Team-by-team look at potential 2019 tag candidates

Getty Images

It’s a tradition that truly is unlike any other. Whether it’s a good tradition or a bad tradition is in the eye of the tradition beholder.

Every year, we take a look at the players who may end up being tagged in advance of free agency. The two-week window for the franchise or transition tag (each team can do one or the other) opens Tuesday.

So here’s the 2019 version of our list. And it’s no list that any player should want to make, because it means that the player is being kept from maximizing his contract value on the open market.

Dolphins: Two years ago, the Dolphins had to decide whether to exercise the fifth-year option on former first-round tackle Ja'Wuan James. Last year, the Dolphins had to decide whether to cut James before the fifth-year option payment became fully guaranteed. This year, they have to decide whether to apply the franchise or transition tag to him. Tagging him won’t be cheap, but letting him leave will require the Dolphins to find a new right tackle. Which won’t be easy to do.

Bills: Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander has signed a one-year extension, not that he would have been a candidate to be tagged. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, a former second-round pick of the Dolphins who arrived via waivers in October 2018, has said he’s in negotiations with the team; with Kyle Williams retiring, need may supersede whether Phillips is worth the eight-figure investment. Right tackle Jordan Mills has started 48 of 48 regular-season games, but that likely won’t be enough to get him tagged.

Jets: Plenty of Jets players are due to become unrestricted free agents, from quarterback Josh McCown to running back Bilal Powell to receiver Jermaine Kearse to cornerback Morris Claiborne. They’ve already re-signed receiver Quincy Enunwa, and none of the other names of potential free agents would justify spending cash that they’ve likely earmarked for guys who will be hitting the market in other cities.

Patriots: The kicker position in New England has been like the coaching position in Pittsburgh. While the Patriots won’t have only three kickers in 50 years, they’ve had only two in 23: Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. Gostkowski is due to become a free agent this year, and the franchise tag would seem to be a move that his current skill level doesn’t merit. He missed a field goal in the Super Bowl, and he nearly missed two others. Tackle Trent Brown, who thrived when thrust into the starting lineup in 2018, is due to hit the market. If the Pats didn’t use the tag on Nate Solder last year, they likely won’t use it on Brown. Ditto for defensive end Trey Flowers; if the Patriots wanted to keep him beyond 2018, they would have already signed him to a new deal.

Steelers: Multiple reports have indicated that the Steelers plan to use the transition tag on running back Le'Veon Bell, apparently in the hopes of trading him. If so, things could get even uglier, with a fight over the amount of the tag and a determined lack of cooperation from Bell, who would need to go along with the plan in order for the plan to work the way the Steelers would like it to.

Bengals: The Bengals previously extended the likes of Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Tight end Tyler Eifert and cornerback Darqueze Dennard are due to become free agents, but neither should prompt the Bengals to do something they haven’t done in six years — apply the franchise tag.

Browns: The Browns have a growing nucleus of great players. For now, none that are due to become free agents should compel the Browns to break out the tag.

Ravens: The first big personnel move for new G.M. Eric DeCosta was trading Joe Flacco. The second will be deciding whether to tag linebacker C.J. Mosley. If a long-term deal isn’t negotiated before the window for tagging Mosley closes, DeCosta could be forced to use the franchise tag in his first year on the job.

Texans: Linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, is due to hit the market. The Texans will have to decide whether to sign him to a long-term deal, tag him, or let him walk away. Tagging Clowney could spark a Terrell Suggs-style fight as to whether Clowney is an outside linebacker or a defensive end, since the latter designation carries a bigger one-year tender. However it plays out, Clowney has every reason to be upset with the Texans for taking full advantage of the rookie wage scale in order to avoid paying him big money right out of the gates — and to resist giving him the long-term deal he has earned.

Colts: G.M. Chris Ballard faces no dilemmas when it comes to whether to tag any of Indy’s pending free agents; the real question is whether Ballard will carve off some of his gigantic cap stash to make a big splash in the early days of free agency. He’s inclined to resist, but that could be easier said than done — especially with no viable in-house candidates for the tag.

Titans: Linebacker Derrick Morgan headlines Tennessee’s free-agent class. A 30-year-old with 0.5 sacks in 13 games won’t have to worry about being tagged.

Jaguars: Kicker Josh Lambo has a new long-term deal. He’s the only guy who would have merited any consideration under the rules of the tag.

