Jones, Pace know the drill

Updated: February 12, 2004, 12:12 PM ET
By By Darrell Trimble | NFL Insider
The two-week window NFL teams have to apply the franchise tag on certain players began Tuesday, and though no one has received the designation yet, it's only a matter of time before several of the game's biggest names will bear that distinction. The deadline for a team to use the franchise tag is Feb. 24.

Last year eight players were labeled as such, which is exactly the same number as the year before. How many will get tagged this time around? It's unclear at this point because teams still have time to negotiate long-term deals before free agency starts, but there will be a handful of talent that won't be able to agree to terms on time.

And that could have a big effect on the teams that choose to use the tag. Though the transaction all but guarantees that the chosen one won't test the free-agent market, it also takes a big chunk out of a team's salary-cap space. Instead of signing a multi-year deal that has a low first-year cap hit, a one-year franchise deal counts entirely against the 2004 cap.