Monday was the deadline for NFL teams to exercise the franchise tag on free agent players but Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson was among the majority who decided to pass. Only four teams used the tag: New Orleans on tight end Jimmy Graham, Jacksonville on defensive end Greg Hardy, Washington on linebacker Brian Orakpo and the New York Jets on kicker Nick Folk.
Two other teams placed transitional franchise tags on players. The Cleveland Browns with offensive lineman Alex Mack and Pittsburgh with linebacker Jason Worilds.
By passing on the use of the franchise tag, the clock is now running for Thompson and the Packers. They have until Saturday to negotiate with their own, very large group of unrestricted free agents. By the weekend, those players will be able to start talking with other clubs and a week from today, teams can start signing free agents.
To this point, Thompson has been unable to work out new deals for the likes of defensive back Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, John Kuhn, Evan Dietrich-Smith, James Jones, Mike Neal, James Starks, Marshall Newhouse and the other 6 unrestricted free agents on the team.
Shields would have commanded a one year deal worth over 10 million dollars with the tag and last week, he indicated he wanted to test the open market. Miami signed defensive back Brent Grimes to a four year deal averaging 8 million a season with 16 million guaranteed. Thompson hedged on tying up a big price tag for a one year deal and possibly go through the process again with Shields after the 2014 season.
While there's still a chance some of the Packer free agents will eventually re-sign with the team, more often than not, once on the open market, players may find clubs willing to spend more than what the Packers consider appropriate, and move on.