Analyzing Every NFC Team’s Top Franchise Tag Candidateby Andersen Pickard March 8, 2021 0 comments
Every March, teams and their impending free agents work ferociously to ink an extension. Some player-team combos agree to a deal, but many more fail to finalize terms. For teams, the franchise tag works as a useful tool to keep players under contract for one more year. Even if the player wants out, the team gets to retain them for a high salary.
How is this fair? Well, many argue it is not, and that remains up for debate. Nevertheless, the league and player’s union agreed to terms to set what each position’s franchise tag salary looks like. When the player is tagged for the first time, their salary is found by averaging the past five seasons’ tag values proportional to their salary caps, then multiplied to fit this year’s cap. If a player is tagged for a second time, they are owed 120 percent of the previous year’s franchise tag value. If they are tagged for a third time, their salary increases to 144 percent of the previous year’s value. Players cannot be tagged more than three times.
The following is a breakdown of the franchise tag values for each position in 2021. According to Over The Cap, these are “calculated by adding the respective tag numbers, divided by the sum of the salary caps, from the previous five seasons, and finally multiplied by the current season’s salary cap.”
Evidently, many players do not enjoy playing on the franchise tag due to the frequently undervalued salaries and lack of job security. For this reason, players often work hard to sign an extension with their team after hit with the tag. Occasionally, players will threaten to sit out the season if handed the tag. We saw this happen with Le’Veon Bell in 2018.
Now that you know exactly how the franchise tag works, it’s time to explore which players could receive the unique designation prior to this year’s March 9 at 4 p.m. deadline. We’ll run through the top candidate from all 16 AFC teams and rank the likelihood that they receive the tag.
Author’s note: All tag values are estimates from Over the Cap. Details may fluctuate from resource to resource.
Dak Prescott, QB | Tag Value: $37,690,800
Likelihood: 9.5 out of 10
It is almost a foregone conclusion that the Cowboys will place the franchise tag on Dak Prescott. It remains to be seen whether the two sides will be able to reach an extension after the tag is issued. Still, Dallas loves its signal-caller and will surely tag him for a second straight time if an extension is not reached by Tuesday afternoon.
Leonard Williams, DE | Tag Value: $19,351,200
Likelihood: 6.5 out of 10
It’s hard to tell what the Giants will do; a lot rides on their negotiations over the next 48 hours. New York is expected to work fervently to bring back defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson, but the clock is ticking. Using the tag on either one of them is not out of the question, though Williams seems more likely since he is the better of the two. Still, Williams was tagged last offseason, so handing him the designation again this year costs just shy of $20 million.
Jalen Mills, S | Tag Value: $11,196,000
Likelihood: 1 out of 10
Since the Eagles are in a major salary cap bind and have no major departures, they will not be tagging anyone. However, if they were required to, the recipient would likely be Jalen Mills. With the safety tag being relatively low, tagging Mills would be the most likely outcome. Still, he’s set to receive roughly $5 million on the open market, so the tag would be a major overpay for Philadelphia. They’ll sit tight and not use the designation this year.
Brandon Scherff, G | Tag Value: $18,036,000
Likelihood: 6.5 out of 10
Much like the situation with Williams in New York, the Washington Football Team faces a tricky decision. On one hand, Scherff is a top-tier lineman who will cash in if he hits the open market. On the other hand, he was tagged last year and would cost $18,036,000 if tagged again this season. Of course, Washington can afford that with their fourth-most cap space in the NFL. With a new quarterback possibly under center next year, he’ll need all the protection he can get. Tagging Scherff makes sense, but it remains to be seen if anything comes to fruition.
Allen Robinson, WR | Tag Value: $16,430,000
Likelihood: 9 out of 10
Tagging Robinson is almost a foregone conclusion at this point. While the two sides have lacked progress in contract negotiations, the tag forces Robinson to return for at least one more year. Of course, a tag-and-trade is not out of the question, either. With Robinson being a star wide receiver and Chicago potentially searching for picks so they can make a run at a new quarterback, flipping their top wideout could give Chicago a late first-round selection or early second. There’s a lot to monitor here, so perhaps we’ll know more in the coming days. For now, count on Robinson being tagged.
Kenny Golladay, WR | Tag Value: $16,430,000
Likelihood: 9.5 out of 10
Another NFC North wide receiver as a tag candidate? Bingo. Golladay and the Lions have failed to agree to an extension to this point, setting up the likelihood of a tag. The major factor to note here is that the Lions reportedly already offered Golladay a deal worth roughly the price of the franchise tag. This means that, assuming they still value him similarly, they will have no issue tagging him. Furthermore, Detroit is also losing Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Mohamed Sanu, and Jamal Agnew. They did sign Tyrell Williams, but letting Golladay walk would be a major blow to a receiving corps that has already been dealt several hits.
