The Tennessee Titans made it official on Wednesday, placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth on the eve of the NFL Combine.
The move all but assures that Haynesworth, who enjoyed a career year in 2007 with 93 total tackles and six sacks, will remain with the Titans when free agency opens Feb. 29.
Other teams could still sign Haynesworth to a contract, but the Titans would have the option to match it or receive two first-round picks as compensation.
The Titans and Haynesworth have until July 15 to work out a new contract. If they cannot do so by that day, Haynesworth would play 2008 for more than $7 million or 120 percent of his base salary and prorated signing bonus for the past season.
Though many deals are brokered at the NFL Combine where there are often face-to-face meetings between the general managers and agents, it was evident that it was going to take longer to finalize one for Haynesworth.
“This is a step in the process with Albert. This designation gives us more time to work on a long-term contract with him,” Titans general manager Mike Reinfeldt said. “He was a dominant player for us this past season and one of the key components to our success on defense.”
Haynesworth, a first-round pick in 2002 by the Titans, was an integral part of a defense that ranked fifth overall in the NFL last season after finishing last in 2006. He missed three games with a right hamstring injury last season, and Tennessee lost all three games before rallying to secure a wild-card spot.