Donít expect the 49ers to use the franchise tag on any of their soon-to-be free agents. Teams are permitted to use that designation, which all but assures a key player will remain with his original team, beginning tomorrow through Feb. 21. The only player on the 49ersí roster who seems franchise-able (pardon the lingo) is defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga. The 49ers already have lost their top defensive lineman, Bryant Young, to retirement, and they are prepared to lose their second-most productive lineman, Marques Douglas, to free agency. Sopoaga, therefore, becomes very valuable to them.
The 325 pounder had the best season of his career under the tutelage of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and he can play every position along the line. And with few quality defensive linemen on the market this season, Sopoaga is expected to be in high demand beginning Feb. 29.
Still, the 49ers seem prepared to allow Sopoaga test the free agency market. Why? The franchise tag requires that a team pay a player the average salary of the five highest-paid players at his position. Franchised defensive tackles would have to be paid $6.36 million. The Tennessee Titans are prepared to pay just that to keep their own defensive tackle, Albert Haynesworth, who is widely considered one of the best in the game. The 49ers feel that number is too steep for Sopoaga. But if Haynesworth is off the market, you have to wonder how much another team is willing to pay to bulk up the interior of its defensive line.
Here are the franchise numbers for the other positions:
1. Quarterback: $10.730 million
2. Cornerback: $9.465 million (thanks, in large part, to Nate Clements)
3. Defensive end: $8.879 million
4. Linebacker: $8.065 million
5. Wide receiver: $7.848 million
6. Offensive line: $7.455
7. Running back: $6.538 million
8. Defensive tackle: $6.363 million
9. Tight End: $4.522 million
10. Safety: $4.396 million
11. Kicker/Punter: $2.514 million
-- Matt Barrows