This year, the deadline for teams to reach extensions with franchise tagged players falls on July 16. If the following four players do not agree to new contracts in the coming days, they will be ticketed for free agency in 2019:
- Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell
- Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah
- Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence
- Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner
For Bell, the absence of a deal all but guarantees that he will be allowed to explore the open market next season. That’s because this is the second year in a row that Bell has been hit with the tag. He’ll make $14.544MM this season if no extension deal is reached, but a third tag would cost Pittsburgh more than $20MM. For the rest, the possibility of a second franchise tag remains, though the requisite 20% increase could prevent teams from applying the tender.
The rules of the franchise tag dictate that teams have until mid-July to hammer out an extension with players. If not, the two sides are barred from engaging in contract talks until after the season has concluded.
From 2013-2017, 16 of the league’s 33 franchise tagged players agreed to extensions before the summer deadline. This year, it’s hard to say whether deals will be reached for any of the players in question. Bell is looking for a deal that will reflect his production as a top running back and a No. 2 wide receiver. The defensive ends, Ansah and Lawrence, know that teams are willing to overpay for quality edge rushers in free agency. Joyner, meanwhile, may be content to let the Rams control his fate since he’ll either make $11MM+ this year and hit free agency, or earn $25MM through two franchise tags and reach the open market in 2020.
Then again, a serious injury could derail any member of this quartet, so there’s something to be said for financial security over monetary upside. Joyner, in particular, could be quietly eager to sign a multi-year deal after watching a dismal free agent safety market play out this offseason.
What we do know for sure is that the next 12 days will be worth monitoring.