Team-by-team look at who could be tagged


From 21 in 2012 to eight in 2013 to only four in 2014, the franchise tag has quickly fallen out of fashion in pro football.

For 2015, the two-week window for applying the franchise tag opens Monday. So let’s take a team-by-team look at the potential recipients of a designation that has been drying up in recent years.

Arizona Cardinals: Cornerback Antonio Cromartie is due to hit the market, but the Cardinals already have plenty invested in the position, thanks to the Patrick Peterson contract. Cromartie was solid last year for the Cardinals, but not franchise-tag solid.

Atlanta Falcons: The closest guy the Falcons have to being worthy of franchise-tag consideration is kicker Matt Bryant. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon’s injury-related absence hurt the team badly in 2014, but it would be ludicrous to tag a guy coming off a torn Achilles tendon.

Baltimore Ravens: Despite plenty of promise early in his career, receiver Torrey Smith hasn’t developed into a complete receiver. His sub-900-yard contract year won’t get him tagged, and it may not get him a huge offer on the open market. Running back Justin Forsett had a surprisingly strong season, but he’ll be 30 in October and he plays a position that rarely makes anyone rich. The far more likely tag recipient is defensive end Pernell McPhee, but with Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs that could be too much of a cap commitment.

Buffalo Bills: Defensive end Jerry Hughes, with a pair of 10-sack seasons, becomes the most obvious choice for application of the tag in Buffalo. But with $19.4 million in cap space already devoted to defensive end Mario Williams, sinking at least $13 million into the same position likely becomes more than the Bills can justify — especially with a defensive-minded head coach who can generate pressure on quarterbacks without devoting more than $30 million in cap space to a pair of pass rushers.

Carolina Panthers: It would cost $15.72 million to tag defensive end Greg Hardy again. After paying him $13.1 million for only one appearance in 2014, the Panthers likely will pass. They’ll also likely pass on everyone else on the roster who is due to become a free agent.

Chicago Bears: With plenty of tough decisions to make this offseason, using the franchise tag isn’t one of them.

Cincinnati Bengals: Tagged in 2012, kicker Mike Nugent’s contract is up again. But even though the franchise tender for specialists is a lot lower than the tender for other positions, more than $3.5 million is a lot to invest in a player who plays a position that is largely interchangeable. Tight end Jermaine Gresham has name recognition, but with Tyler Eifert in the fold and plenty of other skill-position players to pay in the coming years, the Bengals wouldn’t invest more than $7 million for another year with Greshman.

Cleveland Browns: Quarterback Brian Hoyer may be back, but definitely not at the quarterback franchise tender. The more intriguing option is tight end Jordan Cameron. He reportedly wants out of Cleveland, but with few other strong options in the passing game, the Browns may decide to use the franchise tag to keep him in place. Or they possibly will apply the transition tag, which they used in 2014 to retain center Alex Mack, who signed an offer sheet with the Jaguars, and the Browns quickly matched. Cornerback Buster Skrine is a longshot, given the money invested in Joe Haden and the draft pick invested in Justin Gilbert.

Dallas Cowboys: With a pair of big-name offensive weapons poised to hit the market, the popular belief is that one or the other will be tagged. Chances are receiver Dez Bryant finds himself getting paid more than $12 million for one more year with the team under the franchise, barring an unexpected off-field issue that makes Dallas unwilling to mimic the Panthers. Running back DeMarco Murray also is a candidate for the tag, but a long-term deal would be far cheaper for Murray than it would be for Dez.

Denver Broncos: The most obvious candidate for the tag is receiver Demaryius Thomas. Tight end Julius Thomas could get consideration, if Demaryius Thomas signs a long-term deal. Defensive tackle Terence Knighton also could be a possibility, if both Thomases are signed — or if Demaryius gets a new contract and the Broncos decide to let Julius Thomas hit the market.

Detroit Lions: Tagging defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh would cost $26.8 million, based on his cap number in 2014. While G.M. Martin Mayhew hasn’t ruled it out, tagging Suh would make it difficult for the Lions to do business with that much cap space tied up in one player — especially since another $36 million is earmarked for quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson.

Green Bay Packers: Receiver Randall Cobb heads to the market, and the Packers likely won’t stop him with the franchise tag. With a major commitment made to Jordy Nelson and high hopes for Davante Adams, there’s no reason to invest that much money in a position that benefits greatly from the presence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Tackle Bryan Bulaga has become a solid option on the right side, but the tag ends up reflecting the top of the left-side market, since all positions on the offensive line fall into one general bucket.

