The deadline for extensions for franchise players is now less than a week away so if things are going to heat up with contract negotiations this is the time. Here is a look at this years franchise players with some thoughts on their situations.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys
I’ve discussed Prescott’s contract over and over so there really isn’t much more to say about it. Prescott has wanted a four year contract and Dallas prefers a five year deal. In my opinion it makes little sense for the two sides to not get this contract done- Dallas can use the cap relief in 2021 and there is no reason for Prescott not to do a deal unless he is prepared to hold out another year. . I don’t believe the Mahomes contract changes much here, but Dallas might benefit getting a contract done before the Texans and Deshaun Watson come to an agreement. I still believe that the solution here is a five year contract where the money over the tag averages somewhere over the Russell Wilson $35 million a year contact. Prescott already signed his tender so that is easily workable. Jerry Jones has often done some last minute pitches so I’d lean toward them finding a way to complete this contract.
Chris Jones, Chiefs
Unlike Prescott, Jones has insinuated that he has no intention to sign the tag to play the year. Jones should be looking for a contract that averages in the ballpark of $21 million a year and that may be too expensive for the Chiefs who already invested in Frank Clark on the defensive line and have a number of players coming up for extensions in two years. Throughout the offseason I have never gotten the feeling that the Chiefs value Jones at the level he should be compensated at and they also have some salary cap concerns. The Mahomes contract did little to improve their cap room nor to increase his salary over the next two years so I’m not sure if that bodes well for a mega-extension here. The Chiefs are setting the stage for taking to less so the team overall can make more so maybe they convince Jones to but into that. I’d lean toward this one not getting done and Jones being a late report to camp.
Yannick Ngakoue, Jaguars
The Jaguars are a mess right now and I am not sure many of the older guard players want to really even be there at this point. Ngakoue took to Twitter to basically share those thoughts with Tony Khan and asked to be traded. This has potential to get messy with such a short window to make a trade and agree on a $20 million or so a year contract. This was probably something that could have been done in the offseason so both sides could save face and move on but this has potential to be real drama as the season approaches. I would be very surprised if this contract was done.
AJ Green, Bengals
I actually forgot that Green was a franchise player this year as there has been such little news out of this one. Green has had a great career and likely wants to be compensated similar to Julio Jones who signed a $22 million extension. Cincinnati did make Green the highest paid receiver in the NFL the last time they agreed to a contract but Green has been hurt two of the last three seasons and the team may want to see how Green meshes with their young QB. The Bengals are not a big injury guarantee team so I would think the long term impact of injury should not weigh heavily on them since Green previously agreed to a low guarantee on his last deal, but they may also be afraid of getting little ROI, especially in the middle of a pandemic. This is one that would be nice to see get done but I would lean toward it not getting finalized.
Matt Judon, Ravens
There has been no drama at all here. Judon has been pretty accepting of the franchise tag which is not surprising since this would be his first real payday in the NFL. Judon started 16 games last year and has been a pretty steady sack numbers guy. 90% of the time I would have thought that the Ravens would have let Judon walk but with a rookie QB coming off an MVP season there should be reason to keep him at least for this year. Former teammate Za’Darius Smith earned $16.5 million as a free agent in 2018 so Judon’s number should be slightly higher. Smith signed his one year deal long ago and I would think if there is a holdup here it is that the Ravens don’t want to invest this kind of money on a long term deal knowing that their QB could be in line for a hefty raise following this year.
Justin Simmons, Broncos
Of all the players on the tag this is the one that would surprise me the most if it did not get done. It would not take much for the Broncos to make Simmons the highest paid safety in the NFL with a $15 million a year contract and for a team that is sold on a rookie QB who will be under a cheap deal for the next two years it makes no sense to put this off. There is absolutely nothing to gain for the Broncos to wait and play this out for a season. It’s actually been a bit surprising that this one is not complete yet and I could see this being the first deal done this week.
Leonard Williams, Giants
This one was the worst use of the franchise tag, but the Giants backed themselves into a corner by trading for Williams last year in a season where the Giants were more likely to finish with the worst record in the NFL than in the playoffs. Williams signed his tender way back in April to lock in his salary for the year as this is the best case scenario for him anyway. Williams tracks more with the DJ Reader group of players who earn in the $13 million a year range but his talent and draft status have him looking for somewhere in the $17 to $20 million range. If he had a big year pressuring the QB he might just get there. This disparity is so big I can not see a deal even being considered by either side.
