NFL agents expect to receive the official franchise tag numbers next week at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
When those figures are released, it does not figure to have much of an impact on the 49ers.
The team’s top three scheduled free agents are running back Frank Gore, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Mike Iupati. But the franchise tag does not appear to be a realistic option for any of the three.
Gore earned $6.45 million in pay the past two seasons. The 49ers want to bring him back, as general manager Trent Baalke told CSNBayArea.com, but Gore would likely have to accept a reduced salary. Therefore, the expected one-year franchise tag of approximately $10.8 million is out of the question.
Crabtree made $4 million last season, but his production did not match up. He caught 68 passes for just 698 yards and four touchdowns. It’s unlikely the 49ers will offer him a multi-year contract that exceeds Anquan Boldin’s $6 million-a-year average. And it’s completely unrealistic to think the 49ers would devote more than $12 million to lock him up under the franchise tag.
Iupati is expected to attract the most attention on the open market of the 49ers’ scheduled free agents. Iupati averaged $3.296 million in salary over his first five NFL seasons. He’s in line for a significant increase in salary. But it would likely cost the 49ers more than $12.5 million to keep him around one more season as a franchise player. (The franchise tag lumps all offensive linemen together and does not distinguish among guards, tackles and centers.)
Two years ago, the 49ers signed right tackle Anthony Davis to a contract extension that is scheduled to pay him a $6.5 million average through 2019. The 49ers have suggested they are not willing to pay a guard more than their starting tackle, who was selected ahead of him in the first round of the same draft.
The 49ers appeared to be prepared for the possible loss of Iupati in last year’s draft with the selection of Brandon Thomas in the third round. Thomas sustained a torn ACL during a pre-draft workout and spent his entire rookie season rehabbing.
The last time the 49ers used the franchise designation was with safety Dashon Goldson in 2012. Two years earlier, the 49ers applied the tag to nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin.
Teams have sole negotiating rights with their own scheduled free agents until March 7. The new league year opens on March 10, at which point free agents are allowed to sign with any team.