The NFL’s franchise tag window opened on Tuesday, but don’t expect much tag action until the eleventh hour ahead of the March 9 deadline for teams to designate franchise and transition tags in 2021. Last year’s tag window was loaded with designations, with 15 players getting hit altogether, but almost all of those moves came late in the process as teams and players tried to work out long-term deals instead.
Here’s a look at those most likely to receive the tag in the next two weeks.
Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott: A second tag in as many years would cost the Cowboys $37.7 million, which could be absolutely crippling. Word is they want to get a deal done before having to resort to that, but it sure seems they’re prepared to use the tag again if need be.
Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay: The Lions don’t want to feel as though they’re taking a step backward while trying to support new quarterback Jared Goff, but a tender in excess of $16 million could be daunting for a cap-strapped team like Detroit, especially when you look at the 27-year-old’s injury history. This would be far from ideal.
Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson II: At this point, it seems the tag might be the only way for the Bears to keep the star receiver in Chicago in support of whoever quarterbacks the offense in 2021. But considering how consistently productive he’s been in a bad offense, that might be worth it.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller V: The Texans have their hands full with the Deshaun Watson mess, but Watson has said he wants Fuller back, so a long-term deal or a tag could go a long way toward mending that relationship. For what it’s worth, the talented 26-year-old was having a breakout campaign before being hit with a late-season suspension.
Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry: The talented but oft-injured 26-year-old was tagged last year and would be owed $12.7 million this time around. That’s a lot for a dude who has fallen short of 700 yards in all five of his NFL seasons. Still, the Chargers can afford it, and they might want to maintain continuity around young quarterback Justin Herbert.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers edge Shaquil Barrett or WR Chris Godwin: Barrett would be owed about $19 million, while Godwin would be due about $16.5 million. The Bucs already have several other talented receivers, Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t young, and Barrett was a bigger factor on the team’s Super Bowl run. He’s much more likely to be tagged.
Baltimore Ravens edge Matt Judon or Yannick Ngakoue: Judon was a bit of a disappointment on the tag in 2020 and just might not be worth the gamble on a second tender. Ngakoue is younger, more of a playmaker, and has more room to grow. His tag would also be cheaper, so he should be Baltimore’s top priority right now.
Denver Broncos S Justin Simmons: Simmons lived up to expectations as a tag recipient in 2020, but would cost nearly $14 million under another tag in 2021. That’s quite hefty for a safety with no long-term guarantees, but the Broncos have the space to pull it off if they can’t get a long-term deal done.
Washington Football Team G Brandon Scherff: A second tag in a row for the elite veteran interior offensive lineman would cost the WFT about $18 million, which would be unprecedented for an interior offensive lineman. Washington has to try to strike a long-term deal instead, but Scherff has little reason to budge ahead of his age-30 season.
New York Giants DL Leonard Williams: Dude had 11.5 sacks and 30 quarterback hits while rushing inside as a 26-year-old stud in 2020, which is why the Giants must realize they can’t let him get away. The problem is a second tag in as many years would cost the team more than $19 million. This could get interesting if a long-term deal isn’t worked out.
Carolina Panthers OT Taylor Moton: The Panthers really would prefer to keep the underrated offensive tackle, especially with Daryl Williams gone and Russell Okung a question mark moving forward. They’ll almost certainly spend the $14.5 million if a long-term deal isn’t consummated before the deadline.
Los Angeles Ram S John Johnson III: The underrated 25-year-old is such a big part of what the Rams do defensively, but they’re in cap hell so this is a 50/50 shot at best.
New York Jets S Marcus Maye: The 2017 second-round pick really emerged from Jamal Adams’ shadow in 2020. There’s no reason for the cap-rich Jets to let the 28-year-old hit the open market.