The deadline for NFL teams to attach a franchise tag to free agents passed Monday afternoon without the Green Bay Packers locking up receiver Randall Cobb.
Teams had until 3 p.m. CST to apply a one-year franchise tag. The projected salary for tagged receivers was $12.823 million.
It's a solution the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos used Monday, applying the franchise tag to Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, respectively. With Bryant and Thomas under contract for 2015, Cobb could be the top receiver to hit the open market when free agency opens March 10.
Cobb is a good receiver, but not a No. 1 threat like Bryant and Thomas. His market is expected to be between $8 and $9 million per year, a league source said. A "great deal" on the open market would be $10 million per year, a figure the Packers aren't likely to offer, the source said.
Anything above $10 million would be unrealistic for Cobb, the source said.
Cobb recorded career highs with 91 catches, 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, the final year of his rookie contract. Green Bay and Cobb can negotiate through the next eight days and into free agency. Starting Saturday, Cobb can begin negotiating with other teams.
The Packers' decision to forego a franchise tag on Cobb was not surprising. General manager Ted Thompson has used the franchise tag distinction twice in his time with the team. The last time came in 2010 when Thompson signed defensive lineman Ryan Pickett to a franchise tag.
Thompson declined to use a franchise tag designation on cornerback Sam Shields a year ago. Their negotiation went down to the wire before Shields signed a four-year, $39 million deal on the weekend before free agency.
Before training camp opened in July, Green Bay locked up No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson with a four-year, $39 million contract that begins in 2015. Cobb's market value could demand a similar – or more expensive – deal.
As the No. 1 receiver on the open market, Cobb likely will be a prime target for teams in need of a receiver. His niche as a slot receiver may hinder his salary ceiling, but it would not be surprising for a team with plenty of salary cap cushion to offer a large contract.
Jacksonville and Oakland, especially, could make a run at signing Cobb as a free agent. The Jaguars and Raiders had rookie quarterbacks last season and enter free agency with significant need at wide receiver.
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