• Luke Rasberry

Top Franchise Tag Candidates for All 32 NFL Teams

Updated: Feb 16


With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl LV victory in the rearview mirror, we officially begin to look forward to the 2021 NFL offseason. Personnel decisions made in the coming weeks and months will have a profound impact on what happens when the 2021 season is played out. Every NFL team is already well into offseason planning, trying to determine which of their players they want to keep and who they might target in trades and free agency.


The first important date on the horizon is Feb. 23, which marks the beginning of a 15-day period in which teams can opt to lock up one of their key unsigned players by use of the franchise tag. As a reminder, the franchise tag is a one-year deal that is the greater of the average of the top five salaries at a player’s position once the restricted free agent signing period of the current league year has ended (April 23, 2021) or 120% of the player’s prior year salary.


Over the past 3 seasons 25 Franchise Tags have been applied. 5 in 2018, 6 in 2019, and 14 in 2020. With the unique situation of the salary cap reducing significantly for the first time in league history we may see teams be more hesitant to tag a player with the guaranteed money it offers.


The chart below is an early projection of the 2021 franchise tag values; the numbers cannot be finalized until the 2021 salary cap is set in late February or early March. Franchise tags are calculated by adding the respective tag numbers, dividing by the sum of the salary caps from the previous five seasons, and multiplying by the current season’s salary cap. (Note: These numbers are based on a possible salary cap between $180 million and $181 million, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.)


Position 2021 Projection

Quarterback $24.929M

Defensive end $15.893M

Wide receiver $15.808M

Cornerback $14.894M

Linebacker $14.630M

Defensive tackle $13.736M

Offensive line $13.602M

Safety $10.496M

Tight end $9.495M

Running back $8.561M

Punter/kicker $4.455M


Here is an early guess at each team’s projected franchise tag:


Arizona Cardinals:

LB Haason Reddick

2020 Games Started: 11 games

Age as of next year: 27 years

Likelihood: Medium

Reddick transitioned from off ball linebacker to EDGE later in the year last season, and the transition proved to be a great fit for the explosive player. The Cardinals will want to see a larger sample size before signing him to a long-term EDGE deal.


Atlanta Falcons:

S Keanu Neal

2020 Games Started: 14 games

Age as of next year: 26 years

Likelihood: Medium

The Falcons really aren’t losing any key pieces of the roster outside of an aging Alex Mack, and Todd Gurley struggled on his prove-it deal in 2020. Neal is coming off a fifth-year extension, but his career has been riddled with injuries. The Falcons may want to see if Neal can stay healthy before signing him to a long-term deal.


Baltimore Ravens:

DE Yannick Ngakoue

2020 Games Started: 8 games

Age as of next year: 26 years

Likelihood: High

Has been one of the more active players when it comes to voicing his opinion about his contract situation. He was unwilling to sign a franchise tag in Jacksonville, which resulted in his trade to Minnesota. He was traded to Baltimore shortly after that. Ngakoue probably wouldn’t get as much as he wants on the open market, but this move makes sense for Baltimore. Both Ngakoue and Matthew Judon are in contract years. It would cost more to tag Judon.


Buffalo Bills:

OT Daryl Williams

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 29 years

Likelihood: Medium

Offensive tackle is the best position to franchise tag, as you get a significant discount on a one-year deal thanks to the tag being the average of all offensive linemen. Williams had a great prove-it season on a one-year deal for the Bills. His market value has skyrocketed and the Bills would be wise to tag him.


Carolina Panthers:

OT Taylor Moton

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Likelihood: High

Age as of next year: 27 years

Arguably was the best RT in 2020. His play was one of the few bright spots on a struggling Carolina offense. The highest-paid tackles in the league are making $15-$18M a year, so getting Moton at $13.6M could certainly help the rebuilding transition. Even if Moton does not sign a long-term deal in the future for the Panthers, the rental price on a quality tackle is just too good to pass up.


Chicago Bears:

WR Allen Robinson

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 28 years

Likelihood: High

Allen Robinson had a huge year in Chicago, but when contract talks with the Bears broke down, it was rumored he had requested a trade. The big question in Chicago is who will be playing QB in 2021? If the option is to bring someone in and attempt to win now, then the Bears have no choice but to tag Robinson and see if the talented WR will be happier with his situation next season after the QB play has been improved.


Cincinnati Bengals:

CB William Jackson III

2020 Games Started: 14 games

Age as of next year: 29 years

Likelihood: Low

Jackson is coming off his fifth-year option with the team. With Jackson coming on as of late, the Bengals could pair him with Trae Waynes to make a true CB pairing. Jackson has not yet proven to be deserving of a long-term contract, but a prove-it franchise tag may be just the challenge the young corner needs to get paid.


Cleveland Browns:

CB Terrance Mitchell

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 29 years

Likelihood: Low

Mitchell played well in an injury-riddled secondary for the Browns. His 2020 season opened some eyes, though maybe not to the extent of earning a long-term deal. In a weak CB free agent class, Mitchell may have earned himself a prove-it tag.

