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Tag for Mankins, trade for Smith...maybe

It's hard enough to predict what the St. Louis Rams will do in free agency in a normal year. Throw in this year's CBA meltdown and the possibility it brings for no free agency, or football, and predictions are impossible.

Today's headlines do have news about two interesting names in free agency, well, kind of free agency. First, the Boston Herald reported that New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins will get the franchise tag. When he will get the franchise tag remains to be seen; teams have 14 days to apply it. It might come to that. The BH report says that the sides might work out a contract before the franchise tag deadline. This is not a big surprise. It's been speculated for some time now than Logan Mankins would get the franchise tag. 

Franchise tags lack the heft they usually do. Players agents and the NFLPA argue that teams have no basis to use the tag without a labor agreement in place. The league says tag away. Expect the issue to heat up once a team or two actually applies the tag. 

Another player in the news this morning is Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith. The venerable Smith, 32, is part of the Panthers' plans "right now" according to new head coach Ron RIvera. Smith has insinuated that he wants to play somewhere else. He has 2 years on his contract which makes the looming lockout a dicey situation for him. If the Panthers released him now, he could easily land with another team before the league turns into a pumpkin on March 4. If the CBA situation gets resolved, Carolina could end up shopping Smith. Smith, who had just 46 catches in 14 games last year, is due $7 million this year and another $7.75 million next year. That price might make a trade difficult. 

If Smith does end up on the market, he would be one of several big name receivers over the age of thirty available to teams needing receiving help. Would Smith be a better bet than some of the others who bring a little additional baggage?