An Early Look at 2018 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

 

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Falcons
Projected Tag: $17.5M
Tag Potential: Unlikely
The former 1st round pick battled injuries through 4 years in Tampa before joining the Falcons via free agency in 2015. He appears to have found a home in the Atlanta defense, but with limited 2018 cap space, is more likely to be offered a contract extension around $10M per year over a 1 year tag north of $17M.

 

DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys
Projected Tag: $17.5M
Tag Potential: Unlikely
With around $10M in projected cap space for 2018, and holes to fill across the lineup, the Cowboys are more likely to let Lawrence walk at this point. A $17M tag is near impossible with their current finances, and a multi-year deal in the $10-$12M per year range would be difficult. Lawrence has the potential to be one of the top defensive free agents on the market.

 

Tahir Whitehead, OLB Lions
Projected Tag: $15M
Tag Potential: Possible
A rough 2016 had Whitehead a possible cap casualty this past March. Detroit stuck with him and he’s rewarded them with a huge step forward in 2017. While a $10M raise isn’t warranted, Detroit may use the tag as a placeholder to work out a long-term, lower average/cap extension with Whitehead next spring.

 

Morgan Burnett, S, Packers
Projected Tag: $11.5M
Tag Potential: Possible
The 28-year old is in the final year of a 5 year contract with the Packers, and his grading as a Top 15 safety through 12 weeks. His calculated market value stands right around the value of the projected franchise tag, making him a decent candidate for one this March.

 

LaMarcus Joyner, FS, Rams
Projected Tag: $11.5M
Tag Potential: Possible
The Rams have shown their willingness to tag defensive backs in recent years, and may follow suit with Joyner, who sits as the 3rd best graded safety in football according to PFF. The 26 year old will be inline for a raise north of $10M with a long-term deal, but LA may look to make him play out a 1 year tender before diving in with a multi-year contract.

 

Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins
Projected Tag: $16M
Tag Potential: Unlikely
The Dolphins reportedly shopped Landry at the deadline, and have done little to maximize his potential in nearly 4 seasons. With around $7M in projected cap space available as of now in 2018, a $16M salary for a player they’re unsure about seems highly unlikely. Landry may join fellow draft-mates Sammy WatkinsMarqise LeeAllen Robinson, & Jordan Matthews as free agent WRs this spring. He carries a market value just north of $14M currently.

 

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings
Projected Tag: $22.5M
Tag Potential: Unlikely
With a number of “acceptable” quarterbacks poised to hit free agency (including current Vikings starter Case Keenum), the price to keep Bridgewater in Minnesota shouldn’t approach the $22M it would take to franchise tag him. If the Vikings and Bridgewater are interested in keeping their marriage together, Tyrod Taylor’s 2 year $30M (haf guaranteed) bridge deal in Buffalo seems a more likely approach.

 

Malcolm Butler, CB, Patriots
Projected Tag: $14.6M
Tag Potential: Possible
Butler and the Pats have been through a bit of a rollercoaster over the past 12 months, but New England is a better defense with him in the lineup. His production has dropped off a bit from a spectacular 2016, and the Pats have a significant chunk of cap allocated to Stephon Gilmore going forward, putting his future in serious doubt. It’s more likely Butler hits the market as the top cornerback available.

 

Alex Okafor, DE, Saints
Projected Tag:$17.5M
Tag Potential: Unlikely
Like Clayborn above, Okafor has found a second-wind with a new team in 2017. A Top-10 edge defender according to PFF, the 26 year old is certain to markedly increase his current $2M salary, however a jump to $17.5M seems unlikely. He’ll be seeking a deal around $10M per year this spring.

 

Patrick Robinson, CB, Eagles
Projected Tag: $14.6M
Tag Potential: Slightly Possible
Robinson has earned $18.6M across 8 NFL seasons, so the potential for $14.6M at age 31 seems silly. But it’s tough to ignore how great a fit he’s been in Philadelphia this season on his veteran minimum $775,000 salary. He carries a market value around $6M per year, and should be inline for a multi-year extension similar to Brandon Carr’s deal in Baltimore. A tag may be used to bide time for these negotiations.

 

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Projected Tag: $14.5M (120% of 2016 tag)
Tag Potential: Unlikely
The generally dominating back currently ranks #23 among all running backs according to PFF, but his ability to gain yards from scrimmage in both the pass & run game still push him far ahead of any other back in football. His $10.25M calculated market value would surpass all other running backs by $2M. A 2nd franchise tag in Pittsburgh would mean a 1 year salary of $14.5M, an extremely unlikely scenario with the Steelers in cap trouble already.

 

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
Projected Tag: $22.5M
Tag Potential: Very Likely
This was always going to be a likely scenario as the Niners have enough cap space to start a new league in 2018. It makes sense to put a high-priced, but low-risk tag on Garoppolo to see what they have in their potential franchise QB. Expect the Niners to use the “Kirk Cousins” approach with Jimmy until further notice.

 

Sheldon Richardson, DT, Seahawks
Projected Tag: $14M
Tag Potential: Somewhat Possible
Seattle only stands with around $8M in projected cap space for 2018 currently, but may force a few veteran cap hits off the roster this March to make room for long-term build. Richardson has been a strong piece to the middle of the defense since being acquired by the Jets this summer, but a $14M salary just may be too rich for Seattle’s blood. A more flexible multi-year extension seems a more likely scenario this winter.

 

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins
Projected Tag: $34.4M (144% increase from 2017)
Tag Potential: Possible
Cousins has been more than happy to accept nearly $44M in salary over the past 2 seasons, and one would think he’d be quick to sign a 3rd franchise tag, set to come in at $34.4M in 2018.  All this would mean is $78.3M across 3 years – 2nd only to Matthew Stafford’s current $87M 3-year plan in Detroit. The Redskins’ have other mouths to feed (including rebuilding a receiving arsenal for their QB), but do boast around $50M in projected cap space for 2018. So while $34.4M (20%) against the cap to one player may be ridiculous – it’s doable.

Category: NFL Spots

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Article by: Michael Ginnitti

Managing Editor of Spotrac