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NFL free agency: Will the Eagles have to use the franchise tag on Jeremy Maclin?

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The Eagles will place the tag on the former first round pick?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles and Jeremy Maclin have both made it clear that they want to continue their relationship, but how that is accomplished has yet to be determined. The Eagles and Maclin would likely prefer a long-term agreement after the latter produced the best season of his career in his first year with Chip Kelly's offense. If a long-term deal can't be reached by the start of free agency, the Eagles may opt to place the franchise tag on him to keep Maclin away from other teams while they continue to negotiate.

Maclin bet on himself with a one-year deal last offseason after missing the entire 2013 season due to an ACL tear. That wager worked out as caught 85 passes for 1,318 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Maclin was voted an alternate to the Pro Bowl and finished second to Rob Gronkowski for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

Maclin is likely to want an annual salary exceeding $10 million and the Eagles have the cap space to offer that sum. However, Maclin may want more than the Eagles want to offer, so the team may want to block him from free agency while they try to reach a middle ground.

While this is one of the better free agency and draft classes for wide receivers in recent memory, Maclin seems to fit exactly what Kelly wants to do. Going even further, had Maclin gone down last season, this team probably wouldn't have even sniffed the playoffs.

Maclin and the Eagles likely need each other and with the franchise tag, both sides of leverage. The Eagles can use the tag on Maclin or any of their other free agents as soon as February 16.