Shaq Barrett, Buccaneers
Barrett was everything the Buccaneers ever could have dreamed of last year nothing 19.5 sacks while making just $5 million. The problem for Barrett was that he was too good. A good year for Barrett would have put him in the discussion for earning $10 to $13 million a season as a 2nd tier pass rusher but there is no way he could sign for that after this kind of season. This type of season earns you a contract worth $20 million a year. While the Bucs are certainly all in on this season I am not so certain that they can get that far in on a player who a year ago signed for $4 million while trying to prove he could be a starter. Barrett has said he is torn on signing the franchise tag but I can not see a hold out. I think it would be more about just waiting on things before having to report. I would be pretty surprised if this deal was done in the next week.
Brandon Scherff, Redskins
Scherff was also an early adopter of the tag likely realizing that the odds of a long term deal were not great so it made sense to lock the tag in early. Scherff was on track to be the highest paid guard in the NFL but some injuries in the last few years may have made Washington more cautious. Washington may be undergoing some dramatic changes in the next year especially if Haskins does not play significantly better this season. Not sure that getting into a long term expensive investment on a guard makes sense until they have that sorted out. I think this is a one of those deals where both sides are better off with the player on the tag.
Bud Dupree, Steelers
A very typical use of the franchise tag. Dupree was a first round pick who was by no means a bust but certainly was not a top line player either but he made the most of his walk year recording 11.5 sacks, 68 tackles, and 16 tackles for loss. Off a season like that there is no way the Steelers could let him walk. A lot should ride on Dupree’s season as a duplicate year should move him way up the salary chain while a fallback would drop him down a notch. In both cases he will do well for himself but in a blowup year he is going to be in that $17-18 million a year category. The Steelers have cap issues next year so he could be free and clear if he plays on the tender he signed back in April. I would guess the Steelers will make an offer this week they deem fair but there may be much more to gain playing on the tag.
Joe Thuney, Patriots
I think the contract aspect of this one is very similar to that of Scherff in that the Patriots may or may not have a QB on the roster. New England is also a really old football team and if for some reason things go sideways there is probably more benefit in tagging Thuney again next year and trading him than offering him a big extension this year. Thuney’s ultimate salary should not be as high as Scherff’s but should certainly be in the $13 million a year range. The one thing is that the Patriots could use the cap room this year. If they could agree on a contract that didn’t pay him a penny over his tag number this year but gave the team cap relief that would be a way to maintain their trade rights without making an additional investment. That may be a difficult game to play but strategically maybe it makes some sense. I would lean toward no contract.
Anthony Harris, Vikings
This was a tag that surprised me when it happened. I thought the Vikings were going through some changes and they would have allowed Harris to walk away while they reset their salary cap and roster. Harris had 6 interceptions last year and it would probably make more sense for the Vikings to extend him and walk away from Harrison Smith but it seems as if they are deferring both decisions until next year. I think Harris’ salary ceiling will be lower than Simmons but in that $13 million a year range. If the Vikings do plan on a long term with Harris then not extending him now makes little sense. They made the same mistake with Anthony Barr a few years ago, ultimately having it cost more in the long run. Probably won’t be a deal at the deadline.
Derrick Henry, Titans
Reportedly the two sides have been in discussions but nothing looks to be getting done, which would be the best outcome for the Titans. Thus far the Titans have done everything right here by not rushing into an extension that puts Henry in that $13M+ a year club. Henry had a terrific year and may very well have a terrific season again, but any long term contract over $10 million at this position is risky. Henry already signed his tender so the Titans should be in no hurry to do a deal unless it is on their terms. If they make a resonable offer Henry should strongly consider it rather than hoping for a big free agent contract in 2021 or 2022.
Hunter Henry, Chargers
Henry is a terrific player when healthy and health is the reason why he hasn’t been extended yet. Would it shock me if the two sides came to an agreement in the coming days? Not really since the position is so undervalued at the top. Even if Henry was to get hurt again this year hes still going to get an upper level contract. He could benefit from George Kittle getting an extension and significantly raising the market which would probably tip the scales in favor of him playing on the tag unless the Chargers offer him the top contract at the position.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.