Ranking AFC South Teams’ Chances to Use a Franchise Tag


The period for teams to place a franchise tag on any impending free agent opened last week.

This eight-part series will go division by division looking at the possibility that a team will place a franchise tag on their most worthy player.

Without further ado, here goes the AFC South.

Houston Texans

Top Candidate: Jadeveon Clowney
Chance of Being Tagged: 85%

It seems as if, every season, there are a few players who get hit with the franchise tag, but always just one player who is an absolute no-doubter to be tagged. This year, his name is Jadeveon Clowney, the defensive star in Houston.


As Sports Illustrated puts it, “Clowney will almost certainly get hit with the tag while the Texans work out a long-term deal. As we mentioned, a long-term deal will be expensive especially if Clowney is considered a defensive end. Market comparisons range from Olivier Vernon’s five-year, $85 million deal to Khalil Mack’s earth-shattering six-year, $141 million pact. If he is somehow able to hit the market, expect almost all of the deepest-pocketed teams in the league to be interested.”

Clowney finished the $13.5 million team option portion of his $22.3 million rookie contract in 2018, starting 14 of the 15 games he played in and appearing in a career-high 900 defensive snaps. He picked up nine sacks and 47 tackles while also forcing a fumble.

As SI mentioned, he is due for a large contract, and as the contract experts at Spotrac predict, he could receive a six-year deal worth more than $100 million if he sneaks into free agency. That would be the 29th-richest contract in the NFL and fifth out of all outside linebackers.

The franchise tag should act as a placeholder for Clowney and the Texans who will be given an extra year to work out an expensive long-term deal.

Indianapolis Colts

Top Candidate: Clayton Geathers
Chance of Being Tagged: 15%

The Indianapolis Colts do not plan on franchise tagging anybody, nor do they have any reason to.

But, if they were to tag someone, it would probably be free safety Clayton Geathers, who is coming off the fourth and final year of his four-year, $2.8 million rookie deal with the Colts.

Geathers started all of the 12 games he appeared in last season and was on the field for a career-high 714 snaps which comes out to more than 76 percent of defensive snaps, also a career-high for Geathers. He forced one fumble while also setting a career-high in the tackles column, recording 89.

Tennessee Titans

Top Candidate: Derrick Morgan
Chance of Being Tagged: 20%

Nobody in Tennessee is expected to get hit with the franchise tag this offseason, but if it had to be placed on a player, Derrick Morgan would be their guy.

2018 marked Morgan’s final year under his four-year contract worth $27 million that he signed in 2015, only after his five-year rookie deal expired. So, after nine years with the team, he is set to hit free agency for just the second time in his career, but he isn’t expected to go far. Rumor has it that the Titans are convinced they will be able to re-sign Morgan to a multi-year deal, and will only decide to franchise tag him if they can’t ink him to a deal, and even if they don’t do that, the tag isn’t a definite option.

2018 marked what Morgan hopes is the turnaround point in his defensive decline. He appeared in just 534 snaps in 2018, which figures to be around 53% of Tennessee’s total defensive snaps. He picked up a career-low half a sack while making 25 tackles.

Although Morgan and Tennessee both hope the defensive standout can return to the star that he was a few years ago, he is aging, and the cost of a franchise tag is likely greater than what it would cost for the two sides to simply agree to a new contract.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Top Candidate: A.J. Cann
Chance of Being Tagged: 5%

Similar to most of the teams in the AFC South, there is no clear candidate to be franchise tagged, so Jacksonville will likely decline the chance to use the tool this offseason. However, if they were to use it, it would likely be placed on offensive lineman A.J. Cann.

Cann hits NFL free agency for the first time in his career when the new league year kicks off in just a few weeks, and his solid 2018 season should make him attractive in the eyes of the league’s general managers. Cann started all 15 of the games he played in last season, playing in 934 snaps, which comes out to just a tad more than 95% of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps when Cann was active.

After earning just north of $4.7 million over the first four years, he is likely to surpass that number in just the average annual value of whatever contract he should receive on the free agent market. However, given the direction of the Jaguars, it seems like it would be in their best interest to not tag him.


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