Broncos: At one point, cornerback Bradley Roby looked to be headed for a 2019 tag. But after Denver traded Aqib Talib and made Roby the top corner across from Chris Harris, Jr., Roby didn’t play well enough to force Denver’s hand during the period for applying tags.

Chiefs: Pass-rusher Dee Ford becomes the first in what could be a long line of young players to force the Chiefs to make tough decisions. If tagged this year, Ford could force the Chiefs to move on from the likes of linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry. If not signed to a long-term deal this year, Ford could force the Chiefs into a mess of a situation next year, when both receiver Tyreek Hill and defensive lineman Chris Jones are due to become free agents. Looming over every decision made by the Chief is the eventual mega-deal that will be given to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Back to Ford, tagging him could spark a squabble over whether Ford is a linebacker or a defensive end, the same kind of fight that’s looming between the Texans and Jadeveon Clowney.

Chargers: Cornerback Jason Verrett may have been headed for the tag, but a torn Achilles tendon wiped out his contract year. Receiver Tyrell Williams is due to hit the market; he’s simply not tag-worthy.

Raiders: Two years ago, tight end Jared Cook parlayed a catch for the ages in a playoff game between the Packers and Cowboys into a big contract with the Raiders. Coach Jon Gruden has repeatedly gushed about Cook, and hopes to keep him. Whether that happens via the franchise tag remains to be seen.

Cowboys: Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (pictured) is on track for a second straight tag. Last year, he pounced on $17.1 million. This year, the tender spikes to $20.52 million. Which would make a long-term deal ridiculously expensive, and which would guarantee that Lawrence will hit the market in 2020, since his tag for 2020 would shoot to  $29.52 million.

Washington: For the first time in a long time, Washington won’t be at the epicenter of franchise tag talk. The team sent a fourth-round pick to Green Bay for safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix; the franchise tag would seem to be a bit too much to spend to ensure keeping him around. Once-promising receiver Jamison Crowder has never fulfilled his potential, and he missed too many games last year.

Giants: Safety Landon Collins stands out as the one player on the roster worthy of tag consideration; barring an extension, it quite possibly will happen.

Eagles: The team reportedly is considering the use of the franchise tag on Nick Foles, with an eye toward trading him. Although this approach would violate the CBA, Foles seems to be OK with it — possibly because his agents already know that he wouldn’t get on the open market a long-term contract worth more per year than the franchise tag will pay.

Vikings: The team has locked up every key young player on the roster except linebacker Anthony Barr, who has completed his rookie deal. The Kirk Cousins contract could make it difficult to tag Barr; the best bet for keeping him could be to let him shop himself during the legal tampering period, at which time he may realize the grass won’t be greener with a new team. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who signed a one-year deal last March, is a long-shot candidate to be tagged.

Packers: Green Bay hasn’t used the franchise tag for eight years and counting. Not long ago, it would have been a no-brainer to tag linebacker Clay Matthews. That won’t happen. Ditto for receiver Randall Cobb, whose four-year, $40 million contract is expiring.

Lions: Last year, the Lions tagged defensive end Ziggy Ansah with the goal of giving new coach Matt Patricia a year to evaluate Ansah. Seven games and four sacks later, Ansah won’t be tagged again.

Bears: There’s no one due to become a free agent who would or should merit serious tag consideration.

Panthers: See the Bears.

Buccaneers: Absent an extension, tackle Donovan Smith is expected to be franchise tagged. And for good reason. The 2015 second-round pick has started all 64 games of his career.

Falcons: A breakout star in Super Bowl LI, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett finally is poised for the open market. The Falcons likely won’t let him get there.

Saints: Running back Mark Ingram is heading to the open market. Regardless of whether the Saints hope to keep him for a ninth season, it won’t happen via the franchise tag.

Seahawks: Defensive end Frank Clark is expected to be tagged if not extended. Next year, things will get very interesting, absent a contract extension for quarterback Russell Wilson.

49ers: After 11 seasons with the Bears and one with the Giants, Robbie Gould has found a home in San Francisco over the past two years. The 49ers could choose to keep Gould around via the franchise tag.

Cardinals: An emerging star in 2016, when he racked up 12.5 sacks, pass rusher Markus Golden surely won’t be tagged. The same applies to linebacker Deone Bucannon, who undoubtedly will hit the market.

Rams: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was a so-so performer in the regular season. He elevated his game in the playoffs, but likely not enough to be tagged. Pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. likewise say a spike in his performance in the playoffs, but also not enough to be tagged. Using the franchise tag for a second straight year on safety Lamarcus Joyner would cost $13.5 million.