Dallas Cowboys:

QB Dak Prescott

2020 Games Started: 5 games

Age as of next year: 28 years

Likelihood: Very High

Prescott is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he played under the franchise tag due to an inability to reach a long-term agreement with the Cowboys. He was off to an extremely hot start and what should have been his best season to date ended with a dislocated ankle. Tagging Prescott a second time would not only be more expensive than last season, it would make him the third-highest paid QB in 2021 behind Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.


Denver Broncos:

S Justin Simmons

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Likelihood: High

Age as of next year: 27 years

Simmons played the 2020 campaign under the franchise tag. He has serious potential to challenge Budda Baker as the highest-paid safety in football. The Broncos did just pay Garett Bolles a new four-year, $68 million extension, so they may need some time to free up assets to pay Simmons as well.


Detroit Lions:

WR Kenny Golladay

2020 Games Started: 5 games

Age as of next year: 27 years

Likelihood: Very High

The Lions are in rebuild mode under the new regime. The WR room is old and unproductive outside of Golladay. He was one of the most productive offensive weapons in the NFL before getting injured last season. Golladay would be a great piece to build an offense around moving forward in Detroit. If a long-term deal cannot get done in time, expect Golladay to receive the tag to stay in Detroit, at least for one more season.

Green Bay Packers:

OC Corey Linsley

2020 Games Started: 13 games

Age as of next year: 27 years

Likelihood: High

The Packers got All-Pro play out of Linsley, as he was the highest-ranked center by PFF for most of the season. The Packers are cap strapped heading into the 2021 season and need to make some difficult choices. The ability to sign Linsley to a long-term contract may not be in the finances. The alternative options at center for the Packers just aren’t there, meaning Linsley is in a great place going into 2021.


Houston Texans:

WR Will Fuller

2020 Games Started: 11 games

Age as of next year: 27 years

Likelihood: Medium

Fuller is coming off his fifth-year extension. He has shown flashes of elite play with the Texans, though not necessarily warranting an extension. Fuller has a laundry list of injuries, but on a team with few offensive weapons, the Texans may be forced to tag Fuller in order to score in 2021.


Indianapolis Colts:

DE Justin Houston

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 32 years

Likelihood: Low

Houston has been a productive veteran for the Indianapolis Colts, with 11 sacks last year at the age of 31. Because of his age, signing Houston to a long-term EDGE contract doesn’t seem to have a high pay-off for the very cap-savvy Colts and GM Chris Ballard. Utilizing the tag to bring Houston back for one year would be good for this defense and also buy time to develop a younger pass rushing edge prospect.


Jacksonville Jaguars:

OT Cam Robinson

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 25 years

Likelihood: Medium

The Jaguars presumably will have Trevor Lawrence at QB. Robinson struggled in 2020 but still serves as the best option to protect the blindside of the future of the franchise. At 26 years old, a prove-it tag may allow Robinson to blossom into the LT he was in college.

Kansas City Chiefs:

WR Sammy Watkins

2020 Games Started: 9 games

Age as of next year: 28 years

Likelihood: Very Low

Watkins proved his ability to be a solid No. 2 receiver in the already potent offense of Kansas City. Watkins underproduced last season due to injuries, but a franchise tag could come in handy for keeping the pieces of the Chiefs offense together.


Las Vegas Raiders:

WR Nelson Agholor

2020 Games Started: 13 games

Age as of next year: 28 years

Likelihood: Low

Agholor has come into his own in Las Vegas, resulting in his market value to fly high after his prove-it deal with the Raiders. Las Vegas has a very young and talented WR room with Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards, however Agholor has simply outperformed both of them. If Agholor is tagged and his play declines, the Raiders may be able to secure him to a long-term deal for a less inflamed price tag next season.


Los Angeles Chargers:

TE Hunter Henry

2020 Games Started: 14 games

Age as of next year: 26 years

Likelihood: Medium

George Kittle reset the TE market with his $15 million per year deal in San Francisco. Henry may not be George Kittle, but he certainly is a good weapon for a young developing QB in Justin Herbert.


Los Angeles Rams:

S John Johnson III

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 25 years

Likelihood: Low

Johnson is a huge part of the backend of the Rams defense. With the debuts of Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller playing very well as young safeties on the roster, Johnson may not be entitled to a long-term deal. Johnson may best serve as a versatile piece who assists in the development of the young players in 2021.


Miami Dolphins:

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

2020 Games Started: 7 games

Age as of next year: 38 years

Likelihood: Zero

This is a bit tongue in cheek as the Dolphins have no Free Agents who would make sense to tag. The Dolphins were just on the outside looking in on the AFC playoff picture. Ryan Fitzpatrick was injured for the final game of the year that ended up costing them a playoff spot. The fan base and front office may be pushing for the development of Tua Tagovailoa, but the team that has the ability to win now is better off with Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is not the long-term solution for the Dolphins -- and it's incredibly unlikely he'll be tagged -- but one more year as abridge to Tua might be good.


