NFL Franchise Tag Season Begins

With the deadline to designate franchise players just two days away, many NFL teams began the process today and designating their franchise players. The official franchise designations were made by the Cardinals, Steelers, and Panthers on Chandler Jones, Le’Veon Bell and Kawann Short. The Giants will also be tagging Jason Pierre-Paul but did not officially place the designation on him. None of the names thus far are a surprise.

The Cardinals traded for Jones last season and while their season was disappointing Jones was very good posting 11 sacks, his third double digit sack total of the last four years. The tag value for Jones should be around $15 million which will just about cut the Cardinals estimated cap space in half. Jones should be looking for a contract in the $17-$18 million a year range so this is a reasonable use of the tag for Arizona. The Cardinals have done some big deals for players in the past so Jones has a good case for earning a big deal. The problem for the Cardinals is that they have the potential to lose more snaps to free agency than any team in the NFL so it might make sense to hammer out a long term contract with Jones rather than letting this linger.

Bell is the best running back in the NFL but a big question mark. He has had multiple knee injuries and also been suspended twice by the NFL. He plays a position that traditionally does not age very gracefully so this may just be the Steelers looking to keep him for one last season rather than a way to gain leverage in a negotiation. The Steelers used the exclusive version of the tag to completely block Bell from free agency (not that anyone was going to pay two first round picks for a running back anyway) because the price of the exclusive tag will be equal to the non-exclusive tag once Adrian Peterson is released or his cap number is reduced. This was similar to the Broncos decision to use the exclusive tag on Von Miller when the prices of the two were going to be equal. A $12 million salary is probably more than Bell is worth so if the Steelers will be negotiating in good faith on a long term contract this is a spot where Bell should lock in his $12M+ now and build a contract off of that figure being included in any contract.

Short will cost the Panthers about $13.5 million to keep on the tag. As an interior pass rusher he should be looking for a contract in excess of $17 million and may have more resolve in that quest given the Panthers recent extension for Mario Addison. This is one of those situations where the Panthers have probably wasted time on getting an extension done and are only seeing the prices and salary cap impact rise, but if the two sides were that far apart last year it is understandable why this happened.

Pierre-Paul will cost the Giants around $17 million on the tag, the second time JPP has been tagged in the last three years. JPP is incredibly talented and one of the rare ends in the NFL that plays most snaps and is effective in all aspects of the game. But he does have question marks on health. The Giants had a contract on the table for him a few years back that came in a few million under the top market players which they pulled after his fireworks accident. It would be hard for the Giants to expect him to accept a similar contract in light of the $17 million per year contract agreed to with Olivier Vernon last year. There is no reason for him to accept anything less than that number from New York.

The actual franchise tag values will not be set until the NFL makes the salary cap limit official. To try to most accurately depict a team’s cap space I’ll add in placeholders for the tags that will be adjusted when the actual figures are released in a few weeks.