With Super Bowl 56 in the rearview mirror, the NFL franchise tag is one of the next landmarks on the calendar. Teams now have just three weeks to negotiate with their prospective free agents before deciding whether they want to utilize the franchise tag option to keep them under contract in 2022. Let’s take a look at some potential franchise tag candidates in the 2022 NFL offseason.
Top franchise tag candidates in 2022
Last offseason, nine players received the franchise tag. With some intriguing players set to hit free agency, that number could be matched or even exceeded in the 2022 offseason. Let’s examine the top players who could be in line for the franchise tag.
The rankings below are based on Dalton Miller’s top 50 free agent rankings.
1) WR Davante Adams is not a player the Green Bay Packers will want to let leave this offseason
It seems incredibly unlikely that the Packers will allow Davante Adams to leave. Even if Aaron Rodgers leaves, the Packers will not simply want to let Adams follow him out of the door. By putting a non-exclusive franchise tag on Adams, they would open the opportunity to see whether other teams are willing to pay the high price required to get him. If they do, the Packers at least get some solid compensation for his departure.
From a financial point of view, this makes sense if they are uncertain about the future. Adams will ask for more than $20 million a year, while the non-exclusive franchise tag value is just north of $19 million. Therefore, rather than commit for four or five years and around $125-130 million, the Packers could roll things into 2022 and see what happens with Rodgers and their offense next season.
2) S Jessie Bates proved his value to the Bengals during the Super Bowl
Jessie Bates once again underlined his quality in Super Bowl 56. The young safety had a crucial interception on a good play in the end zone. There are some concerns about his play in coverage, and a missed tackle in the first quarter on Cooper Kupp did not look pretty. However, the Bengals’ defense has been a huge part of the team’s success — Bates has played a critical role in that.
Financially, this could be a smart move. Bates is projected for close to $15 million per year, according to Spotrac. Meanwhile, the franchise tag value for safeties is expected to be closer to $12.5 million. If the Bengals have any concerns around Bates’ potential long-term contract, using the franchise tag is a useful middle ground.
3) Will the New England Patriots give CB J.C. Jackson the franchise tag?
After having either Stephon Gilmore or J.C. Jackson at CB for a long time, the Patriots face the prospect of being without both of them when the team kicks off in 2022. Jackson is likely to command a price on the open market that would see him among the highest-paid CBs in the league.
The non-exclusive tag makes a lot of sense for Jackson. If no team comes in for him, the Patriots would keep him for around $17.5 million in 2022 (with the chance to extend him). If a team does bid for him, the Patriots could get handsome compensation for letting him walk.
4) Would the New Orleans Saints double-tag S Marcus Williams?
It was somewhat of a surprise last offseason when the Saints tagged Marcus Williams. However, he has repaid the faith shown in him — to the point where the team might do it all over again this offseason. Usually, Williams would get 120% of his prior year’s salary. But the safety market has shifted enough that the tag price looks set to potentially be more than the 120% figure would be.
5) Could CB Carlton Davis return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the franchise tag?
The Buccaneers looked like a better team when Carlton Davis was on the field in 2022. While they have two other good, young cornerbacks in Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting, Davis might very well be the star. Therefore, the Buccaneers could use the franchise tag to keep the trio intact. It will be interesting theater in Tampa after the retirement of Tom Brady.
6) WR Mike Williams could be set to remain with the Los Angeles Chargers this offseason
The Chargers are in a tricky spot with Mike Williams. He has flashed in moments, but he’s yet to put together the type of performances to command the price he might ask for this offseason. Therefore, the tag becomes a useful tool to give this offense one more year to gel with Justin Herbert under center.
If Williams is still not performing well enough, you let him walk. However, giving the process one more year means the Chargers can feel confident they fully explored the talent level of their former first-round selection.
7) The Kansas City Chiefs will not want to let OT Orlando Brown out of the building in 2022
After trading for Orlando Brown last year, the Chiefs will not want him to leave just a year later. It was somewhat of a surprise the Chiefs and Brown didn’t do an extension immediately after the trade.
Now, Brown has all the leverage in negotiations with the team, who will remember all too well how destructive offensive line struggles can be for a team. Using the tag at least gives the Chiefs some of that leverage back and buys them another year to get a deal done.
8) Should the Titans use the franchise tag on EDGE Harold Landry?
Harold Landry has been impressive in his tenure in Tennessee. He had a career year in 2021 (12 sacks, 22 QB hits). That is a great way to finish your rookie contract and head into free agency. The question for the Titans is whether they want to invest long-term in Landry. While he has 31 sacks in his career, 40% of those came in his final year. If there is any worry that 2021 was an outlier, the franchise tag might be the smart move before committing to anything longer.
9) TE Mike Gesicki might be the first of two tag candidates at tight end
There seems to be a desperation to keep Mike Gesicki in Miami. When you watch their style of play and how they lean on him, it makes sense. However, Gesicki is not great in terms of separation and often has to rely on being able to outmuscle his opponent rather than getting open.
That skill set has value — but is it worth a $10.8 million franchise tag? The smart move would be for the Dolphins to move on from Gesicki. But if they plan to keep him for 2022, the franchise tag would be better than a long-term deal.
10) What value will the Cowboys place on TE Dalton Schultz this offseason?
Dalton Schultz’s rise into a valuable option in this Cowboys offense has been crucial for the team. The problem they now face is keeping him around. The Cowboys’ salary cap situation makes it tough for them to do anything crazy in 2022.
However, a long-term extension would actually be a better way for them to keep Schultz’s price down as opposed to the franchise tag. Schultz has certainly proved he deserves the commitment, but whether the Cowboys do so will depend on how they feel about Blake Jarwin.
Which top players are unlikely to receive the franchise tag?
While we have just looked at who could receive the franchise tag, some players will be tougher to keep under that method. Chris Godwin would be extremely risky to keep on the tag after his injury. He was also tagged last year, so he’d be subject to the 120% rule. Of course, if the Buccaneers want to build around him, using the tag and seeing how he returns from injury could still be an option. It would be committing a lot of money to a player coming off a serious injury with question marks remaining at QB.
On the offensive line, Terron Armstead and Brandon Scherff are likely to walk. Armstead’s contract contains void years, so he cannot be tagged. Meanwhile, Scherff is already on his second tag — his price would jump by 144% if Washington used it again. His salary would climb to an almost impossible-to-manage $25.97 million. Meanwhile, center Ryan Jensen would have to be tagged at the generic offensive line price of $16.7 million. That is a lot for a player on the interior of the offensive line.
The last two players on this list are Von Miller and Jadeveon Clowney. Both are solid players, but at a potential price tag of $20 million, the franchise tender probably doesn’t make sense. The Rams and Browns would likely be better off letting them test the free-agent market and trying to match whatever deal they get offered.