NFL franchise tag candidates for all 32 teams as window opens
NFL franchise tag candidates for all 32 teams originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The first transaction period of the 2023 NFL offseason is officially here.
On Tuesday, the franchise tag window opened for all 32 teams. Each squad has the opportunity to block a player on their team from reaching free agency in March by using the franchise tag. In return, the player will receive a hefty salary if the two sides can’t work out a long-term extension.
For the most part, teams hope to avoid using the franchise tag – only eight teams utilized it last offseason. It’s often seen as a last resort for retaining a player.
Here’s everything about the franchise tag and what players for each team could be tagged this offseason:
What is the franchise tag?
The franchise tag is a one-year contract that teams can use on one player set to hit unrestricted free agency. Each team can use the franchise tag once per offseason during a designated time period before free agency. This year, the window is from Feb. 21 to March 7.
Once a player is franchise tagged, the two sides have until mid-July to work out a long-term extension. If a deal isn’t reached, the player works on the one-year deal.
What are the non-exclusive, exclusive and transition tags?
Under the franchise tag, there are three options: non-exclusive franchise tag, exclusive franchise tag and transition tag.
Non-exclusive is the most commonly used, with a one-year offer of the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position over the last five years or 120% of his previous salary, whichever is greater. The tagged player can negotiate with other teams, but his current team can match any offer or receive two first-round draft picks if he signs with another team.
The exclusive tag is, as one might expect, more exclusive. It’s a one-year offer of the average of the top five salaries at the position for the current year, or 120% of his previous salary, whichever is greater. The tagging team has exclusive negotiating rights under this tag.
The transition tag is a one-year offer for the average of the top 10 salaries at the position. It guarantees the tagging team the right of first refusal to match any offer the player might receive. The tagging team is awarded no compensation if it chooses not to match a deal.
What are the franchise tag salaries for 2023?
For the non-exclusive, traditional franchise tag, here are the salary figures each player would earn on a one-year deal (via ESPN’s Field Yates):
Quarterback: $32.416 million
Running back: $10.091 million
Wide receiver: $19.743 million
Tight end: $11.345 million
Offensive line: $18.244 million
Defensive end: $19.727 million
Defensive tackle: $18.937 million
Linebacker: $20.926 million
Cornerback: $18.14 million
Safety: $14.46 million
Kicker and punter: $5.393 million
What players could be franchise tagged?
Most teams will not use the franchise tag, but here’s the top option for each team (if applicable):
Arizona Cardinals: DE Zach Allen
The Cardinals aren’t likely to use the franchise tag, but Allen could be a candidate after J.J. Watt retired. The 25-year-old DE had a career-best 5.5 sacks, 10 TFLs and 20 QB hits in 2022.
Atlanta Falcons: OT Kaleb McGary
McGary played his best football at right tackle in 2022, earning an 86.6 overall grade by Pro Football Focus while allowing six sacks in 17 starts. Atlanta has the cap space to pay McGary.
Baltimore Ravens: QB Lamar Jackson
If Jackson and the Ravens can’t work out a long-term deal, he’s a lock to get tagged. Baltimore can’t afford to lose its franchise quarterback for nothing.
The Bills were 13-1 with Poyer in the lineup last season. Without him? Buffalo went 1-3, with losses to the Dolphins, Jets and Vikings. He’s a critical piece of their secondary at safety.
Carolina Panthers: No candidates
Center Bradley Bozeman is the most likely tag candidate in Carolina, but it would be an overpay at over $18 million. QB Sam Darnold and RB D’Onta Foreman are also pending free agents.
Chicago Bears: No candidates
RB David Montgomery is an option, but it’s not worth the cap space on a player who isn’t among the best at his position. Not to mention running back isn’t a premium position in the NFL.
Cincinnati Bengals: S Jessie Bates III
The Bengals tagged Bates last year and they could do it again if no extension is reached. He’s clearly a key part of the defense at safety and in the locker room as a team captain.
Cleveland Browns: No candidates
Kareem Hunt would be an option, but they have Nick Chubb. Jacoby Brissett would be an option, but they have Deshaun Watson. No Browns free agent makes sense to tag in 2023.
Dallas Cowboys: RB Tony Pollard
The Cowboys have two tag options in Pollard and Dalton Schultz, who they tagged last year. The 25-year-old RB is a better option after a breakout 2023 season amid Ezekiel Elliott’s decline.
Denver Broncos: DE Dre’Mont Jones
Jones was a rare bright spot for the Broncos in 2022, reaching career-highs in sacks, tackles and TFLs. He’d be pricey at just under $20 million, but it’s justified for the 26-year-old DE.
