Once again, the franchise tag makes NFL free agency a lot less exciting.
Teams don’t mind tagging players before they reach free agency, which cuts down the market of available players. It’s unlikely the league or union figured when it invented the franchise tag that it would become a tool to keep guards or free safeties from becoming true free agents, but that’s what it has become.
There was plenty of activity with the tags this offseason, and here are the players who got them or will get them according to reports (we’ll continue to update this list before Monday’s deadline):
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
The Cowboys had only two options with Prescott: Sign him to a long-term extension or give him the franchise tag. A long-term deal for Prescott will be expensive and tricky, and the franchise tag allows the two sides a few more months to negotiate. Tagging Prescott does mean receiver Amari Cooper can hit the open market if the team can’t work out a deal before Wednesday, however.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
Once the Titans came to an agreement on a big extension for quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Sunday, it was clear that Henry would be tagged. Henry led the NFL in rushing yards and touchdowns last season, but also led the NFL in carries. He likely wants a long-term deal, which could set up a standoff between the Titans and their star rusher.
Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green
Green didn’t play at all last season as an injury suffered in training camp lingered. But he’s a seven-time Pro Bowler and the Bengals need weapons for presumed No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. Green will want a long-term deal, and the two sides have some time to work on that.
Pittsburgh Steelers OLB Bud Dupree
Dupree is a former first-round pick and finally had a big season in 2019. He posted 11.5 sacks and did enough that the Steelers didn’t want to lose him in free agency. The Steelers put the tag on Dupree, which was prudent considering some team would have overpaid him in free agency.
Patriots G Joe Thuney
Thuney, who has started all 64 games for the Patriots since he was a third-round pick, will remain in New England. Thuney has developed into a good starter, though it was still a little surprising the Patriots tagged him. But one of New England’s strengths is its line, and it should remain intact with the Thuney move. That is, unless the Patriots intend to trade him.
Minnesota Vikings S Anthony Harris
The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to a two-year extension, then used most of the cap savings to tag Harris, according to NFL Network. Harris is coming off a big season, emerging as a playmaker on a talented defense. Like many others who got the franchise tag, a trade can’t be ruled out.
Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry
If Henry could stay healthy, he could be one of the top few tight ends in the NFL. He has tremendous talent, and some bad injury luck, too. But Henry has done enough in his 41 games over four seasons that the Chargers were willing to pay the franchise-tag fee based on his potential.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Shaquil Barrett
The biggest news related to this move is that quarterback Jameis Winston did not get the tag, and therefore can test free agency. Less than a year ago, the idea that Barrett could get the franchise tag in 2020 would have sounded absurd. He had 14 sacks in five seasons with the Broncos and signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Bucs. Then he led the NFL with 19.5 sacks last season, and the Bucs weren’t letting him go.
Kansas City Chiefs DL Chris Jones
Jones was a vital part of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl championship team and they were never going to let him walk in free agency. While Kansas City would likely want to get Jones signed to a long-term deal, a tag-and-trade situation can’t be ruled out. The Chiefs should get some calls.
Baltimore Ravens OLB Matt Judon
Judon isn’t the biggest name on this list, but he’s a valuable player for a Ravens defense that was among the best in the NFL last season. Judon had 9.5 sacks last season and is 27 years old. The Ravens have lost big-name defensive talent the past few years in free agency, and didn’t want to lose Judon for nothing. A tag-and-trade could be possible, however.
New York Giants DE Leonard Williams
The Giants traded for Williams during last season, and that practically gave all the leverage to the player. The Giants couldn’t let Williams walk after a half of a season, so he’ll get the franchise tag. The former top pick of the New York Jets has been good at times but not the dominant player people thought he could be coming out of USC.
Denver Broncos S Justin Simmons
Simmons had a remarkable season, ranking first among all safeties in Pro Football Focus’ grades, and there was no question the Broncos were going to tag him. Broncos general manager John Elway has said he wants to get a long-term deal done with Simmons.
Washington Redskins G Brandon Scherff
Scherff was one of the few quality linemen set to hit the market. That’s why Washington tagged him. He’s a former top-five draft pick and a three-time Pro Bowler.
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue
Ngakoue wants out of Jacksonville — all of the other top Jaguars players have left, it seems — and the Jaguars aren’t letting him leave for nothing. Given Ngakoue’s displeasure with the tag, it seems like a trade is a good possibility.
Arizona Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake (transition tag)
The Cardinals liked what they saw from Drake after a midseason trade with the Dolphins last year. The Cardinals put the transition tag on Drake. That will allow Arizona to match any offer Drake gets from another team.
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