Tag Fallout: Bell, Lawrence, Johnson

Monday’s deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign extensions came and went without a deal. For the Steelers, this could well mean the beginning of an era’s end. For the Cowboys, Lions and Rams, prices for their tagged performers went up for future purposes. Here’s the latest fallout from the tag deadline.

  • Despite reports the Cowboys and DeMarcus Lawrence were going to engage in discussions about an extension prior to Monday, Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports no substantive talks had occurred in months. The parties last participated in a real debate about Lawrence’s value in March, per Archer. That doesn’t make these talks much different from the Lions and Ziggy Ansah, with Bob Quinn effectively admitting they were planning to use the tag to evaluate their injury-prone defensive end this season. Lawrence has struggled with multiple maladies as well, and it seems the Cowboys are willing to have a $17.1MM cap hit on the books to see if he can deliver another strong season.
  • Lawrence did not express concern about playing this season for that amount, but he does not want to play on what’s essentially a rental agreement in 2019. The defensive end, though, would make $20.5MM if the Cowboys tagged him again. And Archer expects that’s exactly what will end up happening (Twitter link). A $20.5MM hit may be not be as damaging as it once was, but it will likely represent a slightly greater percentage of Dallas’ 2019 cap than Lawrence’s 2018 hit does for this year’s $177MM ceiling. If the cap goes up by its usual $10MM or close approximation, a $20.5MM hit would take up nearly 11 percent of the Cowboys’ ’19 cap. This season, the 26-year-old defender will occupy 9.66 percent of the Cowboys’ cap.
  • Le’Veon Bell also appears to concede 2018 will be his Steelers finale. In a tweet, the sixth-year running back apologizes to fans for he and the Steelers’ inability to finalize a deal that satisfied both parties. “My desire always has been to retire a Steeler,” Bell said. “Both sides worked extremely hard today to make that happen, but the NFL is a hard business at times…to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let youu (sic) down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date.” The Steelers are believed to have offered Bell a five-year deal worth $70MM, but it’s unknown what the guarantees came out to in that proposal.
  • Bell is betting that a better offer will be there in March, but Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network points out (video link) the Steelers no longer have a reason to preserve their starting back for the future. This is a unique wrinkle to the two-tag process that didn’t affect Kirk Cousins or Trumaine Johnson. The team already uses Bell like an old-school workhorse, albeit with a modern spin thanks to Bell’s abilities through the air, and Kinkhabwala expects the 26-year-old’s workload to meet and possibly eclipse his 406-touch 2017 regular season. That would put him well over 1,500 carries, which would be unique for a free agent running back seeking a major contract.
  • One player who had a vested outside interest in Bell reaching an agreement with the Steelers is now on his own. But Joel Corry of CBS Sports tweets David Johnson‘s agent should now use the Steelers’ leaked five-year, $70MM offer as the new running back ceiling rather than Devonta Freeman‘s five-year, $41.25MM contract when negotiating with the Cardinals. Considering how big of a gap there is between these numbers (nearly $6MM AAV) and the lack of known guarantees, that might be a tough sell for the Cardinals. Corry adds that a Johnson 2019 tag would come out to approximately $11.3MM. That figure is now more relevant now that Bell is set to play on his $14.5MM tag rather than a market-resetting long-term deal.
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5 comments on “Tag Fallout: Bell, Lawrence, Johnson

  1. madmanTX

    People give Bell too much credit. His OL deserves far more credit. Bell didn’t make me forget the Bus and the Bus didn’t make me forget Franco. The Steelers always find great RBs.

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    • Natergater77

      You do know since 2014 nobody has averaged a better yards after contact then Bell. He is great and desrves the credit he gets.

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      • puzzle

        The Steelers offensive line made a washed up Deangelo Williams look like a pro bowler.

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  2. Too much money for RB position. Even if he does catch the ball well out of the backfiled. You could sign a workhorse back and sign a 3rd down back and have a lot of money left over for $14MM AAV. No offense to Bell, but that’s how this sport goes. No way he’s getting that in the open market.

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  3. I wouldn’t mind seeing the franchise tag rules change. They’re very team friendly as it can basically lock in a player for 6-7 years (depending on what round the player is drafted) at market value with no long-term security for the player and at no real consequence to the team either. Most of the top tier players that don’t end up signing an extension end up holding out because they want an extension that the team is basically unwilling to give.

    I think if it was changed to something more similar to basketball’s qualifying offer you would see less holdouts and “feuding” between the player and the team. Maybe something like the player gets hit with a general qualifying offer that comes with two options. The first option could come at the value similar to the transition tag (so less money) and if the player signed that he could become a UFA the following offseason without the abilty to be tagged in consecutive seasons. The second option could be to sign the qualifying offer at the normal franchise tag rate and allowing teams to tag players for the following offseason if desired. In both scenarios you could still keep the deadline date to sign a long-term extension. This would be a risk/reward system for both the player and the team. Players could hit free agency earlier even though they are tagged but at a lower salary or they could take the higher salary but take the risk that they can be tagged the following offseason. For teams it would put more pressure on them to offer a long term deal or just let the player walk. Obviously there would be some kinks to work out, and I’m sure the teams would hate this type of proposal, but it gets a little tiring every offseason to see players hit with the franchise tag and their teams to play a game of chicken to see who will cave first.

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