Last week we outlined which players are most likely to be franchised tagged. Here we take a more in-depth look at nine franchise tag candidates and evaluate their best and most impactful stat-based trait.
Davante Adams, the consensus top free agent, has simply been dominant the past two seasons. The former Fresno State Bulldog has done so to the tune of over 2.8 yards per route run, higher than any receiver during that span. On top of that, he has recorded more catches than anyone else since the beginning of 2020. These two metrics show that Adams has not only been productive from a cumulative summary stats perspective but also efficient while doing so. Although he has benefitted from playing with the MVP each of the last two seasons, the standout receiver will garner the most attention on the free-agent market, should he not be extended or given the franchise tag.
J.C. Jackson has been excellent in Bill Belichick’s defense the past two seasons, recording an outstanding 17 interceptions, which is the most during that time. To add to this eye-catching number, he has played almost 200 coverage snaps fewer than the player ranking second in interceptions. Despite Jackson being named to the Pro Bowl and Second-Team All-Pro this past season, the star cornerback has questioned his value.
Only time will tell if Jackson will be a Patriot next season, but New England could place the franchise tag on him to have more time to negotiate an extension; if they don’t, he will have plenty of suitors in the open market.
Jessie Bates III
Reigning AFC Champion Jessie Bates III helped lead the Cincinnati defense to Super Bowl LVI, and he did so on and off the field. The fourth-year safety has shown excellence since entering the NFL, especially when it comes to being productive as a tackler. Bates III has registered the most tackles among defensive backs since being drafted in 2018 - and he has done so by nearly 50 tackles. If the Bengals want to remain in Super Bowl contention, it would be wise to keep Jessie Bates III on their roster, and agreeing on a long-term contract instead of the franchise tag should be their goal.
Von Miller & Chandler Jones
In the past eight seasons, there have been a few names at the top of the league when it comes to pass rushing. The clear owner of this title is Aaron Donald, but not far after are elite talents in Chandler Jones and Von Miller. The two pass rushers have been incredibly productive, each finishing among the top four in total sacks since 2014.
Both of these players are unbelievably far above the trend line in the graph - a fitting measure for their exceptional prowess. Jones will be 32-years-old while Miller will be 33-years-old at the start of next season, so teams may be hesitant to fork over loads of money for players who are getting up in age. However, contending teams would be wise to sign these dominant players if their current teams don’t apply the franchise tag.
Dalton Schultz had a productive 2021 campaign, finishing with 808 receiving yards on 78 catches with eight touchdowns. The 25-year-old showed great consistency, finishing 11 of his 18 games with at least five receptions. Schultz also ranked in the top three in both receptions and receiving first downs among tight ends. Dallas would love to bring him back next season, but the Cowboys have to see how much they can afford on offense.
After already investing in Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Amari Cooper, dishing another hefty contract out to Schultz might not be wise. This may result in the tight end receiving the franchise tag for the 2022 season so Dallas can keep him for another year.
Mike Williams, commonly thought of as one of the best deep threats in the NFL, has backed up this label the past four seasons. The 6-4 receiver has had an average of over 16 yards per reception since 2018, placing him in the top ten in the league for this stat. Even more impressive, Williams finished with over 20 yards per reception in the 2019 season, the highest among players with at least 40 targets. These splendid metrics illustrate the value he provides to an offense, and most teams would welcome him to their squad. If the Chargers are unable to extend Williams this offseason, expect the franchise tag to be a discussion for GM Tom Telesco.
Harold Landry III
Since being drafted in 2018, Harold Landry III has been a valuable defensive piece for the Tennessee Titans. Landry III has served as a pass rusher for the Titans, recording the fourth-most pass-rushing snaps in the past three seasons. Placing in the top-12 in total pressures, the Boston College product has flourished in the NFL and is a feared defender among opposing offenses.
Such a commodity might require a high amount of funds for Tennessee, and the team will have to weigh how they want to allocate their money. If they do not give Landry III a contract extension, they could opt to tag him for the 2022 campaign. Should they decide to avoid both aforementioned choices, other franchises will be clawing to get the coveted pass rusher in their building.
One of the emerging tight ends in the NFL today, Mike Gesicki has proven to be a productive player for the Dolphins. The former Penn State Nittany Lion has posted over 2,000 receiving yards since 2019, good for top-five in the league during that span. In Miami’s young offense he has played a vital role and is a piece they will want to keep for the future.
If a long-term deal cannot be negotiated, look for Chris Grier to exercise the franchise tag on their promising tight end. Especially with young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins must keep their top assets, and Gesicki looks to be among that list.
All data provided by TruMedia