Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes how the use of the franchise tag is trending downward. In 2013, only six players received either franchise or transition tags. This offseason, despite the hard work of Luke Adams to profile the candidates for the tag on each team, that number could drop to four.
La Canfora notes that his guess of four does not include the possibility of a team franchising a kicker or punter in lieu of another viable candidate.
While the Lions, Giants, Packers, and Dolphins each have a viable candidate, each team is unlikely to tag that player. Those four are expected to try to avoid the tag in the effort to retain their stars.
Although the number could drop to four, anything less than that would be a huge surprise. As far as La Canfora sees it, there are four sure things in terms of the franchise tag (all four of which Luke did pin down in his rundown of franchise tag candidates, for the record).
- Demaryius Thomas to the Broncos is an obvious choice, whether his quarterback in 2015 is Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler. The case in Denver has another wrinkle, with La Canfora writing that if the team could come to an agreement on a long-term deal with Thomas, then tight end Julius Thomas will become a candidate to be franchised instead, albeit not the sure thing Demaryius is.
- Fellow superstar wide receiver Dez Bryant is another lock to be hit with the tag. The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones could be afraid to commit long-term money to him, but would be happy to keep him on a year-to-year situation even at a high price. There was also some steam gaining for DeMarco Murray’s chances of being tagged, but Bryant is seen as the superior offensive weapon.
- On the defensive side of the ball, an already capped-out Chiefs team will place the franchise tag on Justin Houston. Houston’s tag number is not set in stone, with the team likely to tag him as an outside linebacker, Houston and his agent will push for the slightly higher defense end number which comes with an additional $1.6MM based on La Canfora’s projections. Houston could be considered a defensive end because he is primarily a pass rusher in the Kansas City defense. Either way, La Canfora believes they will have to tag him regardless of the number, despite the cap gymnastics they might have to do to afford him.
- Staying on defense, the Patriots will likely tag safety Devin McCourty as they continue to focus on signing Darrelle Revis to a long-term deal. After Revis, the team should be able to negotiate a deal to keep McCourty as well, and keep the top two players in a very good secondary together as head coach Bill Belichick looks for a fifth Super Bowl victory.