This year, there are 15 players that have been franchise tagged (Kenyan Drake was transition tagged by the Cardinals but included within the 15). In a year like this, the franchise tag is likely a better option than most years due to the uncertainty of the cap for this season and possibly even next season. An extra year to gain information about how the league will adapt and an extra year to negotiate a contract with the players are both great reasons to tag a player. This has been seen with 15 players tagged whilst just 6 were tagged last year and 5 the season before (Chris Jones and Derrick Henry have since signed a long-term deal with the Chiefs and Titans respectively).
Arizona Cardinals – Kenyan Drake RB ($8,483,000)
Drake was transition tagged by the Cardinals which guarantees them the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may make with another team. Drake was electric last year once he was traded from the Dolphins to the Cardinals. After averaging only 3.7 yds/carry on 47 attempts and 0TDs with the Dolphins, Drake exploded for 8TDs whilst averaging 5.2 yds/carry on 123 attempts. This allows the Cardinals to see if Drake can continue this impressive pace, at 26, he’s young enough to be given a multi-year contract. Running backs are usually replaceable so one more year of Drake before finding a new starter next year isn’t a bad idea, if Eno Benjamin can be as electric at RB as he will be when returning kicks, then he could be the replacement.
Baltimore Ravens – Matthew Judon OLB ($16,808,000)
Over the last 4 years, Judon made just $3,900,736 whilst returning 28.5 sacks. Now he will make over 4 times that in just one year. To add to this, he’s coming off a career high 9.5 sack season leading to a pro bowl nod. He is a perfect fit in the Ravens scheme and can lead a very young LB core with the draft additions of Queen and Harrison. There is no doubt that Judon will get a big payday next offseason from another team, and after listening to Bootleg Football (highly recommended) the Colts are a good bet to land him if he doesn’t resign with the Ravens. Something which is likely considering the upcoming negotiations with Lamar Jackson and Ronnie Stanley who will likely take priority.
Cincinnati Bengals – AJ Green WR ($17,865,00)
This is likely the last year Green spends in a Bengals uniform and I would not be surprised to see him traded before the season starts. He was a popular deadline day trade pick last season and the same could be this year. Keep him through camp to help teach rookies Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins as well as help continue the development of Tyler Boyd before trading Green to recoup what they can. The Patriots, Jets and 49ers are potential landing spots. Patriots and 49ers looking for a spark to help them dive further into the postseason and the Jets looking for a veteran to develop the young inconsistent QB, Sam Darnold.
Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott QB ($31,409,000)
By far the most controversial tag of the year, Prescott is the only QB to be tagged. Prescott is a good QB if not great. His stats put him in the top tier of QBs, 4902yds, 30TDs:11INTs and a 99.7 rating. However, the output of point and wins is disappointing for a QB surrounded by such a strong supporting cast. The tag gives new coach Mike McCarthy and the rest of the new regime a chance to assess him before committing to a player at the most important position in the NFL.
Denver Broncos – Justin Simmons FS ($11,441,000)
Simmons has been steady throughout his career which is no bad thing. Having a reliable player at the safety position is important, he can stop any large gains down the field and can turn a game around with 4 INTs and 15 pass breakups last year. Elway is waiting for a season where Simmons becomes a game changer or to see if he can become a “star” rather than “very good”. A second year in Vic Fangio’s system and playing alongside Kareem Jackson will give him a good chance, I reckon he’ll be signed long term before next year’s free agency, he’ll have that breakout year.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Yannick Ngakoue DE ($17,788,000)
The Ngakoue saga continues. After having a rather public argument with the team owner’s son (Tony Khan), Ngakoue is still trying to be traded. As the Jags waited till after the draft to potentially trade him, his value has decreased. The Jags wanted a first round pick, they will likely get a 3rd at the trade deadline this year. My expectation is Ngakoue opts out of the year (Covid 19 being a convenient excuse) before opting in once traded when the Jags realise, he’s leaving. A consistent over 8 sacks a year rusher, Ngakoue would collect a 3rd round compensatory pick for the Jags, but the Jags will trade him to move up a few spots. They are in the depths of a rebuild, they need the draft capital.
Kansas City Chiefs – Chris Jones DT (4 year – $85 million)
The first of the tagged players to be turned into a long-term deal. Jones said he wouldn’t player for less than $20 million a year. It seemed unlikely then that he would stay in Kansas City but due to a low cap hit for 4 years on the Mahomes deal, this remind possible. This is result of Mahomes player a team game with his contract rather than go for full market value, a top tier interior pass rusher who’d one-season removed from a 15.5 sack season. Mahomes made this possible and the Chiefs stay strong for the future.
