive players.

Johnson and Byrd played each played on the franchise tag in 2013, meaning their respective teams would have to guarantee them a one-year deal worth 120 percent of last year’s salary in order to protect them for another season with the franchise tag.

Remember, the NFL in 2011 changed how it calculates the salary for non-exclusive franchise tag tenders. The salary equates to a percentage against the current salary cap of the five highest salaries at that player’s position over the previous five seasons. And if a team decided not to match another club’s offer to a player it protected with the non-exclusive franchise tag, the team would receive two first round picks from the new club as compensation.

Twitter @Rich_Campbell

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • 1 killed, 2 wounded in South Side shootings
    1 killed, 2 wounded in South Side shootings

    One man was killed, and two others were wounded in shootings Tuesday afternoon and evening in the city's Park Manor, Bronzeville and Morgan Park neighborhoods.

  • City lists 'problem landlords' on website
    City lists 'problem landlords' on website

    Chicago's Building Department published its first "problem landlords" list on its website Monday night in an attempt to crack down and publicly shame apartment building owners into providing tenants with basic services such as heat, hot water and working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

  • Chicago brothers who infiltrated cartel given 14 years in prison
    Chicago brothers who infiltrated cartel given 14 years in prison

    After more than six years in protective custody, the twin brothers from Chicago's West Side didn't look the part of hard-core drug traffickers when they walked into a public courtroom Tuesday for the first time since flipping on the notoriously violent Sinaloa cartel.

  • Emanuel, mayoral challengers face off for first time
    Emanuel, mayoral challengers face off for first time

    The first face-to-face meeting of the Chicago mayor’s race featured Rahm Emanuel offering a measured defense of his first term against a barrage of attacks from challengers who assailed his record on neighborhood development and crime and even his temperament.

  • 'Ghostbusters' reboot scares up cast: Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, Jones
    'Ghostbusters' reboot scares up cast: Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon, Jones

    Director Paul Feig's "Ghostbusters" reboot has found its leading ladies. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon are in talks to star in the Sony comedy about a quartet of paranormal exterminators, The Times has confirmed.

  • CTA rider robbed at Taser-point: police
    CTA rider robbed at Taser-point: police

    A 23-year-old CTA rider was threatened with a Taser and robbed of her cellphone Friday as she transferred from the Red Line to the Green Line at the Roosevelt "L" station, police said Tuesday.