Houston Texans: The biggest name from their coming free agents belongs to cornerback Kareem Jackson. His name and performance isn’t big enough to merit an eight-figure salary for one year.

Indianapolis Colts: With the strength of this team in its youth, there simply aren’t any veterans with expiring contracts worth consideration of the tag.

Jacksonville Jaguars: They’d probably like to bring back receiver Cecil Shorts, but not at the franchise tender. That’s really the only benefit of having a perennially mediocre team; no players are good enough to force application of the tag.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs won’t be allowing linebacker Justin Houston and his 22.0 sacks to walk away; absent a long-term deal, he gets the tag.

Miami Dolphins: Tight end Charles Clay has become a solid performer for the Dolphins, but $7 million for another year is a lot to pay for 58 catches, 605 yards, and three touchdowns. It would be a surprise if the Dolphins tag Clay. Ditto for defensive lineman Jared Odrick; the Dolphins have a ton of cash already tied up in the front four.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have no free agents who’d be worthy of the tag.

New England Patriots: Safety Devin McCourty’s name has been linked most often with the tag. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is another option, and his tag number would be a lot cheaper. Using it on either guy (especially on McCourty) would give cornerback Darrelle Revis even more leverage as the Patriots face trying to carve down a cap number that becomes $25 million for 2015 if he’s on the roster as of March 10.

New Orleans Saints: The cap-strapped Saints won’t be whipping out the tag; no one from their class of emerging free agents deserves even a discussion about the use of it.

New York Giants: The Giants haven’t ruled out tagging defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, but it would be risky. Between a stellar 2011 and a great 2014, JPP had mediocre performances in 2012 and 2013, due in large part to back problems. Since a season with the tag would operate as a second straight contract year, maybe the Giants would get even more out of Pierre-Paul in 2014 than they saw in the final season of his rookie deal.

New York Jets: Several years ago, linebacker David Harris was considered to be one of the key long-term components of the team’s defense. Now 31, the sense of urgency to keep Harris in green and white doesn’t seem to be as strong as it used to be. It’s hard to imagine the Jets making a one-year, eight-figure investment in an aging inside linebacker, even if he has started every game since the 2009 season.

Oakland Raiders: One of the worst franchises in the NFL has no viable candidates for the franchise tag.

Philadelphia Eagles: Last March, receiver Jeremy Maclin opted for a one-year deal after having his contract year wiped out by a torn ACL. The Eagles now must decide whether to extend his stay with another one-year deal that will include an investment far bigger than the one they made a year ago. While Maclin doesn’t fit coach Chip Kelly’s big-receiver mold, Maclin became a reliable target in 2014. Whether that makes him reliable enough to justify an eight-figure payday for only one year is something only Kelly will know.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Last year, the Steelers surprisingly applied the transition tag to linebacker Jason Worilds. This year, either the transition or franchise tag would entail a 20-percent raise, driving his salary and cap number north of $13 million. With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger counting more than $18 million under the cap, it’s very unlikely that the Steelers would tag Worilds again.

San Diego Chargers: Cornerback Brandon Flowers landed in San Diego’s lap after being cut by the Chiefs. It’ll now take a lot of cash to keep him around via the franchise tag; that’s probably more extravagant than the Chargers intend to be if they hope to keep Flowers around.

San Francisco 49ers: A few years ago, receiver Michael Crabtree seemed to be heading in the direction of a big-money deal or the franchise tag. Now, he’s heading for neither — and quite possibly for a new team. Guard Mike Iupati is an important piece of the offense, but with left-tackle money determining the tag at all offensive line positions, it makes no sense to devote that much to an interior blocker.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks would like to keep cornerback Byron Maxwell (in part because they’d surely like to keep Tharold Simon off the field). But application of the tag makes little sense for a team that has paid big money to three starters in the secondary, that needs to pay middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and quarterback Russell Wilson, and that is getting hijacked by Marshawn Lynch’s second annual retirement speculation convention.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams have a few free agents they’d be wise to keep (like receiver Kenny Britt) but none that deserve franchise-tag money.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Signs are pointing to the Bucs spending a lot in free agency. That money likely won’t be spent via the franchise tag.

