Franchise tag means big payday for Hampton

Friday, February 5, 2010
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. If the Steelers use a franchise tag on nose tackle Casey Hampton they will have to offer the unrestricted free agent a one-year deal worth just over $7.7 million.

That represents the average of the top five salaries for defensive tackles in 2009, a figure that the National Football Players' Association released Thursday.

Hampton, who made $6.45 million last season, told the Tribune-Review last week that there will "be a problem" if the Steelers use a franchise tag on him.

Hampton, 32, said he wants the Steelers to sign him to a long-term contract or let him test the market without any restrictions.

Teams could still negotiate with Hampton if the Steelers use a nonexclusive franchise tag on him. They would, however, have to give up a pair of first-round draft picks if Hampton signs with that team and the Steelers decline to match it.

The Steelers have until Feb. 25 to use the franchise tag on Hampton or one of their other unrestricted free agents. They have said they want Hampton to return to the team in 2010.

Hampton, who played in his fifth Pro Bowl last Sunday, has been with the Steelers since 2001.