One of the NFL owners’ favorite and the players’ least-favorite provisions in the two parties’ collective bargaining agreement is the concept of the franchise tag. The tag, which gives teams the ability to retain exclusive negotiation rights with one departing unrestricted free agent per season, gives a player a one-year salary near the top of his position group’s value while the team attempts to come to a new long-term contract with said player.
In 2020, with the CBA talks ongoing and the NFLPA currently voting on the proposed deal, tags are particularly intriguing. If the players reject the deal, each team could use two tags on players if they so choose. However, only one tag is allowed if the CBA does pass, with the vote concluding on Thursday.
In the meantime, several teams are already planning to use the franchise tag on players for 2020. Here is a look at those who have made that decision so far. Note that teams normally have until eight days before the new league year starts to make their decisions on the tag; that would mean that the tag deadline should be March 10th. However, amid the discussions over the new collective bargaining agreement, the NFL has voted to extend the tag deadline to Monday, March 16th at 12 Noon Eastern, which is about the same time that the legal tampering period is set to begin.
Note: as of Monday afternoon, all of these designations were made official. Franchise and Transition tender amounts were also finalized on Monday and may be different from the projected amounts in each player discussion.
Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue
A third-round pick from Maryland in 2016, Ngakoue has quickly become one of the more productive and consistent pass rushers in the NFL. He has at least 8 sacks in each of his four years, and has missed only one game in his career. He also recorded an impressive 14 forced fumbles so far, including a league-leading six in 2017, when he was a Pro Bowler.
Defensive end carries the second-highest tag amount behind quarterbacks, with Ngakoue set to get about $19.3 million this year on the tag, which Adam Schefter reported was coming.
Kansas City Chiefs: DT Chris Jones
A frequent mock draft pick of the Packers’ in 2016, Jones went at 37 overall, 10 selections after Green Bay picked Kenny Clark. Green Bay avoided Clark hitting the free agent market thanks to the first-round fifth-year option, but Jones being a second-rounder means that Kansas City has no such leeway with him and will use the tag.
While Clark has been an excellent player for Green Bay, Jones is one of the league’s premier interior pass-rushers and has put up an astounding 24.5 sacks in the past two seasons alone. He would have drawn big money on the free agent market if he reached it, but Kansas City wisely will bring him back for another year on the tag.
While defensive ends get a big payday on the tag, tackles get about $4 million less. Jones’ tag is scheduled to pay him $15.5 million this year.
Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green
Another player often connected to Green Bay (though for other reasons and in other methods) is Green, whose second contract is up next week, leaving the Bengals to tag him. Although he sat out in 2019 with injuries, Green was a Pro Bowler every year between 2011 and 2017, hitting 1,000 yards six times and scoring double-digits three times in that span.
Wideouts come in just behind defensive ends in terms of the tag amount, with the tag value scheduled to be about $18.5 million.
Denver Broncos: S Justin Simmons
Simmons just finished up his fourth year after being a third-round draft pick in 2016 out of Boston College. He has been a starter for each of the past three years, and even including his rookie year he has multiple interceptions in each of his four seasons. He also set career highs with 15 passes defended and four picks in 2019.
The Broncos formally announced the tag decision on Friday. The safety tag should pay Simmons about $12.7 million in 2020.
Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Matt Judon
Judon, a fifth-round draft pick in 2016, is reportedly receiving the tag as of Friday morning. In Baltimore’s defense, there will be some question about whether he counts as a defensive end or outside linebacker, as the two positions would carry a difference of about $3 million in tag value. If he is deemed a linebacker, that would put his tag amount at about $16.3 million.
Last year, Judon recorded 9.5 sacks, his third straight season with at least seven. He also forced four fumbles while starting all 16 games and making his first Pro Bowl.
Los Angeles Chargers: TE Hunter Henry
One of the top tight ends potentially on the market, Henry is getting the tag as was largely expected. He missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL and played in 12 games last fall, recording 55 receptions, 652 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. The tight end tag is the lowest of any non-specialist position, expected to be worth just over $11 million.
Dallas Cowboys: QB Dak Prescott
With the two sides unable to come to an agreement by Monday, the Cowboys are putting the tag on Prescott, which means that wideout Amari Cooper will not be tagged. Prescott’s QB tag number is $26.65 million.
Tennessee Titans: RB Derrick Henry
Henry will get a tag of about $12.4 million after his tear through the playoffs in January.
Washington: G Brandon Scherff
All offensive linemen are tagged at the same number, so Scherff will receive a tag of just under $16 million.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE Shaq Barrett
Like Judon, Barrett’s position will specify his amount, either $19.1M as a defensive end or $16.1M as a linebacker.
Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB Bud Dupree
See Barrett above.
New York Giants: DT Leonard Williams
After trading for Williams at the deadline last year, Giants GM Dave Gettelman is tagging him this year for about $15.36 million.
New England Patriots: G Joe Thuney
Another top guard is off the table, as Thuney gets a $16 million tag for this year.
Minnesota Vikings: S Anthony Harris
The Vikings snuck this one under the deadline, tagging Harris. The safety number for this year is $12.62 million.
Arizona Cardinals: RB Kenyan Drake
The final tagged player is Drake, who came over from Miami in a trade midway through 2019. He was little-used in Miami in the early part of the year, but rushed for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in eight games with the Cardinals. His tag will be worth about $8.5 million in 2020.
Initial tag value estimates are taken from Overthecap.com
Editor’s Note: this post has been updated to reflect the news that the NFL has pushed back the tag deadline to Monday, March 16th.