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Franchise tag not needed for Arizona Cardinals this offseason

The top free agents the Cardinals have possibly are not returning.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Beginning today, NFL teams can use their franchise tag to protect themselves from losing a player in free agency. In turn, that player will be paid very well for the 2016 season. Most of the time teams use this to lengthen the window of opportunity to negotiate a long-term contract. Free agency opens in March. With the franchise tag, teams have until July 15 to get a  contract extension worked out.

This offseason, it would appear the Arizona Cardinals have no intention of using the tag.

They have three key free agents -- safety Rashad Johnson, cornerback Jerraud Powers and tackle Bobby Massie. All started for the team all season.

How the Cardinals have things set up, it is possible none of the three players return. Massie's departure seems inevitable, as the team used a first round pick on D.J. Humphries. Massie, who is experienced, solid and still only 26 years old will likely get a pretty big contract somewhere. Tagging Massie is projected to cost more than $13 million.

Powers and Johnson have been very good for the Cardinals, but aren't considered top players at their position in the league. They are also at positions where the Cardinals want to add length and speed.

Johnson is 30 years old. He has been like a coach on the field for the defense, but it seems like the team might bring him back. Placing the franchise tag on him is projected to cost more than $10 million for 2016.

Tagging Powers would could cost more than $13 million. They already have a ton of money tied up in Patrick Peterson and the team invested in Justin Bethel as well this past season. There is no way they will play Powers that much, and the team isn't looking to lock him up long term.

Arizona hasn't used the franchise tag since 2012, when they used it to get Calais Campbell signed to a big extension. Previously, they used it twice on Karlos Dansby before he left to play for the Miami Dolphins.

It would appear the Cardinals try and identify players they want to keep long term before they even get to free agency. The tag is tough on the salary cap and often makes players unhappy because they have no power over its use.

Maybe the Cardinals will consider it next year -- Michael Floyd comes to mind if they do not extend his contract this offseason. But it would appear that it will not be a tool for the 2016 offseason.