2016 Franchise Tag Candidates

Saints Select T Taliese Fuaga With No. 14 Pick

Offensive linemen continue to come off the board, and the Saints have unsurprisingly added up front. With the 14th overall pick, New Orleans has selected Oregon State’s Taliese Fuaga.

Fuaga made a big jump in his fourth year in Corvallis. After a pretty good redshirt sophomore season with the Beavers, Fuaga exploded onto the scene in 2023, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ second best tackle in the nation. The first-team All-American has the size, strength, and balance to be an immediate starter at the NFL level, and many scouts thought he may play best as a guard, showing the versatility he brings as a prospect.

In New Orleans, they will value that versatility. With the Wednesday retirement of guard James Hurst and the free agency status of guard-turned-tackle Andrus Peat, the Saints are looking to replace two starters on the offensive line. Stalwart right tackle Ryan Ramczyk‘s season is also in jeopardy, after a knee injury became a big-picture concern last year.

The team drafted Trevor Penning in the first round two years ago with the hope that he may eventually take over at offensive tackle. The Northern Iowa alum has failed to become a reliable NFL blocker. Penning failing to win the starting LT job this year could prompt the Saints to plug in Fuaga. If the team has faith in Penning, though, Fuaga may find his way inside to guard as a rookie starter, regardless.

Fuaga is the fourth offensive tackle off the board at No. 14 overall, which aligns pretty well with where he was ranked by most draft pundits. Fuaga becomes the Beavers’ highest draft pick since quarterback Terry Baker was taken first overall in 1963, and he’s the school’s first first-round pick since Brandin Cooks in 2014.

Ely Allen contributed to this post.

Ohio State WR Michael Thomas To Enter Draft

Three noteworthy wide receivers are set to enter the NFL Draft, including one potential first-round pick. The latest:

  • Ohio State wide receiver Michael Thomas became the eighth underclassman on his team to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, as Chase Goodbread of NFL.com writes. Thomas caught 56 passes for 781 yards and nine touchdowns during the 2015 season and is currently projected to go in the first or second round. Wide receiver Jalin Marshall, defensive end Joey Bosa, linebacker Darron Lee, defensive back Tyvis Powell, running back Ezekiel Elliott, quarterback Cardale Jones and cornerback Eli Apple have also declared for the draft. Safety Vonn Bell is considering early entry as well, Goodbread writes.
  • First-team All-Pac-12 wide receiver Kenny Lawler is going pro instead of returning for his senior year at Cal, Jeff Faraudo of the Bay Area News Group writes. “I’m very thankful for what the NFL had to say,” he said. “After the bowl game, I had another talk with my parents and made the best decision.” Lawyer joins Jared Goff in this year’s class, though he’s not expected to go as high. CBSSports.com rates Lawler as the ninth-best receiver in the 2016 draft class.
  • Stanford wide receiver Michael Rector has been telling people that he will go pro as well, Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net tweets.

Looking Ahead To 2016 Franchise Tags

The NFL’s salary cap for 2016 won’t officially be set until sometime after the Super Bowl, but based on the direction the cap has trended in recent years, we have a general idea of where it may end up. Sources tell Joel Corry of CBSSports.com that the increase for 2016 figures to be impacted by the delay of the CBA’s annual performance based pay to players in 2013 until March 2016. However, Corry expects the cap to continue rising at around the same rate as it has the last couple years.

Predicting an increase of about 7.5% on this year’s $143.28MM cap, Corry projects a 2016 cap of $154MM, and uses that figure to get a sense of what next year’s franchise-tag figures would look like. Although the 2016 cap isn’t yet confirmed, Corry has confirmed the amounts necessary to perform calculations using the franchise-tag formula. So while the official amounts may end up looking a little different, these should be pretty close.

Here are the non-exclusive franchise tag amounts projected by Corry, using a presumed cap of $154MM for 2016:

  • Quarterback: $19.748MM
  • Running back: $11.871MM
  • Wide receiver: $14.527MM
  • Tight end: $9.053MM
  • Offensive line: $13.678MM
  • Defensive end: $15.494MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.368MM
  • Linebacker: $14.131MM
  • Cornerback: $13.838MM
  • Safety: $10.717MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.534MM

All of those figures are modest increases on the 2014 amount, which can be found right here. One of the most significant increases comes at wide receiver, where Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas were franchised for $12.823MM earlier this year. Of course, their new deals helped boost that figure for 2016, and Ndamukong Suh‘s new contract helped make the increase at defensive tackle the most significant — it’s up nearly 20%, from $11.193MM.

With those numbers in mind, Corry also examines a few potential candidates to be franchised or to receive the transition tag. Broncos pass rusher Von Miller is perhaps the most obvious candidate to be tagged, but Corry identifies several other potential recipients, including Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, and a few others. For the full list, along with explanations, be sure to check out Corry’s piece, which is an interesting read.