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The Eagles don’t have a long, impressive list of players who will become unrestricted free agents in March outside of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who started all 16 games last year.
But they won’t be using their franchise tag this year to retain the erratic cornerback, according to a team source.
Monday is the first day NFL teams can use the franchise tag to retain potential unrestricted free agents under a one-year deal worth the average of the league’s top-five salaries at the position. The deadline to apply the tag is March 4.
The tag number for cornerbacks is expected to be around $10.7 million, which would be an awfully high salary given Rodgers-Cromartie’s inconsistencies since being acquired two offseasons ago in the trade that sent quarterback Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals.
It doesn’t rule out Rodgers-Cromartie’s return to the Eagles in 2013; it simply means that the franchise tag number is too expensive for the club. The team will have a better idea of Rodgers-Cromartie’s value on March 12, when the new league year begins and free agency ensues.
It’s possible that another team becomes enamored with Rodgers-Cromartie’s raw skill set and athleticism and blows all other teams out of the water with a mega deal, but the free-agent cornerback crop this year is deeper than past seasons, making it less likely that the sixth-year corner, who turns 27 in April, will command a blockbuster contract.
None of the team’s other six impending free agents -- long snapper Jon Dorenbos, offensive tackle King Dunlap, linebacker Akeem Jordan, defensive tackle Derek Landri, offense guard Jake Scott and defensive end Darryl Tapp -- merit franchise tag consideration.
Dorenbos, who has made the Pro Bowl, likely can be brought back under a new, cap-efficient deal. Dunlap and Tapp won’t be back. Scott and Landri are probably headed for the exits, too, as new coach Chip Kelly and the team’s brain trust almost certainly will gut the roster after the Eagles went 4-12 last year and 12-20 over the past two seasons.
Reserve safety Colt Anderson, a special teams star, is a restricted free agent, which means the Eagles have the first chance to retain him.
The Eagles have used the franchise tag in the past two seasons -- on Mike Vick in 2011 and DeSean Jackson in 2012 -- but both times were able to sign their tagged players to long-term deals, which negated the tag.
Some believed that Kelly’s hiring of defensive coordinator Billy Davis would influence the Eagles to bring back Rodgers-Cromartie. The two were first united in Arizona, where Davis was the defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 and Rodgers-Cromartie started after being picked 16th overall in the 2008 draft,
Under defensive coordinator Billy Davis, Rodgers-Cromartie made the Pro Bowl in 2009, his second season, picking off six passes and forcing three fumbles. He took one interception 49 yards for a touchdown. Rodgers-Cromartie tied an NFL record with four interception return TDs in his first three seasons, but fell short of expectations after joining the Eagles.
The team first miscast him as a slot cornerback in nickel packages in 2011. Rodgers-Cromartie then had two picks in the 2012 season opener but just one the rest of the season.