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Will the Colts use the franchise tag in 2016?

A number of teams have decisions to make on whether or not to use the franchise tag - but do the Colts?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Around this time of year, a common point of discussion in the NFL is the franchise tag.  Teams can begin placing the tag on players this Tuesday, and it gives clubs a fallback option in case they can't reach a long-term deal with one of their stars.

Some key players will become free agents this offseason if a deal is not reached, and therefore there could be a number of intriguing franchise tag candidates: such as the Broncos' Von Miller, the Redskins' Kirk Cousins, the Panthers' Josh Norman, the Chiefs' Eric Berry, the Bears' Alshon Jeffery, and the Jets' Muhammed Wilkerson, among others.

But what about the Indianapolis Colts?  Will they be using the franchise tag on a player this offseason?  The answer, like it was last offseason, is almost certainly not.

The Colts last offseason locked up wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and left tackle Anthony Castonzo on long-term deals, ensuring that neither would enter free agency this year.  They both would have been legitimate candidates to receive the franchise tag, but both are signed long-term now.  Additionally, quarterback Andrew Luck's fifth-year option was picked up, meaning he is under contract for 2016.  The team hopes to reach a long-term deal with him this offseason (if not, he would be a candidate for the franchise tag next year), but he doesn't factor into the franchise tag picture this year.

There are really only a couple of names worth mentioning here that are even worth considering for the tag, and I think you'll quickly realize why the Colts won't be using the franchise tag at all this year.  The first and most obvious candidate would be inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who was tremendous in 2015.  Using the estimates provided by CBS' Joel Corry, however, makes it seem very, very unlikely that the Colts would place the tag on Freeman, as the tag for a linebacker is estimated at $14.131 million for 2016.  In other words, the Colts almost surely won't give Freeman that kind of money on his new deal, meaning that the franchise tag could be off the table.  The hope is that they could work out an extension, but it's very unlikely that Freeman will get the franchise tag.

That same argument could be applied to the Colts' other free agents.  Kicker Adam Vinatieri is a high priority for the team, but Corry's projected franchise tag for kickers is $4.534 million.  Tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen might be names that garner interest among fans, but the projected tag for tight ends is $9.053 million.  Even safety Dwight Lowery is a guy that many think the Colts should re-sign, but Corry's projection for the safety franchise tag is $10.717 million.

In short, I think it's very clear upon looking at the situation that the Colts won't be placing the franchise tag on anyone this year.  There are players they definitely should re-sign and that they definitely will try to re-sign, but it's almost certain that they won't use the franchise tag to do so when considering how much it would cost them.