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Tag time: Open window
February 21, 2018 01:58 PM | John Oehser

JACKSONVILLE - It's tag time again.

Yes, the NFL's two-week franchise/transition tag window - the annual precursor to the league's unrestricted free agency period - opened Tuesday.

Just how important will that be to the Jaguars and wide receiver Allen Robinson?

We'll learn that in the coming days and weeks.

Robinson, a fourth-year veteran who missed all but one game this past season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on the March 14 start of the 2018 NFL League year.

The Jaguars have 10 other players scheduled to become UFAs - including cornerback Aaron Colvin, wide receiver Marqise Lee, middle linebacker Paul Posluszny and guard Patrick Omameh - but Robinson is the group's highest-profile player and could present the stickiest situation.

Robinson has 202 receptions for 2,848 yards in a little more than two-and-a-half healthy NFL seasons, and made the Pro Bowl following his 80-reception, 14-touchdown, 1,400-yard 2015 season. The Jaguars' offense missed his ability to high-point the ball and out-physical cornerbacks last season.

At the same time, Robinson is coming off a torn ACL and caught 73 passes for 883 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. There will be a limit to how much the Jaguars can pay Robinson over an extended contract. As much as the Jaguars like Robinson, it's possible the sides may not meet.

That's where "tag time" comes in.

Teams have the option of placing the franchise tag on a player to prevent him from becoming a free agent. The player then has the option of signing the tag and playing for a one-year salary based on the league's top-paid players at his position, signing a long-term deal with the team or sitting out the season.

The Jaguars last used the franchise tag on kicker Josh Scobee in 2012 and used it on tight end Marcedes Lewis in 2011. Both signed long-term deals before the season for which they were tagged.

A team can use either an exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag. An exclusive-tagged player receives a higher one-year salary and may not negotiate with another team. A non-exclusive tagged player receives a lower salary and can negotiate with another team; if another team makes the player an offer, the original team can match the approaching team's offer or give up the player and receive two first-round draft selections from the approaching team.

The transition tag is used less often than the franchise tag. Whereas franchise-tagged players are paid based on the top 5 players at their position, a transition-tagged player is paid based on the top 10 players. A team that does not match an offer to a transition-tagged player receives no draft-selection compensation.

Will the Jaguars use the tag on Robinson?

We're not likely to know immediately. Teams more often than not wait until toward the end of the franchise/transition window to tag players. With the end of this year's window scheduled for March 6, most tags won't likely be applied until closer to or during the February 27-March 5 combine.

A look at the Jaguars scheduled to become unrestricted free agents March 14:

*Robinson. The team never replaced his presence last season after his Week 1 injury, and there are major questions as the franchise tag window opens and March 14 approaches: Can the sides agree to a long-term deal? If not, will the Jaguars commit the $16 million necessary to franchise Robinson? Are the Jaguars willing to part ways with Robinson rebuild their receiving corps? There are no easy answers in this situation just as sure as nothing at this point is a given.

*Colvin, cornerback. Many observers long have assumed Colvin will sign elsewhere. That may not be a safe assumption. Colvin has developed into one of the NFL's top nickel corners and was key to the NFL's No. 2-ranked pass defense last season. Nickel corner more and more is considered a starting position, and the Jaguars could decide Colvin is too valuable to lose.

*Posluszny. Posluszny is the Jaguars' second-longest tenured player behind 12-year veteran Marcedes Lewis, but played only in base situations last season. Posluszny long has said he would like to finish his career in Jacksonville. Would a team offering a chance to play an every-down role be too enticing for him to pass up? Time will tell.

*Patrick Omameh, guard. Omameh started 13 games at left guard last season. Will the Jaguars look the spot in free agency? Or the draft? That seems possible - even likely.

*Chad Henne, quarterback. Henne, the Jaguars' third-longest tenured player, has been a valuable backup to quarterback Blake Bortles since 2014. His status could depend on whether or not the Jaguars retain Bortles as the starter - and if they keep Bortles as the starter, whether or not they select a quarterback early in the draft.

*Marqise Lee, wide receiver. Lee, a second-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, emerged as a reliable starter in the last two seasons and caught a team-high 56 passes for 702 yards and three touchdowns this past season. He figures to draw $7-8 million a season on the open market, a figure that could prove too high for the Jaguars.

*Lerentee McCray, linebacker/special teams. McCray signed a one-year deal with the Jaguars last offseason and was one of the team's key special teams players throughout 2017.

*Peyton Thompson, safety. Thompson played predominantly a special teams/reserve role this past season.

*Matt Overton, long snapper. Overton signed as a free agent in training camp in August following a season-ending injury to long snapper Carson Tinker. He was placed on injured reserve in mid-November following a shoulder injury.

*Mychal Rivera, tight end. Rivera signed as an unrestricted free agent last offseason and did not play this past season after a training-camp hand injury.

*Arrelious Benn, wide receiver. A special-teams contributor the past three seasons, Benn - like Rivera - will become a free agent after the Jaguars opted to not exercise an option for his contract in 2018.

Other Jaguars scheduled to become free agents March 14: Running back Corey Grant (restricted free agent), running back Tyler Gaffney (restricted free agent), inside linebacker Donald Payne (restricted free agent), tight end Ben Koyack (exclusive rights free agent), offensive tackle William Poehls (exclusive rights free agent) and wide receiver Shane Wynn (exclusive rights free agent). A restricted free agent can be offered a "tender offer" to give a player's current team right of first refusal if he receives an offer from a new team. A team can extend a tender offer to an exclusive rights free agent and keep him from becoming a free agent.

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