In a perfect world, teams and players would always come together on long-term contracts that both sides are happy with.
When that doesn’t happen, there’s the franchise tag.
The tag isn’t popular with players because it’s only one year, though it’s often for a small fortune over that one year. Le’Veon Bell’s holdout last season might change the game for those players who are unhappy to be tagged. Perhaps we’ll see more holdouts in the future.
The deadline to give the franchise or lesser-used transition tag is Tuesday afternoon, and here are the decisions that have been made:
Pass rushers dominate the franchise tags
OLB Jadeveon Clowney, Houston Texans: Clowney, the first overall pick of the draft in 2014, has come on strong the last couple years, and the Texans didn’t want to lose him.
Clowney was tagged and the team said it wants to continue to work on a long term deal. That’s a good sign for a player who has become a strong pass rusher and is excellent against the run.
DE DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas Cowboys: Lawrence could be a holdout candidate, like Bell was last year.
Lawrence got the franchise tag last season and did not want it again, but the Cowboys couldn’t come to a long-term deal so they used the tag. Lawrence’s tag is more than $20.5 million. The Cowboys won’t want that cap number on their books all offseason, but they weren’t going to let their best defensive player test the market.
DE Frank Clark, Seattle Seahawks: Clark was a controversial draft pick coming out of Michigan, but he has been a productive player.
Clark has 32 sacks over the past three seasons, including a career-best 13 last season. The 2015 second-round pick is a valuable edge pass rusher, and the Seahawks weren’t going to risk losing him. He got the franchise tag, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.
DT Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons: Jarrett strangely slipped to the fifth round of the 2015 draft, and that looked even weirder as Jarrett developed into a premier interior defender. Jarrett’s sacks have increased each season, and he had six for the Falcons last year. The Falcons took the safe route and used the tag on Jarrett, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
OLB Dee Ford, Kansas City Chiefs: Ford, a fantastic pass rusher whose offsides penalty in the AFC championship game last year allowed the Patriots to go on and win a Super Bowl, was tagged according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media. The Chiefs, who are moving to a 4-3 scheme, could end up trading Ford.
K Robbie Gould, San Francisco 49ers: Not wanting to lose a reliable veteran kicker, the 49ers gave Gould the franchise tag. In two seasons with the 49ers, the former Bears kicker is 72-of-75 on field-goal attempts. That 96 percent is the second-best in NFL history over a two-year stretch, with a minimum of 32 attempts.
Who didn’t get the franchise tag?
S Landon Collins, New York Giants: In a surprise, the Giants reportedly don’t plan to tag their do-everything, three-time Pro Bowl safety. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said the Giants believed the tag number, which is more than $11.1 million, was too high. If Collins, who just turned 25, hits the market he’ll be one of the top available defenders.
LB C.J. Mosley, Baltimore Ravens: Mosley has made the Pro Bowl in four of his five NFL seasons, but the Ravens seem willing to let him test the market. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the Ravens don’t plan to use the tag on Mosley. There should be plenty of demand for the playmaking three-down linebacker.
QB Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles said last week they wouldn’t tag former Super Bowl MVP Foles, as had been speculated. That allows Foles to become an unrestricted free agent instead of the Eagles trying to work out a trade, and already the Jacksonville Jaguars will reportedly be the landing spot.
RB Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers: For the first few weeks of the offseason, the popular rumor was that the Steelers would give Bell the transition tag and then work on a sign-and-trade. That never made much sense, and cynically it seems that might have been one last way for the Steelers to make Bell sweat, because they said last week there would be no tag for Bell.
K Stephen Gostkowski, DE Trey Flowers, OT Trent Brown, New England Patriots: The Patriots somewhat surprisingly passed on using the tag on any of their three main candidates. The tag for Gostkowski would have been relatively cheap. Flowers could end up getting the biggest contract among non-quarterbacks, as many of the other top pass rushers slated to hit free agency were tagged. And Brown will be an intriguing left tackle on the market after a good year. The Patriots have earned the benefit of the doubt with their personnel moves, but it’s a little odd they’d let all three potentially test the market.
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