KANSAS CITY — The Chiefs designated Dwayne Bowe as their franchise player Monday, keeping the impact wide receiver off the free-agent market this offseason.
The move, which came less than an hour before the afternoon deadline, guarantees Bowe a salary of about $9.5 million next season. He could still field offers from other teams, but the Chiefs would have the right to match them.
If they refused, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
"Today was the league's deadline to designate a franchise player and we felt it was in the best interest of the Kansas City Chiefs to place the tag on Dwayne," Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said in a three-paragraph statement released by the team.
Bowe had a breakout season two years ago, catching 72 passes for 1,162 yards and 15 scores en route to his first Pro Bowl. He followed that with 81 catches for 1,159 yards and five TDs last season, despite playing without injured quarterback Matt Cassel the final seven games.
Pioli has indicated he would like to sign Bowe to a long-term deal, and the Chiefs have often used the franchise tag as a bridge toward making that happen.
Linebacker Tamba Hali was given the tag last season. Contract negotiations were put on hold because of the lockout, but the two sides eventually agreed to a $60 million, five-year deal early in training camp. The deal made Hali one of the league's highest-paid pass rushers.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez was franchised by the Chiefs in 2002 and signed a seven-year deal by September. Offensive lineman Will Shields was tagged in 2000, played the entire season under the franchise deal, and agreed to a lucrative six-year contract the following March.
Bowe tweeted that he had "good news comin very soon" about an hour before the Chiefs used the franchise tag on him. He later tweeted: "Another year with the Chiefs."
The decision to use the franchise tag on Bowe had been expected ever since the Chiefs agreed to terms with cornerback Stanford Routt on a $19.6 million, three-year deal last month.
That deal was tantamount to announcing cornerback Brandon Carr would be allowed to reach free agency. The Chiefs already have $52.5 million wrapped up in cornerback Brandon Flowers, so using the franchise tag on a third cornerback would have been impractical.