Tennessee Titans: Michael Roos is one of the top free-agent tackles, but not good enough to justify the franchise tag. Punter Brett Kern and kicker Ryan Succop merit consideration. Beyond them, none of Tennessee’s looming free agents do.

Washington: Last year, they tagged Brian Orakpo — and they eventually regretted it. This year, Orakpo hits the market, along with the rest of the team’s looming unrestricted free agents.

70 responses to “Team-by-team look at who could be tagged

  1. As a Niner fan, I won’t be all that sad to see crab go. Dude is average but acts like he’s megatron or something. I still haven’t forgotten about him holding out for six weeks before he had even played a down in an NFL game.

  2. Mike:

    As you already know, it’s cheaper in the long-term for NFL franchises to sign/extend an UFA for multiple years.

    To wit, Green Bay will resign Cobb for $40-$45M over four years with $15-$18 guaranteed.

    GM Thompson will not let him hit the open market.

    RT Bryan Bulaga (who also will NOT be tagged) is less priority to the offense than Cobb and, most importantly, Bulaga will be cheaper to tag at his RT position than Cobb, though Thompson rarely, if ever, chooses this option.

  3. Still can’t believe the Skins franchised Orakpo. He then said: “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.” and then recorded half a sack before getting a season ending injury.

    This is the kind of thing the Skins do all the time.

    Please help me.

  4. “Oakland Raiders: One of the worst franchises in the NFL has no viable candidates for the franchise tag.”

    cant just write a story or report anything without getting a dig in somewhere huh?

  5. As you already know, it’s cheaper in the long-term for NFL franchises to sign/extend an UFA for multiple years.

    To wit, Green Bay will resign Cobb for $40-$45M over four years with $15-$18 guaranteed.

    GM Thompson will not let him hit the open market.

    RT Bryan Bulaga (who also will NOT be tagged) is less priority to the offense than Cobb and, most importantly, Bulaga will be cheaper to tag at his RT position than Cobb, though Thompson rarely, if ever, chooses this option.


    RT is less of a priority? The Packers have played with non-elite WR’s for years, and never had an issue. However, that line was looking awfully suspect.

    The Pack live and die by Aaron Rodgers. Anything else is complimentary. What good is having Cobb, if you can’t keep Rodgers on his feet to get the ball to him?

  6. The Bengals are going to try to sign Gresham at all if you believe the articles on their website.

  7. Clay was hurt most the season but played great when he was healthy towards the end of the season. We’re gonna resign him and have the best TE duo in the league with clay&sims

  8. The word “Redskins” is a highly offensive word! Just as offensive as the “N” word! Had you been paying attention in Grammar School, you would know this! Thank you Mike, for being the class act you are!

  9. I’m a Native American. Put the Redskins back up! You’re insulting me, and making me feel segregated. Its 2015!!! We are all just PEOPLE!

  10. dillpx183 says: Feb 15, 2015 7:43 PM

    “Oakland Raiders: One of the worst franchises in the NFL has no viable candidates for the franchise tag.”

    cant just write a story or report anything without getting a dig in somewhere huh?
    That doesn’t change the fact that Oakland has no viable candidates for the franchise tag. I’m as much a homer as anyone, but the only guy even up for consideration is Wiz, and he isn’t worth it.

  11. This is where Kraft and BB have dominated for 15 years. I mean seriously, if they wanted to, they could sign all of their players to fairly lucrative contracts, and keep them. Obviously they would not make the mistake in doing that, but it’s just impressive it’s even an option for them.


  12. “RT is less of a priority? The Packers have played with non-elite WR’s for years, and never had an issue. However, that line was looking awfully suspect.”

    Suspect? They dominated Seattle in the NFCC game in pass pro, that was the best pass blocking seen in GB in years, Rodgers was basically one legged and Seattle didnt sniff him. Cobb and Bulaga will be resigned, Ted loves nothing as much as the guys he drafted. Cobb is 24, dynamic as hell, and worth the contract he will no doubt sign.

  13. “Washington”?

    Which team might that be? The Huskies? The Nationals? The Capitals?

    I dunno, it’s kind of up in the air, isn’t it?

  14. Only team in the NFC East that may use the tag is Dallas

    Skins won’t franchise Orakpo again
    NYG won’t franchise JPP. At this point, he’s looking like Kearse part 2
    Philly won’t tag Maclin, they want him back, but they aren’t going to give him 8 figures to come back

  15. Oakland could very easily tag Wiz just to see what happens next year and/or to see about signing him to a long term deal that fits the player and the team.