Detroit Lions: S Deshon Elliott
Elliott had a breakout in his debut season with the Lions, becoming an integral part of their defense. At just 26 years old, the $14.46 million price tag wouldn’t be hard to swallow in 2023.
Green Bay Packers: No candidates
The Packers’ salary cap situation likely won’t allow them to use the franchise tag, but there aren’t any worthy candidates, anyway. Adrian Amos and Allen Lazard are their top free agents.
Houston Texans: No candidates
On the other end of the spectrum, Houston has cap space – it just has no one to use it on. The Texans will have to look outside the organization to add talent in DeMeco Ryans’ first season.
Indianapolis Colts: DE Yannick Ngakoue
Ngakoue was his usual self in his first season with the Colts (9.5 sacks). He’s been a productive and reliable player since he was drafted in 2016, reaching at least eight sacks every year.
Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Evan Engram
Engram signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Jaguars last March, and boy did he prove it. The tight end was critical to Trevor Lawrence’s second-year success and has earned big money.
Kansas City Chiefs: OT Orlando Brown Jr.
Brown played on the franchise tag last season. Protecting Patrick Mahomes’ blindside after the Chiefs traded a first-round pick for him in 2021, Brown has proven his value.
Las Vegas Raiders: RB Josh Jacobs
After having his fifth-year option declined, Jacobs led the NFL in rushing yards. The Raiders might not want to pay him long-term, but he would be well worth the $10.091 million tag.
Los Angeles Chargers: S Nasir Adderley
Derwin James got a lucrative extension last summer, so the Chargers might not want to pay up two safeties. But for one year while Justin Herbert is still on his rookie deal, it’s probably worth it.
Los Angeles Rams: S Taylor Rapp
Since being drafted in the second round in 2019, Rapp has developed into a stalwart in the Rams’ secondary. Los Angeles can’t afford to lose him as their stars begin to age.
Miami Dolphins: TE Mike Gesicki
Gesicki was not a fit in Mike McDaniel’s offense, so this would likely be a tag-and-trade scenario.
Minnesota Vikings: No candidates
Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and center Garrett Bradbury are potential options, though both seem unlikely. They’re quality starters but don’t warrant the tag salary.
New England Patriots: CB Jonathan Jones
Jones was tasked with handling opposing star receivers for the first time in 2023. While the results weren’t perfect, he provides value as a slot option if the Pats add better outside depth.
New Orleans Saints: DE Marcus Davenport
As usual, the Saints’ cap situation makes this one tricky. Davenport is worth holding on to even after a down year, though – whether he’s on the roster or traded for a decent draft pick.
Jones and Saquon Barkley are the tag candidates for the Giants, but they have to value their starting QB. Ideally for New York, it’s able to extend one of these guys and tag the other.
New York Jets: No candidates
The Jets have several decent free agents – Quincy Williams, LaMarcus Joyner, Sheldon Rankins, Connor McGovern – but none will command anything near franchise tag-level salaries.
Philadelphia Eagles: Javon Hargrave
Howie Roseman has a lot of decisions to make after Philly’s Super Bowl loss. Key free agents include Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, James Bradberry, T.J. Edwards, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Isaac Seumalo and Jason Kelce. Hargrave gets the nod because he’s the youngest – and most productive – of those three defensive linemen.
Pittsburgh Steelers: No candidates
On the other side of Pennsylvania, the Steelers won’t have to worry about the franchise tag in 2023. Their top free agents are Terrell Edmunds, Larry Ogunjobi and Cameron Sutton.
San Francisco 49ers: Mike McGlinchey
Maintaining a strong offensive line will be critical for whichever young quarterback (Brock Purdy or Trey Lance) is starting next season. McGlinchey started all 17 games at right tackle last year.
Seattle Seahawks: Geno Smith
Imagine reading this 12 months ago: Seattle can’t let Smith out of the building. It’s true, though, after the 32-year-old had a career renaissance while leading the Seahawks back to the playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jamel Dean
There are massive questions on offense after Tom Brady’s retirement, but Tampa Bay can lock down a strong secondary by retaining Dean. He had two interceptions in 15 starts last season.
Tennessee Titans: No candidates
Guard Nate Davis and linebacker David Long were both good, not great, last season. They’re both young, so the tag is possible, but Tennessee would benefit from longer-term deals worth less money.
Washington Commanders: Daron Payne
Payne’s first Pro Bowl season came at the perfect time. He had 11.5 sacks in 2023 after totaling 14.5 in his first four seasons combined. The 25-year-old DT is one of the top free agent defenders.