With only a few days left and no tags applied, it’s time to take a look at where the franchise and transition tags could land between now and Wednesday, March 1.
So let’s take our annual team-by-team look at the tag candidates. Better never than late.
Dolphins: No tags are likely in Miami. Receiver Kenny Stills will likely get No. 1 money elsewhere, and the Dolphins can’t justify tagging him with Jarvis Landry on the roster and now eligible for a second contract.
Bills: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore wants big money on a long-term deal. He’ll get a chance to get it elsewhere; the franchise tag is unlikely for the man who has finished a five-year rookie contract in Buffalo.
Jets: A season after tagging Muhammad Wilkerson, they’ve got no impending free agents worthy of the tag this year.
Patriots: Linebacker Dont’a Hightower has surmised that the trade of Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins makes it more likely that Hightower remains in the long-term plans. Absent a long-term deal before March 9, only the franchise tag will ensure another year with the guy who made one of the key plays in Super Bowl LI. For now, whether it’s used remains up in the air.
Steelers: Running back Le’Veon Bell is the prime candidate, but the expected investment of $12 million could be too much for the Steelers. The transition tag is a possibility as well, if no other team would be willing to offer huge money for a guy with a history of injuries and suspensions.
Bengals: Tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler are the two top candidates. Because all offensive lineman are lumped into the same bucket for the franchise tag, however, guards and centers rarely if ever get tagged. Given Whitworth’s age and the team’s frugality, a tag for him isn’t likely, either.
Browns: Has receiver Terrelle Pryor done enough to merit the tag? It would be an amazing development if it happens, but the Browns need to find a way to retain a player who has yet to reach his ceiling at his new position — and who has the kind of zeal and passion for his team and his city that more Browns players need.
Ravens: Defensive tackle Brandon Williams is the team’s top candidate, but the Ravens haven’t been bashful about letting big-money players go and reloading from below. If they believe in Michael Pierce, the Ravens could be willing to let Williams walk — and to reel in a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2018 in return for him.
Texans: They seem to be willing to let cornerback A.J. Bouye hit the market and walk away.
Colts: To use the franchise tag, it’s important to have quality players beyond a franchise quarterback.
Titans: The biggest name to hit free agency belongs to guard Chance Warmack. Since guards get lumped in with tackles, it will be too expensive to tag a guy who didn’t do enough to prompt the Titans to pick up the fifth-year option.
Jaguars: One of the benefits of having a roster with talent that skews young is that none of the impending free agents cry out “tag me.”
Broncos: A year after a protracted and at times nasty fight with linebacker Von Miller, the Broncos have no tag-worthy free agents.
Chiefs: They’ll have to decide between $12.96 million for safety Eric Berry or roughly the same for defensive tackle Dontari Poe, if neither signs a long-term deal by Wednesday. Berry has said he won’t play under the franchise tag, even though his one-year haul would exceed the top of the market at the safety position.
Chargers: Quarterbacks and men who hit quarterbacks are the two most valuable types of player in today’s NFL. With Joey Bosa on one side and Melvin Ingram on the other, the Chargers need to keep both around. With Bosa in the second-year of a wage-scale contract, they can afford to tag Ingram.
Raiders: They reportedly expect running back Latavius Murray to leave. Which means they don’t expect to tag him. Which makes sense, since few running backs are worth $12 million or more for one year.
Cowboys: The Cowboys have a few free agents (like cornerback Morris Claiborne) but none that deserve to be tagged.
Washington: Quarterback Kirk Cousins will, by all indications, be tagged. Even though it will cost the team $23.94 million for 2017. On top of the $19.95 million paid last year.
Giants: Two years ago, they tagged Jason Pierre-Paul. And then he had a serious fireworks injury. Last year, he signed a team-friendly one-year deal. This year, they may be tagging him again. They should, given the way he performed in 2016.
Eagles: The Eagles have plenty of needs to address, and their cap space won’t be strapped by tagging one of their looming free agents.
Vikings: Their best free agents (Matt Kalil, Cordarrelle Patterson) aren’t good enough to justify the tag.
Packers: Not long ago, it appeared running back Eddie Lacy wouldn’t be tagged in 2017 because he’d have a long-term deal. He won’t be tagged for very different reasons.
Lions: Next year, Matthew Stafford (absent a new deal). This year, no one.
Bears: It doesn’t make sense to devote more than $17 million to receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has now had two consecutive subpar contract years. However, if coach John Fox and G.M. Ryan Pace are truly on the hot seat, it could be money well spent if it saves their jobs.
Panthers: Defensive tackle Kawann Short likely will be tagged. The only open question is whether, and when, he’ll sign it. And, if he doesn’t, whether the team will yank it.
Buccaneers: The best news for a team on the rise is that none of the free agents merit a tag
Falcons: The best news for a team in its prime is that none of the free agents merit a tag.
Saints: The best news for a team still stuck in neutral is that none of the free agents merit a tag.
Seahawks: The best news for a team potentially on the decline is that none of the free agents merit a tag.
49ers: The best news for a team with nowhere to go but up . . . you get the idea.
Cardinals: Owner Michael Bidwill has said that defensive end Chandler Jones will be franchise-tagged absent a new deal.
Rams: They’re considering applying the franchise tag for the second straight year to cornerback Trumaine Johnson.