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Franchise tag deadline comes and goes, Bills decline to use it

INDIANAPOLIS – The deadline for teams to apply the franchise tag came and went in the NFL on Wednesday.

As expected, the Buffalo Bills failed to apply the tag to any of their 22 impending unrestricted free agents, most notably cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

As The Buffalo News first reported Tuesday, the Bills declined to use the tag on Gilmore, who is set to hit the open market March 9 barring a contract extension from the team before then.

“He will become a free agent,” coach Sean McDermott told The News on Wednesday. “Having said that, we’re going to stay in touch and monitor his situation moving forward.”

McDermott was the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator in 2016 when the team originally used the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, only to rescind it later in the offseason and see Norman sign with the Washington Redskins.

“You do learn from history,” McDermott said. “I was there for a front-row seat and watching that unfold. Corner's a critical position. At the same time, every situation is just a little bit different. As much as they look the same, they're different. Stephon is a good player. We're going through that process.”

The NFL announced what it will cost teams to franchise players in 2017, with cornerbacks commanding $14.212 million. A total of seven players were given the tag before the deadline – Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, Pittsburgh running back Le’Veon Bell, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram, Carolina defensive tackle Kawann Short and Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones.

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