NFL observers seem to increasingly think the Seahawks could place a franchise tag on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson to prevent him from becoming a free agent next month.

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In what is the first significant date of the NFL off-season involving personnel, teams can begin placing a franchise or transition tag on players beginning Tuesday.

The period runs through March 6 and could help alter free agency by taking some top players out of the market while also changing what some teams have available.

To briefly recap the rule, teams can place the tags on pending free agents. An exclusive franchise tag binds the player to the team for one year while giving the player a salary that is the average of the top five at his position or a 120 percent raise from the previous year, whichever is higher. There is also a non-exclusive franchise tag in which the salary is the same but a player can negotiate with other teams and if he gets an offer the original team can either match or get two first-round picks as compensation.

The transition tag gives a player the average of the top 10 salaries at his position but with the ability to still negotiate with other teams. His original team can match the offer but if it does not, it gets nothing in compensation if the player leaves.

Teams can continue to negotiate with tagged players, and in fact the tag is often just viewed as a precursor to getting a longer-term deal done. The deadline for getting a longer deal done is July 16 after which the player must sign the one-year tag contract.

The Seahawks haven’t used any tag since 2010 when it placed a franchise tag on kicker Olindo Mare.

But as the tag period approaches there is increasing speculation that the Seahawks could use it on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

I wrote about the Seahawks’ decision last week.

Here is some of what others are saying about the Seahawks and potentially tagging Richardson:

Eric Edholm, Pro Football Weekly

What he said: “Like the Rams with (recevier Sammy( Watkins, the Seahawks paid a steep price to land Richardson. It cost them WR Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick, and the Seahawks know that Richardson would command a steep salary from a number of other teams — including, perhaps, his former New York Jets club. The problem: They’re likely not currently able to do so without a few adjustments. The Seahawks are projected to have just more than $14 million in cap space prior to any cuts, reworked deals or extensions with other players. The DT franchise figure is expected to be about $14.5 million. The 27-year-old Richardson is by far their biggest free agent, but his limited production (one sack, one forced fumble) makes it hard to justify a franchise tender or a long-term deal. Could he be a rare transition-tag candidate (at roughly $11.7 million)? That would only allow the Seahawks the chance to match any long-term contract offered to him by another team.”

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk

What he said: “Tight end Jimmy Graham hasn’t done enough in three seasons with the team to justify a tag. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson possibly did enough in one season, especially in light of the investment made to get him from the Jets last year (receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick).”

Brady Henderson, ESPN

 What he said: “(Richardson’s) the most logical candidate for the tag by virtue of being the team’s most important free agent who’s in position to command a top-shelf salary, but that doesn’t mean it’s likely. The franchise tag for defensive tackles could cost around $14.5 million. From a production standpoint alone, that number might be tough for the Seahawks to justify, even though Richardson was more productive in 2017 than his lone sack suggests. The Seahawks are projected to have only around $14 million in cap space as it stands now — although they can create more ahead of free agency — which could make the franchise tag prohibitive. The transition tag, projected at $11.7 million, would be more affordable. But it wouldn’t put Seattle in position to receive any compensation if another team signed Richardson for more money.”

John Clayton, 710 ESPN and Seahawks radio network

What he said: “I really do (think there’s a strong possibility that they could tag Richardson),” John Clayton told Bob, Groz and Tom on 710 ESPN Seattle. “My thinking on that is it’s gotta be a strong consideration. It would be ideal if you could get him to a contract, but the price on him is one of the hardest ones to determine because if you think he has a pass rush, he could probably get $16 million a year. If he’s just going to be more of a run-stopper in the defense, then it’s probably between $9 and $12 million a year. But a franchise tag would be $14 million. And why I think they have to consider that is that (they) don’t want to lose too many assets too early. And what I mean by that is you cut Michael Bennett, and you cut Cliff Avril, and you don’t have Kam Chancellor available, look what you’re losing on defense, and then of course Jeremy Lane’s out of there. So here’s a way to retain (a defensive starter). Now sure, you’ll get a third-round compensatory (NFL draft pick) if indeed you lose him and he goes to someplace else and gets over $12 million a year. That’s fine. But at the very least, if you franchise him you also have the ability, if you can’t get him done to a long-term deal, then you can try to work a trade and then maybe get that second-round pick back sometime before the draft. But overall, I think that they really do need to try to find a way to keep him. He was good in the locker room, he was good on the team, and I think he’s a very good player, and he’s young enough.”

Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

What he said: “Like the Rams with Sammy Watkins, the Seahawks could use the franchise tag to help justify a previous trade. Seattle gave up a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse to get 654 solid — if unspectacular — snaps out of Richardson. It’s been three full seasons since Richardson has played his best, but coach Pete Carroll is already on the record about trying to keep him. The tag is the easiest way to accomplish that.”

Michael Ginnitti, SPOTRAC.COM

What he said: “Projected Tag: $14M. … Richardson seems a really great fit in Seattle, especially as other parts of the defense appear to be falling off. After giving up a starting WR (Kearse), & a 2nd round pick, it would be silly to let him walk at this point. Allowing him to play out this tag might make the most sense in 2018, with uncertainly elsewhere. His value sits just under $12M.”