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Franchise Tags could take possible Packers free agent targets off the market

The Packers appear more likely to make a run at a top-level free agent than at any point in Ted Thompson’s tenure, but a couple appealing options seem to be good candidates for franchise tags.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When Brian Gutekunst was hired as the Green Bay Packers’ new general manager, he made a promise to the team and to its fans about his player acquisition philosophy: he would “leave no stone unturned.”

One of those stones that seemed to stay rooted firmly in the ground during Ted Thompson’s tenure was true unrestricted free agency, particularly when it came to top-level players. In more than a decade, Thompson signed just three notable unrestricted free agents: Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, and Martellus Bennett.

Let’s just say he went two for three on those.

Meanwhile, there is anticipation and excitement about the potential for the Packers to dip into the free agent waters more significantly in 2018. For that reason, the Packers and their fans will likely be paying attention more closely to the Franchise and Transition Tags around the league, which may impact the team’s strategies.

For example, offensive lineman Justin Pugh is a name that has been mentioned by a couple of different sources as a good fit for the Packers, particularly if the team moves on from Bryan Bulaga. Even if the team keeps him around, Pugh could contribute at both tackle and guard.

However, in a list of tag predictions by ESPN’s team reporters, Jordan Ranaan projects that the Giants could use the Franchise tag on Pugh, largely because he is likely to be the top offensive lineman on the market this spring. However, Ranaan notes that the tag amount for linemen would likely be around $14 million, and projects New York to have just $24 million in salary cap space, making that a risky proposition.

Another player that has been mentioned as a possible Packers target is Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson, who missed most of 2017 with a torn ACL. However, in the same article, Jacksonville reporter Mike DiRocco indicates that Robinson would be a good candidate to get the tag should the Jaguars fail to come to a deal with him before the deadline.

Unlike Jarvis Landry of Miami, who is a slot receiver whose value came mainly from a high target volume, Robinson would be a good fit in Green Bay as a deep threat. He has the ability to take the top off the defense, which is something the Packers’ receiving corps seemed to sorely lack in 2017. Of course, if the Jaguars do elect to tag Robinson — though they currently have just $16 million in cap space which would be almost entirely eaten up by the tag — Green Bay would have to look elsewhere for a deep threat.

Of course, the Packers are a sure bet not to tag any of their players in 2018 after Davante Adams signed a new contract extension just before the end of the 2017 season. The team’s top remaining free agent is Morgan Burnett, whose level of play does not warrant a tag.