Minnesota Vikings:

S Anthony Harris

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 29 years

Likelihood: Low

Harris played the 2020 campaign under the cap and struggled to regain the success he had in 2019. In a free agency class that does not have great safeties, Harris -- even coming off a subpar season -- is the best option on the market. A long-term deal shouldn’t be agreed upon until he proves he can play at an elite level consistency.


New England Patriots:

CB J.C. Jackson

2020 Games Started: 11 games

Age as of next year: 25 years

Likelihood: High

With the Patriots potentially moving on from Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty, the young Jackson, who played well in 2020, is a must-keep in New England. The market for corners is going to be a very competitive one. If the Patriots struggle to sign Jackson early in the process, they may be pressured into utilizing the tag to keep him in New England.


New Orleans Saints:

S Marcus Williams

2020 Games Started: 14 games

Age as of next year: 25 years

Likelihood: Medium-Low

Williams is the only free agent to play over 75% of snaps for the Saints in 2020. The issue is that the Saints may not even have the cap space to afford a franchise tag. They are currently $75 million over the cap. Letting Williams hit the open market may have to be an unfortunate byproduct of cap management.


New York Giants:

DE Leonard Williams

2020 Games Started: 12 games

Age as of next year: 27 years

Likelihood: Medium

Williams played the 2020 campaign under the franchise tag after being traded to the Giants for a future third- and fifth-round pick after the former sixth overall selection didn’t live up to expectations with the Jets. Williams had the best season in 2020 and will be looking to get top-tier compensation. Putting the tag on Williams gives the Giants protection if doesn’t continue to play at a high level in 2021.


New York Jets:

S Marcus Maye

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 28 years

Likelihood: High

Maye did a fantastic job filling the void of Jamal Adams, certainly the bright spot on a struggling Jets roster. With the rebuilding process underway in New York, a long-term contract may not be the way to go for the young star. Tagging him buys the front office time to decide in what direction they want to go in the future. Maye, either way, will be a welcomed member to any team in 2021.


Philadelphia Eagles:

No applicable Player

With the current salary cap situation in Philadelphia and their expected free agents there are no possible free agents that we see who could be tagged.


Pittsburgh Steelers:

OT Alejandro Villanueva

2020 Games Started: 16 games

Age as of next year: 33 years

Likelihood: Low

Villanueva has been underpaid for his production value for most of his career. The aging veteran will be one of the most valuable tackles on the open market. The QB situation in Pittsburgh is up in the air until the team figures out what to do with Ben Roethlisberger. Either way, if it is a young or old QB, having a reliable LT will allow them to function better within an offense that is expected to look very different in 2021.


San Francisco 49ers:

CB Jason Verrett

2020 Games Started: 13 games

Age as of next year: 30 years

Likelihood: Low

Verrett has had his career hampered significantly by injuries. 2020 was the first season he was able to play more than 4 games since 2015 when he made the pro bowl with the then San Diego Chargers. He started in 13 games and played more than 94% of defensive snaps in his final 8 games. Though unlikely, the team could feel the need to retain Verrett seeing as they will also be losing Richard Sherman from their Cornerback position as well.

Seattle Seahawks:

CB Shaquill Griffin

2020 Games Started: 12 games

Age as of next year: 26 years

Likelihood: Medium

Griffin had a rocky 2020 campaign, as he struggled with injuries throughout the season. That may hinder his chances of receiving a long-term deal. A prove-it tag may be just what both parties need.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

OLB Shaq Barrett

2020 Games Started: 15 games

Age as of next year: 28 years

Likelihood: Low

Barrett played the 2020 season under the franchise tag and has been one of the most productive pass rushers in the NFL over the past two seasons. The unfortunate place the Buccaneers find themselves in is choosing between Barrett or Chris Godwin for the tag, whichever player they feel less confident in signing long term will receive the tag.


Tennessee Titans:

TE Jonnu Smith

2020 Games Started: 14 games

Age as of next year: 26 years

Likelihood: Low

The Titans offense is sure to look different now that OC Arthur Smith has moved on to become the HC in Atlanta. Kittle reset the TE market with a massive $15 million deal with the 49ers, and the value of pass-catching TEs is at an all-time high during this trend. Keeping Smith on the roster for $9.5M not only buys time for the market to cool off but also allows for the Titans to evaluate if Smith even fits the team’s direction of the future.

Washington Football Team:

OG Brandon Scherff

2020 Games Started: 13 games

Age as of next year: 29 years

Likelihood: High

Brandon Scherff is in a unique position as an interior offensive lineman. Since tackles are traditionally paid a lot higher then IOLs, the franchise tag for offensive linemen in general is higher than most IOL prices. Not to mention, Scherff’s potential tag number will be 20% higher due to it being his second consecutive tag. Unfortunately for the Washington Football Team, there just isn’t anyone in the upcoming free agent class or draft class who would hold a candle to Scherff along the line. The Football Team traded OT Trent Williams to the 49ers last season, leaving their O-line room a little bare. Scherff seems like a must-retain option for the Football Team if they want to win now.

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