Los Angeles Chargers – Hunter Henry TE ($10,607,000)
Hunter Henry’s output does not match his potential. This isn’t helped by injuries; he missed the entire 2018 season. The tag will allow the Chargers to have one more year to see if Henry becomes an elite tight end or another OJ Howard. However, with either Tyrod Taylor or rookie Justin Herbert at QB, I don’t expect Henry’s stats to improve, however, a rookie QBs best friend is a good TE.
Minnesota Vikings – Anthony Harris FS ($11,441,000)
Harris is coming off a career year with a league leading 6 INTs. Playing in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford (sorry Bears fans) great DBs are needed and Harris has become one. Alongside Harrison Smith, the Vikings have one of the best safety duos in the league. Add this with promising rookie Jeff Gladney at CB and this defence is returning to dominance.
New England Patriots – Joe Thuney G ($14,781,000)
One of the best guards in the game, Thuney looks like he will become the next victim of Belichick’s strict contract outlook. The Patriots and Thuney are reportedly not close to a deal. However, this year was important to keep Thuney, hence the franchise tag. Dante Scarnecchia left and the Patriots have a new generation of O-Lineman in Isaiah Wynn, Hjalte Froholdt and Yodny Cajuste as well as this year’s rookies. They will need Thuney’s leadership in this post Brady era. He has started games at tackle, guard and centre for the Patriots, he is invaluable – but Belichick will let him go next year and replace him with a guy nobody’s heard of.
New York Giants – Leonard Williams DE ($16,126,000)
After the Giants traded a 3rd and 4th for the former sixth overall pick, they were hoping to have stolen a great pass rusher from their city rivals. However, a disappointment is an understatement. Never a factor with only 0.5 sacks and 2 tackles for loss, he seems a bust. A bust getting paid $16,126,000 is not a good look for a struggling team at the moment. This franchise tag is likely money down the drain and no team will trade for him with the tag value on him. At least Gettleman is capable of making Bill O’Brien look competent.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Bud Dupree LB ($15,828,000)
Alongside Devin Bush (inside) and TJ Watt, the line backers of the Steelers are quite amazing. They are the core of this top 5 defence. However, the tag value may increase if Dupree wins a grievance case to be registered as a DE and not a LB, it leads to more money. Dupree’s speed and refusal to slow is deadly. Not just demolishing QBs but also stuffing runs, especially successful when playing against counters. The Steelers should do all they can to retain Dupree, defence wins championships.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Shaq Barrett LB ($15,828,000)
Probably the most predictable of all these tags, Barrett will have to produce again for a long-term deal. It is no surprise that a rusher who recorded 14 sacks in 4 years, leaves and joins a second team and explodes for a league leading 19.5 sacks, gets tagged. Barrett has got to prove he’s not a one-year wonder. The speed that he can carry on his rushes is ridiculous and his fluid movement will beat any rookie or unathletic tackle. I predict a regression to around the 10-sack mark, but 10 sacks also gets paid in the NFL.
Tennessee Titans – Derrick Henry RB (4-year $50 million)
Tagging the human wrecking ball was a great idea from the Titans, load up for one more year before replacing Henry, you should rarely give a RB a second contract. This is also the case for Henry. People point to his speed and power, he’s unique. However, he looks for contact, a physical runner. These types of runners slow down quicker than shiftier backs. Therefore, the Titans should have tagged him and run him into the ground on route to a Superbowl and then let him go, even if it would be a year too early. However, they signed him for 4 years which seems like a mistake. They are tied in too long. However, after 2 years, they can move on from Henry with only $6 million of dead cap. This is perfect for the Titans; they have Henry throughout his prime and do not have only a single season to find a replacement. Love this deal from the Titans view.
Washington (INSERT NAME HERE) – Brandon Scherff G ($15,030,000)
Scherff is one of the few bright spots for Washington over the past years. A pro bowl right guard he has been keeping the QB safe from the right side of the pocket for years. Sadly, the O-Line is 5 strong and Scherff can’t play every spot. This is why he is desperately needed, the current starting left tackle is Cornelius Lucas, not good for the starting QB. Even worse news is that the team and Scherff were reportedly far away on contract talks, however, he has expressed interest to stay in Washington. A regime change with new head coach Ron Rivera could keep Scherff around for the future. Good guards are hard to find. Consistent pro bowl guards like Scherff are almost impossible – he needs a long-term deal.