37 responses to “Team-by-team look at potential 2019 tag candidates

  1. Another absolute failure of negotiation, the franchise tag should be a 3 year guaranteed contract of the highest 32 paid NFL players, updated annually.
    That way a franchise player can’t leave, but this wierd slotted by position franchise tag is an absolute joke of the concept.

    The 5 year first round contact takes up 85% to 125% of the careers of first rounders

    The only player who really gets what their worth are UDFAs who are good; fee agency at 2 years.

  2. If the Steelers tag Bell a third time it will be even more proof how far the team has fallen. No respectable franchise should ever do that. Hell, even the Redskins stopped after doing it twice to Cousins.

  3. Not altogether sure tagging any player is a good idea. If you want to keep them, negotiate in good faith. If a player is delusional about his monetary value or just doesn’t want to play for your team, forcing him to stay is probably going to create more long-term problems than it solves. I am pretty sure it’s a bad idea for the Steelers to continue this bizarre dance with Le’Veon Bell. Cannot imagine they will ever get his signature or receive trade value worth the headaches this egomaniac has already caused.

  4. The players would be wise to coordinate their contract negotiations. Soon as Dak or thatdefensive guy signs, Dallas could start franchising zeke for the prime of his career. If they were to coordinate, then each could maximize value

  5. The Packers have not used the franchise tag in 9 years. The last player to recieve the tag was Ryan Pickett in 2010 and the Packers very shortly after signed Ryan to a long-term deal.

    When players are happy with the team they are with they normally don’t want to talk to other teams anyhow. Things get done.

    The franchise tag is a desperate last resort to keep unrestricted free agents. Well run teams normally don’t need it.

  6. If the Vikings tag Barr, Spielman should be fired on that same day. No way is Barr worth the contract and they already have one of those players on their team (Cousins), they don’t need another.

  7. The franchise tag is a desperate last resort to keep unrestricted free agents. Well run teams normally don’t need it.
    —–
    Teams with garbage rosters also normally don’t need it.

  8. “Teams with garbage rosters also normally don’t need it.”

    I assume you’re talking about the Vikings, who managed to land 3 players on the PFF Top 101 by sneaking two into positions 98 and 101. The Packers meanwhile had 4 players on the list.

  9. I like the tag, but you should not be able to use it more than once on the same player. Since you’re basically saying you see them (or are willing to pay them) like they’re a top 5 player at their position, then after one year if you can’t sign them to a long term deal, you trade them during the season or let them walk.

    Most teams are pretty good about using the tag. The Redskins and the Steelers are the ones who have been idiots about it.

  10. If the Steelers transition Bell, it will be a disaster. How many teams will give up anything of significance for a RB who they have to pay $14.5M a year and can’t tag him again.

    He gave up a full year’s salary to make his point, now just do the classy thing and let the guy walk. It’s not like they didn’t get their money’s worth out of the guy.

  11. freefromwhatyouare says:
    February 17, 2019 at 3:22 pm
    The Packers have not used the franchise tag in 9 years. The last player to recieve the tag was Ryan Pickett in 2010 and the Packers very shortly after signed Ryan to a long-term deal.

    When players are happy with the team they are with they normally don’t want to talk to other teams anyhow. Things get done.

    The franchise tag is a desperate last resort to keep unrestricted free agents. Well run teams normally don’t need it.
    /////////
    Do you even believe what you write? Players are all hired guns. They only have a short period of time to make as much money as possible, and will do so when give the chance. Players stay with teams because they get guaranteed money or long term contracts. None of these players are from Green Bay, nor do any of them care about Green Bay.

  12. mnrasslinggovjesse says:
    February 17, 2019 at 5:06 pm
    “Teams with garbage rosters also normally don’t need it.”

    I assume you’re talking about the Vikings, who managed to land 3 players on the PFF Top 101 by sneaking two into positions 98 and 101. The Packers meanwhile had 4 players on the list.

    ———

    Did the Vikings win some kind of trophy for this?

  13. NinersFan1973 says:

    If the Steelers transition Bell, it will be a disaster. How many teams will give up anything of significance for a RB who they have to pay $14.5M a year and can’t tag him again.

    He gave up a full year’s salary to make his point, now just do the classy thing and let the guy walk. It’s not like they didn’t get their money’s worth out of the guy.