    But I don’t write a blog.

  16. This was a thoughtful piece but the shots against the Vikings and Raiders were uncalled for. The site is known for being sparky but those were just cheap shots.

  17. The Broncos could tag DT, transition tag JT, sign everybody else AND make a splash in UFA. That is the genius of Elway’s front office.

    This despite the silly echo chamber that fantasizes that they are in cap hell.

    They’ll be smart, of course. But they have flexibility that most franchises can only dream about.

  18. sopadegato says: Feb 15, 2015 9:10 PM


    Which team might that be? The Huskies? The Nationals? The Capitals?

    I dunno, it’s kind of up in the air, isn’t it?
    If you aren’t on an NFL site, it might be confusing. But you are, so it’s not. Unless, I dunno, you don’t pay attention to your surroundings.

  19. In Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain used the N-word 219 times. The word is not hurtful. How it is used is hurtful. And the same goes for the word Redskin, is it being used in a hurtful way. In this instance, I think not.

  20. dannomac21 says:
    Feb 15, 2015 7:46 PM
    Packers will 100% tag Cobb if they cant reach an agreement. No idea what youre thinking.

    Packers won’t pay Cobb 14-15 million for this year never Ever never in a million of millions of years.

  21. Ted Thompson will play the Cobb and Bulaga scenario under the radar.

    I wouldn’t doubt he lets Cobb look around. Cobb is no dummy. He knows who butters his bread, but then again money talks. If some GM is willing to dish out a $9 – 10 mil/season offer I don’t think he could turn it down. Slot receivers get $7 – 8 mil, top of the scale. Ted won’t pay more.

    Bulaga will get resigned. We have no solid replacement at
    RT. Barclay or Tretter just don’t cut it.

  22. I know the Raiders haven’t been relevant in about 10 plus years but to call them one of the worst franchises in the nfl is some what insulting. It was unnecessary.

  23. I hope the REDSKINS tag someone. I hope the REDSKINS win their division next year. I’m not even a fan of the REDSKINS. But I really hope the REDSKINS do well next year. Go REDSKINS

  24. Maxwell is heading for Atlanta. Seattle needs that money for lynch Wilson KeArse. Just praying we draft a corner. Simon is not nfl caliber talent

  25. Truckstop Jimmy has already let it be known, through the Cleveland media, that if he can’t rip off America’s truckers, he can’t put any money into the Browns.

    We used to have owners that could afford to play with the big boys but, they didn’t give a damn. Now, we have an owner who claims to know football, despite being from the hills in Tennessee, and he can’t afford to compete.

    Poor old Paul Brown must be turning over in his grave!

  26. Cincy tagged a kicker last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if they shelled out 3.5M this year.

    The most telling info in this article is that Big Ben only counts for $18M this year. That’s a crazy low bargain price for the best QB in the game. Nobody does it better than the Steelers front office.

  27. @ seatownballers, I understand the disgust with Simon amongst us Seattle fans but I’m not ready to give up on him. He didn’t play last year and played here and there throughout the season. What the Hawks have done with Browner, Sherman, Maxwell, etc. gives me hope Simon can excel. There is a ceiling he hasn’t reached yet but we have a coaching staff that has proven to get it out of him.

    We know that being successful we can’t keep them all but we’ve got a coaching staff that provides the next man up every opportunity to rise to the challenge. I’m more worried about Simon’s temper (penalties) than I am his skill. I am curious though if we lose Maxie if Pete would change course and line up Sherm with the opposing teams #1 or play it out and see if Simon can hold his own.

  28. As a Packers fan, I think it’s imperative the Packers re-sign Cobb. Yes, he benefits from having Aaron Rodgers as his QB. But he does so many things well that they can’t afford to lose him, and I’m not as convinced that Davante Adams is going to be the super star some people say he will become. At least not as soon as next season, anyway.
    I also want the Packers to re-sign Bulaga. And they need to re-sign B.J. Raji, too. With Letroy Pothead Guion no doubt heading to suspension, Raji’s presence is needed even more.
    It might be a mistake for someone to over-pay for Cobb, but I think it would be a bigger mistake for the Packers to let that happen. Keep Cobb in GB!

  29. Pats give Vince Wilfork a nice retirement,,,Revis a new deal, both Shane Vereen and Gotkowski get new deals and Devin gets a long term deal.

