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.