    —————————————————

    We got our money’s worth out of him? Seriously? He missed the first three weeks of his rookie season to injury. He had a great second year. He missed most of his third year to suspension and injury. He was suspended for the first quarter of his fourth year. He sat out all of camp and preseason for his fifth year, coming in unprepared and throwing off the rhythm of the offense, which nearly led to an opening-game loss against the Browns. He sat out his entire sixth year after being offered a contract that would have made him the highest-paid running back in NFL history. All together, we’ve gotten about two good years out of him.

    I’m sorry, but I missed the part where Pittsburgh was hoisting Lombardis thanks to the contribution of this grade-A jackass and his spiritual twin Antonio Brown. They may not have been flashy, but we got our money’s worth out of Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward–and have the trophies to show for it. I’d rather have Bleier out there at 72 than ever see Bell in a Steelers uniform again. Rocky may not be able to run anymore but at least he’d have heart.

  14. SWFLPC.INC says:
    February 17, 2019 at 5:55 pm
    mnrasslinggovjesse says:
    February 17, 2019 at 5:06 pm
    “Teams with garbage rosters also normally don’t need it.”

    I assume you’re talking about the Vikings, who managed to land 3 players on the PFF Top 101 by sneaking two into positions 98 and 101. The Packers meanwhile had 4 players on the list.

    ———

    Did the Vikings win some kind of trophy for this?
    _______________

    I’m sure their bitter, and clueless fans will demand some kind of banner be raised at Bank McStadium to signify such a “distinguished honor”.
    skoLOL

  15. Gotta love packer fans. Spouting off how online articles “rate” their players better – yet the barely scratched it 6 wins. Or taunting a team for having a top of the league stadium? When it’s 2 below I’d much rather sit in US Bank Sounds stadium than sit next to some beached whale from gb on a metal bleacher seat. Again 6 wins guys maybe not the time to pop off about your great team.

  16. mnrasslinggovjesse says:
    February 17, 2019 at 5:06 pm
    The Packers meanwhile had 4 players on the list.
    —————

    Wow that’s cool, and that netted you a third place finish with a side of injury excuses.

  17. Franchising Dee Ford would be a mistake. Ford hasn’t demonstrated that he’s capable of leading the Chiefs D. Houston’s past injuries have done him in and Berry hasn’t made a significant contribution in 2 seasons. IMO, time to move on from them all.

  18. I for the life of me can’t find where anyone was forced to play in the NFL. Offer that guy a contract, negotiate and if he says no, let him go find someone who will pay him.

  19. cheeseisfattening says:
    February 17, 2019 at 6:47 pm
    Packer fans are so clueless they believe having average cap space gets the Packers special mentions.
    ______________

    Well, when you’ve spent a long season listening to every Barney berate Packer fans about how badly Rodgers’ new contract was going to be a cap killer, only to find out, ironically enough, it’s the Vikings who are going to have to slash and juggle a handful of contracts just to sign their draft class. ( But Hey, they’ve only got 5 picks this April, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. )

    It’s hilarious to get to shove it back in their stupid faces.
    So yes, I’ll keep on acknowledging that Green Bay is currently about 40 million under, placing them about 14th in cap space.
    Plenty of $$$ to sign their 10 picks and spend a little in free agency.

  20. Waffle – after the great free agents the packers brought in last year, I’d love to see Gute open the checkbook again! Another Wilkerson or Graham – oh no! The Lions must be worries about their competitor for 3rd place – good luck on the hat trick of third place finishes and excuses.

  21. NinersFan1973 says:
    February 17, 2019 at 7:49 pm
    I’d consider the Rams to be a pretty well run team the last two years and they used the tag in 2017 and 2018.
    ———-
    Agreed especially when Green Bay wants to hire anyone who stood next to McVay in an elevator. Funny how foolish people look when they don’t know what they are talking about and just use emojis and false pretenses to make their points lol!

  22. RMoss84HOF says:
    February 17, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    Agreed especially when Green Bay wants to hire anyone who stood next to McVay in an elevator.
    __________

    Matt LaFluer was hired and coached with two of the newest and most innovative head coaches in the league.
    He coached Matt Ryan to his most productive MVP season.
    Paid his dues and now is getting a shot to lead his own club.

    Now, most of us fully realize that none of this doesn’t necessarily signify anything and time will tell whether it was a good hire for Green Bay.

    What I do know is that LaFluer isn’t a lame duck coach, phoning in the last season of his contract.
    Underachieving one of the “most talent laden teams” in the NFL and has coached them to just two dismal playoff appearances in 5 long seasons, yet their clueless fans keep insisting how much they still trust him.

