Patriots Not Alone Dealing Out Franchise Tag

When the Patriots placed the Franchise Tag on Vince Wilfork, they weren't alone. Six players were tagged this year, three of them at Wilfork's position of DT. Big bodies are hard to find, and the use of the tag gives teams more time to work out a new deal while dealing with the uncertain future of the CBA.

Big men are in this offseason.

Green Bay joined a trend by teams that value their hefty defensive linemen when it designated nose tackle Ryan Pickett as its franchise player Feb. 24, a day before the deadline for using franchise and transition tags on pending free agents.

"Ryan has been a good teammate and productive player for us on the field and also a good representative of the Packers in the community," general manager Ted Thompson said. "We look forward to having him be a part of our future."

Pickett is due to become an unrestricted free agent March 5, but the Packers essentially retained his rights by tendering him at the franchise level for the designated one-year price of $7.003 million. Green Bay would be able to match any offer for Pickett, and a team that would be interested in signing him would have to part with two first-round draft picks.

The Packers, though, are continuing to negotiate with Pickett on a long-term deal that would keep him off the open market altogether.

He is among four defensive tackles who were slapped with franchise tags this year. The others are the New England Patriots' Vince Wilfork, the Oakland Raiders' Richard Seymour and the San Francisco 49ers' Aubrayo Franklin. Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton was spared the franchise designation when he received a three-year, $21.3 million deal from the team Feb. 25.

Whether he gets the desired multi-year contract or winds up playing for the franchise tender, Pickett will have a nice pay raise this year. His salary was a shade below $3 million last season.

Even though he was hindered by a hamstring injury late in the season, the 6-foot-2, 340-pound Pickett was an effective anchor on the line in the Packers' new 3-4 defensive scheme last season. He had only 47 tackles -- his fewest since becoming a starter with the St. Louis Rams as a second-year pro in 2002 -- but Pickett's primary responsibility changed to occupying blockers.

His success in doing so enabled Green Bay to rank No. 1 in the league against the run, allowing an average of 83.3 yards per game.

Pickett, who left the Rams to sign with the Packers as an unrestricted free agent in 2006, will be 31 in October. Yet, he gives Green Bay stability in the interior of the line as it waits on B.J. Raji, the No. 9 overall pick in last year's draft, to prove he's starter-ready following a contract-delayed, injury-plagued rookie season.

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