    Nothing to see here,, move along,,,,Pats draft another big nose tackle, a beast OL, and maybe a later round WR/TE.

    IF,,”IF” they get a second round pick for the JETS tampering or more likely swapping 1st rounders with them as a penalty,,,I can see them do something with that for sure..

  30. This took some work. Thanks. Also, thanks for calling the Jags “mediocre.” Believe me, my fellow Jags fans consider that a compliment.

  31. Packers: Cobb–think about this: taking Cobb away from the offense severely cuts the overall production. After Cobb is Adams, then a whole lot of nobodies. It’s a bit like seeing George Washington’s nose fall off at Mount Rushmore and then saying, “ah, we can get along without it”. Look for GB to pay Cobb. You can’t just walk in off the street and run McCarthy’s offense.
    Bulaga-they might let him walk. It’s easier to draft a right tackle. His history of injury also is a concern with the big money he’s likely to be offered.
    Don’t look for Ted Thompson to tag anyone.

  32. Not a Seahawks fan, but Lynch hijacking the Seahawks , really?
    RB in the NFL has one of the shortest shelf lives of any position, the pay at the position has been downgraded as you pointed out on DeMarco Murray, but the ONE major offensive weapon (yes Seahawks fans without the threat of Marshawn Russell Wilson would not be as effective) on the team is hijacking them because he wants paid & for more than one year. Only leverage the best offensive player on a championship team has.
    Guess you’re another media member whose feelings are hurt because Lynch won’t answer your genius, world changing, thought provoking questions. Sad.

  33. Nobody cares about the 31 teams that couldn’t tie the World Champion Patriots shoes. Why are we talking about inferiority when we can keep celebrating the excellence that is the World Champion Patriots?


  34. The Redskins really missed with Brian Orakpo last year and they can’t afford to make those kind of mistakes again.

  35. Stupid NFL rules for the o-line positions as their is a definite hierarchy in who gets paid:

    Left Tackle
    Right Tackle/OC

    So Iupati is going to miss the tag. WHich could be a problem for the 49ers because they haven’t really been picking up good o-line candidates lately.

    As for Crabtree… There’s a guy who (despite Harbaugh saying the best hands he’s ever seen) many, if not most, 49er fans will be gald to see hit the road.

    That clown has routinely finish in the NFL’s top ten for percentage drops. Add in he’s average after-the-catch, what you have with him is a very-replaceable, pass-dropping WR with a Randy Moss ego and Joe Six Pack production.

  36. Seattle will tag Kearse (UFA 2012) like they did Baldwin…it actually will keep him with a fairly low cost contract…to better deal with Wilson, Wagner and Lynch…Maxwell will probably end up in Atlanta under FA…or possibly Oakland…Seattle has their eye on 3 potential CB’s in the draft…Simon will improve…he knocked down a sure TD in the SB…he had other good looks in 2014 which amounted to limited playing time in his first full season…he missed 2013 his rookie season with injuries..
    Seattle may also tag Lane at CB (7th rounder in 2012)…but that remains to be seen.

  37. Bulaga is just as much, if not even more likely to be tagged as Cobb. Green Bay may need 1 more season to see if Bulaga can stay healthy enough to be a long term option. Tramon Williams is another tag option if House isn’t signed.

  38. The Bears have badly misplayed the tag hand the last two years… tagging a guy in 2013 that they should have let go (Melton), and then not tagging Cutler last year.

    Very few players on the current Bears roster deserve the money they’re even getting now – much less a huge windfall to stick around for one year under the tag – and with some of their highest paid players likely to not even be a fit with the new coaching staff, I would be shocked to see the Bears tag anyone this year.

  39. Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings have no free agents who’d be worthy of the tag.

    Because they have managed the cap and contracts situation well so don’t know to overpay anyone by tagging them.

  40. Being the greatest team ever, I like the Mean Joe Greene versus Bryan Stork matchup. Two HOF wide outs, 3 HOF linebackers? I like Julians pick play crossing routes with Jack Lambert waiting for him. I guess Mel Blount will be neutralized since Tom throws 5 yards past the line 10% of the time now. Google those names. You must be under 30. It was a great run for you guys but you need a history lesson. Then ask yourself why people do hate the Pats but loved the 70’s Steelers unless you were from Cleveland. Deflate all you want, the curtain could care less.

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