The period for teams to place a franchise tag on any impending free agent opened yesterday.
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 West.
Los Angeles Chargers
Top Candidate: Tyrell Williams
Chance of Being Tagged: 30%
An undrafted free agent in 2015, Williams was quick to sign a multi-year deal to bring him to San Diego, the then-home of the Chargers. He was set to be paid nearly $1.6 million over three seasons, but just weeks into his first ever professional contract, he was waived. He latched back on a month later and was able to stay in San Diego and play out his three-year deal before now-Los Angeles re-signed him to a single-season deal for 2018 worth $2.9 million.
After posting great numbers in both 2016 and 2017, Williams continued to post solid stats in 2018, playing in 16 games and starting 10. He hauled in 41 of the 65 passes sent his way for a total of 653 yards and three touchdowns (while also fumbling twice).
Spotrac, the sports contract expert website, projects Williams to sign a three-year deal worth $29 million (which comes out to an average annual value of $9.67 million), assuming he doesn’t get franchise tagged, which isn’t extremely likely but still certainly possible. That projected deal from Spotrac would give him the 145th richest contract in the league as of now, and would also make him the 23rd highest-paid receiver as of now.
Kansas City Chiefs
Top Candidate: Dee Ford
Chance of Being Tagged: 80%
The Kansas City Chiefs are expected to franchise tag Dee Ford and pay him $15 million, using the tag to keep his talents in Kansas City, but also as a placeholder that gives the Chiefs an extra year to negotiate a long-term deal with him to keep him in Kansas CIty for years to come.
As ESPN’s Adam Teicher puts it, “The Chiefs appear motivated to retain Ford, whether that’s on a long-term contract or as the franchise player. Ford would cost about $15 million on the franchise tag. He indicated during the season that he would sign the tender if he’s tagged, calling that decision a ‘no-brainer.’ It would be a shame for the Chiefs to watch Ford play for another team after he finally fulfilled the promise that led them to draft him in the first round in 2014.”
Ford is coming off the fifth-year option portion (worth $8.7 million) of the four-year rookie contract (worth nearly $8.2 million) that landed him in Kansas City. 2018 featured many career-bests for Ford, including most games started (16), total snaps (1,025), percentage of snaps played (85 percent), sacks (13), tackles (55), and fumbles forced (six).
All of those numbers incredibly surpass Ford’s previous career-best statistics, which is why it’s a no-brainer for Kansas City to commit to Ford long-term, even if that means the likely outcome of them using a franchise tag as a placeholder.
Top Candidate: Matt Paradis
Chance of Being Tagged: 25%
After spending the entire first chunk of his career in Denver, Matt Paradis is set to become a free agent and is bound to draw lots of interest on the free agent market. Although Denver is rumored to have interest in re-signing him, they might simply not be able to compete with opposing teams who have bigger budgets, so franchise tagging him is definitely something Denver could look into.
In 2018, Paradis was paid a career-high $2.9 million to start in all nine of the games he played and appear in 569 snaps. He would have likely started in all 16 games, which is something he had done in his other three years of NFL experience but suffered an injury that forced him out of action.
Believe it or not, being a starter in the NFL hasn’t always come naturally to Paradis, who was drafted and signed a four-year deal worth $2.3 million before being waived before his rookie season even began. He returned to Denver after that season ended, though, and that is where he has been ever since.
We’ll see if the proven center returns to Denver for one more year (or several years), or if he takes his talent to a new city.
Top Candidate: Jared Cook
Chance of Being Tagged: 15%
Jared Cook is one of the top candidates to be franchise tagged by the Raiders. That is, if they franchise tag anybody (they probably won’t). Still, it’s fun to talk about, so let’s check out Cook’s stats and why he should be of interest to Oakland.
Although Cook only started 14 of the 16 games he played in, he boasted career-best numbers in targets (101), receptions (68), yards (896), touchdowns (six), and fumbles (zero). Cook showed flashes of extreme potential and it is fair to say he blossomed to a role on the list of top five receivers in the National Football League.
After earning less than $5.7 million in 2018, Cook is due for a pay raise and should get one, whether that comes in the form of a new contract or the franchise tag value.