Players who received the franchise tag, and notable players who didn't
Henry Melton (CHI): Melton is coming on as one of the premier defensive tackles in the NFL, and the Bears would have suffered a huge loss if they let him go. Only 26 years old, the Bears would eventually like to get him locked up with a long-term deal.
Michael Johnson (CIN): The Bengals opted to use the tag on Johnson rather than fellow free agent Andre Smith, who will be one of the top offensive linemen on the market. The Bengals have until mid-July to get a long-term deal done with Johnson, which they will want to do, but they will be focusing on Smith until he signs somewhere. Johnson was second on the Bengals with 11.5 sacks in 2012.
Jairus Byrd (BUF): Considered by some to be the best safety in the NFL, the Bills' could not afford to let Byrd hit the open market. The Bills would like Byrd on a multi-year deal, but the two sides were reportedly far apart in negotiations before the franchise tag was applied.
Ryan Clady (DEN): Thanks to a bum shoulder that needs offseason surgery, signing Clady to a long-term deal would be a tricky situation. The franchise tag allows the Broncos to keep the two-time All-Pro, but will also let them see how he comes back from the injury before committing big-time money to him.
Branden Albert (KC): If there was ever a "buzzer beater" in the NFL offseason, the Chiefs tagging Albert was it. They locked up Dwayne Bowe - who had been a potential franchise tag candidate - with a five-year deal just in time to apply the franchise tag to their best offensive lineman. They now have a blindside protector for Alex Smith, and the move may shake up some mock drafts that had the Chiefs drafting Luke Joeckel.
Pat McAfee (IND): Using the franchise tag on a punter is never the most exciting offseason move, but with the Colts reportedly extremely high on McAfee, the $2.97 million price tag made sense. McAfee finished fifth in gross punting average last season.
Anthony Spencer (DAL): The Cowboys consider Spencer to be one of their most important defensive players, and they've made that clear by franchise tagging him for the second consecutive season. Racking up 11.0 sacks in 14 games last season as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Spencer will now be asked to play as a 4-3 defensive end. The Cowboys obviously think the transition will be seamless.
Randy Starks (MIA): The Dolphins had a few franchise tag candidates (CB Sean Smith, OT Jake Long, and WR Brian Hartline), but they opted to use it on their stud defensive tackle. Starks was an anchor in the middle of a Dolphins defense that gave up 4.0 yards per carry in 2012, good for 10th best in the league.
Despite a good deal of rumored franchise tag candidates, those are all of the players who were franchised. Here are some of the notable players who were not given the franchise tag, and will therefore be allowed to test free agency:
Michael Bennett (TB): Bennett was the only candidate for the franchise tag in Tampa, but the Bucs decided against using it. They'll now bank on bringing back their 2012 leader in sacks (9.0) on a multi-year deal.
William Moore (ATL): The Falcons were not expected to use the franchise tag, but if they decided that they would, Moore was the frontrunner to receive it. After cutting several players to create plenty of cap room, the Falcons should be able to lock up Moore on a long-term deal.
Greg Jennings (GB): Rumors surfaced about a week ago that the Packers were considering cutting tight end Jermichael Finley and brining back Jennings via the franchise tag. It never seemed like a very realistic move, as Jennings would be making far too much money based on his 2012 production. He'll be one of the top free agent receivers on the market.
Wes Welker (NE): CSN New England has reported that Welker and the Patriots have made progress towards a new deal. If both sides are smart, they'll figure out a way to reunite.
Mike Wallace (PIT): The Steelers were never expected to bring Wallace back, but it's now official that one of the league's premier deep threats will hit the open market.
Glover Quin (HOU): Retaining Quin is reportedly the Texans' top priority this offseason, and considering the fact that the franchise tag salary for safeties is a very affordable $6.9 million, they must be very confident that they can work out a long-term deal.
Jared Cook (TEN): This comes as a bit of a surprise because many reports suggested Cook was a near lock to receive the franchise tag. Perhaps the fact that he planned to fight for the wide receiver franchise tag salary (rather than the salary for tight ends, which is what Cook is) made the Titans reluctant.
Dashon Goldson (SF): The Niners opted against tagging Goldson for the second straight season, and it's looking like that decision could cost them one of their top players in the secondary. Goldson is looking for about $8 million a year - top flight safety money - and he could probably get it. The 49ers, however, have not made much progress in contract negotiations with Goldson.