    When this particular coach has run out the string of his contract, and he’s scapegoated the last of his assistants, Loserville will be back to square one, starting over once again.

    Hopefully Green Bay will be looking to further build on a strong season.
    Right now, neither fan base can claim much of anything about the Packers new hire.
    Though I’m quite sure you Barneys will continue to do so.

  23. However it plays out, Clowney has every reason to be upset with the Texans for taking full advantage of the rookie wage scale in order to avoid paying him big money right out of the gates — and to resist giving him the long-term deal he has earned.

    He can be upset all he wants. He spent enough time on the injured list so far the Texans have every right to be upset with him and not offer him a ton of money. Also, when he signed his deal under the rookie wage scale, he received a $14.5M signing bonus and will have earned over $35M in his rookie deal. It’s hard to feel sorry for him…or any of these guys making that kind of money.

    As far as the Texans are concerned, he is under contract. If he doesn’t like it he can take the Le’Veon Bell route and just sit out. I will say this about Clowney though. Hats off to him for not throwing a temper tantrum last year since the Texans didn’t sign him to a new deal.

  24. Dee Ford can’t argue that he’s a defensive end because if he was he would know how to line up, onside, with his hand in the dirt.

  25. Ditto for defensive end Trey Flowers; if the Patriots wanted to keep him beyond 2018, they would have already signed him to a new deal.

    Wrong. They have many times let players they want test free agency. Players like Hightower, D. Mccourty and Julian Edelman have all had contracts expire only to come back to the Patriots after fielding other offers. The Patriots will not pay more than any outrageous offer made to these players, so they are willing to risk losing them but to say they don’t want them is stupid.

  26. Considering the salaries involved and the ability of these players I think the risk-reward just isn’t there, let all of them walk.

  27. You always make a franchise tag as a punishment. In case of Bell, it would have meant an exorbitant salary $3-4 mil ABOVE the next highest RB in the league. In the case of Clowney, he has played 62 games in 5 years and has 29 sacks. His tag number would be $15-18 million, right? Isn’t that a heck of a lot of money for a guy who puts a sack in every other game (and is known to take off lots of plays). JJ Watt worth $30 mil then?

  28. “However it plays out, Clowney has every reason to be upset with the Texans for taking full advantage of the rookie wage scale in order to avoid paying him big money right out of the gates”

    Sorry pardner, it doens’t work that way. Clowney has been oft-injured and hasn’t earned that kind of $$$ yet. Blaming the Texans for using the CBA that the NFLPA wanted is a special kind of stupid.

  29. RMoss84HOF says:

    February 17, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Gotta love packer fans. Spouting off how online articles “rate” their players better – yet the barely scratched it 6 wins. Or taunting a team for having a top of the league stadium? When it’s 2 below I’d much rather sit in US Bank Sounds stadium than sit next to some beached whale from gb on a metal bleacher seat. Again 6 wins guys maybe not the time to pop off about your great team.

    It’s always funny when Green Bay and Minnesota fans argue with each other. In hockey terms it’s a fight called a “purse swinger”

  30. The Eagles are going to negotiate a trade of Foles over the course of the next two weeks or they won’t tag him. They at least need to know that the basic framework of a trade is agreeable before tagging him and that he is agreeable to negotiating a new deal with the trade partner. I would think that Jacksonville would be most likely, Miami is a possibility, as is Tampa (all three Florida teams and Foles plays better in fair weather). Then you move into the NFC East territory of Washington, which could happen, or NY Giants, which I don’t see the Eagles setting them up with the nasty combination of Foles, Barkley and OBJ! With the exception of the Giants, your typical QB needy draft spots have already invested in young unproven QB’s and won’t be in the market (Arizona, San Fran, NY Jets – all have invested heavily in their QB prospects). I could see Oakland being a destination for Foles, but that would mean finding a third team to come into the trade and take on Carr – a possibility but lower odds! Broncos are out due to their recent acquisition of a QB, but the Cincinnati Bengals might finally be ready to cut bait with Andy Dalton.

    From my perspective those are the potential dance partners for the Eagles/Foles by way of a trade: Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Washington; and less likely Oakland and Cincinnati. There just aren’t a lot of teams that either don’t have a Top 15 QB or a high investment young QB they are going to wait on, so I think Foles might make it to the Free Agent market and end up signing with the Giants.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!