Aaron Jones, RB | Tag Value: $11,112,000
Likelihood: 3.5 out of 10
Tagging Jones is an intriguing idea, but with the Packers already being $11.4 million over the cap, it doesn’t seem likely. He’ll be a top target for many teams in free agency, so Green Bay could always tag and trade him. However, the way things look right now, the Packers will merely offer him a below-value offer in hopes of getting a hometown discount. That won’t work, and Jones will be on his way out.
Anthony Harris, S | Tag Value: $13,729,200
Likelihood: 6 out of 10
The Vikings tagged Harris last offseason and could do the same this year. Especially considering Spotrac’s market value of $14 million, the tag makes plenty of sense. The Vikings are $3.5 million over the cap, which isn’t a major hole to dig out of. They evidently want to bring Harris back and will likely work hard to extend him, but if that doesn’t work out, the franchise tag certainly is not out of the question.
Keanu Neal, S | Tag Value: $11,196,000
Likelihood: 7.5 out of 10
Neal has been an impactful part of the Falcons’ secondary. While he’s not worth the full tag value, it is clear that Atlanta’s defense needs help. With that in mind, the Falcons might feel pressured to tag him anyways. After missing most of 2018 and 2019 due to injuries, Neal bounced back this past season with 100 tackles, one fumble forced, and one interception.
Taylor Moton, OT | Tag Value: $14,507,000
Likelihood: 9.5 out of 10
After working hard to clear money on the defensive side of the football, it appears the Panthers are allocating a major chunk to the offensive line. Carolina reportedly plans to issue the franchise tag to tackle Taylor Moton. An extension is the main goal for these two sides, but at the very least, Carolina will use the tag to bring back Moton for one more season. The 27-year-old has been ferocious in the trenches and will be key in protecting whichever quarterback takes the field for the Panthers next year.
Marcus Williams, S | Tag Value: $11,196,000
Likelihood: 1 out of 10
Marking this as very unlikely is painful but necessary. Tagging Williams would likely be $3 million cheaper than extending him, but the Saints are in a cap fiasco and have no money to spare, let alone $11 million. The 25-year-old has been a big part of the Saints’ defense and should cash in this offseason.
Chris Godwin, WR | Tag Value: $16,430,000
Likelihood: 8.5 out of 10
While Godwin and the Buccaneers would like to sign an extension, it seems like the franchise tag is a more likely outcome. Godwin has said he would be willing to play under the tag and the Super Bowl champions likely won’t oblige. Tampa Bay has $12 million in cap space so while tagging Godwin makes sense, it likely means that they won’t bring back Antonio Brown. Still, pairing Godwin with Mike Evans for at least one more year is a major win.
Haason Reddick, LB | Tag Value: $15,657,000
Likelihood: 4 out of 10
The Cardinals have $12.6 million in cap space after signing J.J. Watt. With Patrick Peterson and Markus Golden set to walk, Arizona cannot afford to lose Reddick, too. He’s 26 years old and set to land a big payday wherever he goes, but the Cardinals hope it doesn’t get to that point. Bringing back Reddick is a major financial commitment, but there is presumably interest from both sides. At this point, though, an extension seems more likely than a tag.
John Johnson, S | Tag Value: $11,196,000
Likelihood: 3 out of 10
The Rams would love to bring back Johnson and pass-rusher Leonard Floyd. However, considering they are $35 million over the cap, neither move can be expected. Unfortunately for the Rams, this offseason will consist of shedding salary instead of handing out big money contracts.
Jaquiski Tartt, S | Tag Value: $11,196,000
Likelihood: 2 out of 10
The 49ers are just one of those teams that simply don’t have a franchise tag candidate. Trent Williams would have made perfect sense had the 49ers not agreed to not tag him when they restructured his contract in 2020. Kyle Juszczyk is also an intriguing candidate, but since there is no fullback category for the tag, he would be paid like a running back. That leaves Tartt, who would only be tagged if the 49ers were required to use the designation on somebody. Of course, an extension is still possible considering the 49ers have north of $20 million in cap space.
Shaquill Griffin, CB | Tag Value: $15,266,000
Likelihood: 2.5 out of 10
The Seahawks are set to lose a pair of defensive weapons in Griffin and linebacker K.J. Wright. Seattle would love to have both back, but with just $4.5 million in cap space, it could be tricky. Neither is expected to take a hometown discount, but they are both worse less than $15 million per year. With these factors in mind, the franchise tag doesn’t make too much sense. Seattle will opt not to use the designation this year.
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