NFL teams can start to place the franchise tag -- a guaranteed one-year contract -- on one of its impending free agents on Monday, Feb. 20, and anytime through March 5. Don't use that designation on a player, free agency welcomes him with open arms (and a big checkbook, most likely). For the Denver Broncos, there is only really one possibility, long known to be a candidate for it: kicker Matt Prater.
Related: NFL Franchise Tags: Who Gets Tagged?
Prater kicked many key field goals, including four game-winners, during the 2011 season. The team would be crazy to let him enter free agency. And using the tag doesn't preclude the team from negotiating a long-term deal afterward. Teams just need a little more time to work out a new contract and the franchise tag is one way of doing that.