Franchise tag player options for all 32 NFL teams
Beginning Tuesday, NFL teams have a two-week window (ending March 6) to place a franchise or transition tag on one of their potential free agents. After assessing the pool of expiring contracts, here's the most logical player — if there is one, based on tag values relative to positions and team needs — for each club to franchise:
Arizona Cardinals — none: Their precious cap space must be preserved for pursuit of a quarterback, since none currently occupy the roster.
Atlanta Falcons — K Matt Bryant: He turns 43 soon but has been so intrinsic to this team's success over the years. The Falcons don't have much cap space, but they also don't have many free agents to strongly consider re-signing aside from DT Dontari Poe. But committing around $5 million to tag Bryant (maybe as a preliminary step to a longer contract) passes the smell test.
Baltimore Ravens — none: Ryan Jensen developed into one of the league's better snappers in 2017. But $15 million is too much for a center, even one who's only 26.
Buffalo Bills — CB E.J. Gaines: He quietly turned in a strong year at a premium position and will only be 26 at the start of next season. Keeping him teamed with Tre'Davious White, at least in the short term, isn't a bad option.
Carolina Panthers — G Andrew Norwell: He's coming off an all-pro campaign. But giving a guard left tackle money — a dilemma the franchise tag creates because all offensive linemen are grouped together salary-wise — is hard to stomach. Might be smarter to put the transition tag on Norwell, 26, and see what happens for a team that currently has around $20 million in cap space.
Chicago Bears — CB Kyle Fuller: A year ago, the team declined the 2014 first rounder's fifth-year option. But he finally showed ample signs he's developing into a front-line corner, his 22 pass break-ups tied for second in the league. The Bears might be wise to give Fuller an extended look while trying to keep an ascendant defense intact.
Cincinnati Bengals — none: TE Tyler Eifert is a nice player but just too fragile to guarantee an eight-figure salary.
Cleveland Browns — none: RB Isaiah Crowell was their leading rusher but is no more than a platoon player.
**Dallas Cowboys — DE Demarcus Lawrence: His 14 ½ sacks in 2017 trailed only Arizona's Chandler Jones. However Lawrence managed just nine combined in his first three seasons, so it almost behooves Dallas to put him in a prove-it scenario before committing long term.
Denver Broncos — none: With Von Miller busily recruiting Kirk Cousins in the social media sphere, this team needs to clear cap space, not eat into it.
**Detroit Lions — DE Ziggy Ansah: Consistency and durability have been issues, but Detroit probably can't afford to let a guy who had a dozen sacks last year walk.
Green Bay Packers — none: No reason to use the tag and not enough cap space to burn anyway.
Houston Texans — none: Given their top draft picks belong to Cleveland, they need to wisely earmark nearly $60 million in cap space — and that definitely means no tag.
Indianapolis Colts — none: After reaching a new deal with 45-year-old K Adam Vinatieri on Thursday, utilizing a tag no longer makes sense. There are far more talented players shaking loose whom GM Chris Ballard should be targeting with the more than $70 million he can bring to the negotiating table.
Jacksonville Jaguars — WR Allen Robinson: An ACL injury limited him to one game and one catch in 2017. But the 24-year-old has far more upside than fellow free agent Marqise Lee, and Robinson's 6-3 frame provides some margin for error for occasionally scattershot QB Blake Bortles.
Kansas City Chiefs — none: Even if they had sufficient cap room for a tag, they don't have a free agent worthy of one.
Los Angeles Chargers — none: Be nice to have a guy like S Tre Boston back, but not for anything near $11 million.
**Los Angeles Rams — S Lamarcus Joyner: WR Sammy Watkins is a bigger name, but Joyner was a far more productive player in 2017 ... not to mention safeties are around $5 million cheaper to franchise than wideouts.
**Miami Dolphins — WR Jarvis Landry: The man who led the NFL in receptions last year with 112 was officially franchised Tuesday night. Landry is a slightly curious choice given he averaged just 8.8 yards per catch in 2017 (all those grabs didn't even amount to a 1,000-yard season), and Miami has DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills under contract. But Landry's undeniable production (400 receptions in four seasons) apparently sealed his case.
Minnesota Vikings — QB Case Keenum: The NFC North champs are in a fascinating position, with nearly $50 million in cap space and most of the roster locked down — with the exception of an experienced quarterback. Tagging Keenum might seem like a no-brainer. However Minnesota will be in a tricky spot if they intend to pursue Kirk Cousins, especially if Keenum were to predictably sign a tag that would be worth well north of $20 million.
New England Patriots — WR Danny Amendola: His regular-season production (61 catches, 659 yards) doesn't warrant anything in the neighborhood of $16 million. But with WR Julian Edelman still rehabbing a knee injury, and TE Rob Gronkowski hedging on his future, the Pats may be compelled to tag postseason star Amendola as they did slot man Wes Welker six years ago. LT Nate Solder and CB Malcolm Butler would seem to be more deserving, but Solder's contract has a no-tag stipulation, while it's clear New England and Butler are headed for a divorce.
New Orleans Saints — none: They finally go into an offseason when they're not right up against the cap. Unfortunately, most of New Orleans' $30-plus million savings will probably go to QB Drew Brees, whose contract spares him from being tagged.
New York Giants — none: When you go 3-13, it's probably because of a dearth of franchise players.
New York Jets — none: They've got plenty of cap room, but no players worthy of a balloon payment. Better to hope useful players like QB Josh McCown and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins return on reasonable deals.
Oakland Raiders — none: Be nice to have a guy like ILB NaVorro Bowman back, and perhaps veteran S Reggie Nelson ... but only on team-friendly terms.
Philadelphia Eagles — none: Retaining contributors like RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Nigel Bradham and TE Trey Burton is usually preferable, but those are often the types of players other teams overpay for hoping to catch some Super Bowl lightning in a bottle.
Pittsburgh Steelers — RB Le'Veon Bell: After being franchised for $12.1 million in 2017, the price tag for the two-time all-pro goes up to $14.5 million this year — and GM Kevin Colbert will have to do some payroll slashing to make room for that figure. Still only 26, Bell is probably worth it, though Pittsburgh would be wise to make another tag a precursor to a long-term deal or risk a costly Kirk Cousins-esque escalation in the future.
San Francisco 49ers — none: With apologies to RB Carlos Hyde and S Eric Reid, there are better ways for the Niners to distribute their cap war chest even after securing QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
Seattle Seahawks — DT Sheldon Richardson: TE Jimmy Graham might also be a consideration after catching a team-high 10 TDs last season (plus the fact a tight end's tag, about $10 million, is among the lowest). But Richardson, 27, is four years younger and seems to be in Seatte's long-term plans even with a significant roster reshuffle apparently afoot.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers — none: They don't have anyone who merits a tag, which is another way of saying they have plenty of holes to fill and a quarterback who will likely soon command a megadeal.
Tennessee Titans — none: They signed Ryan Succop to a five-year, $20 million deal Tuesday, further proof that tagging kickers is probably the most economical route. Nice-but-expendable types like DE DaQuan Jones, G Josh Kline and ILB Avery Williamson should be allowed to test the market.
Washington Redskins — none: The drama would be delightful if they tried to construct a tag-and-trade scenario around QB Kirk Cousins. But that approach seems way too vengeful, fraught with potential disaster and would force the 'Skins to reduce their spending power by more than $34 million to merely hold Cousins hostage.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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