Eric Berry

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

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Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.

As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.

Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:

  • Quarterback: $21.395MM
  • Running back: $12.377MM
  • Wide receiver: $15.826MM
  • Tight end: $9.894MM
  • Offensive line: $14.444MM
  • Defensive end: $16.955MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
  • Linebacker: $14.754MM
  • Cornerback: $14.297MM
  • Safety: $10.961MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.863MM

(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)

Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:

Virtual Locks:

Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce "<strongArians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.

Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.


Le’Veon Bell
, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
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Latest On Chiefs’ Talks With Berry, Poe

The Chiefs hold two of the highest-profile pending free agents in Eric Berry and Dontari Poe, but the team is discussing new deals with both defenders, John Dorsey said Thursday (via Dave Skretta of the Associated Press). Dorsey confirmed dialogue’s commenced between the team and the respective camps of Berry and Poe, describing the discussions with the nose tackle’s camp as “good conversations” while elaborating further on Berry.

First off, I think Eric Berry had a fantastic season. Everybody within this organization, the community, has the utmost respect for that guy,” Dorsey said. “We’ve had very positive conversations with his representatives … Hopefully two sides can come together and mesh this thing out.”

Berry’s agent, Chad Speck, confirmed the Chiefs and the the All-Pro safety are talking. But he stopped short of saying the talks are positive, noting (on Twitter) the parties have “a long way to go.” Berry, 28, will enter his eighth season in 2017 and said recently he will not play it on the franchise tag as he did in 2016. It would cost the Chiefs nearly $13MM to franchise Berry again, and that would directly cut into their funding for a Poe re-up.

The Chiefs and Poe could not come to terms on an extension before last season, and word coming out of Kansas City in December indicated a future with Poe on the tag and Berry being signed to a long-term deal. The Dorsey regime is not usually vocal about contract discussions, so little emerging from the sides’ progress is not uncommon. A Poe tag is projected to cost the Chiefs $13.468MM. He has not made it known at this point if the tag is a non-starter like Berry, but that doesn’t seem likely since the $13MM-plus value would more than double his 2016 salary on the fifth-year option. The Chiefs stand to possess less than $4MM in cap space, but the franchise can create more than $17MM more by cutting Nick Foles and Jamaal Charles.

While Berry reaching the market would represent major news, the 26-year-old Poe resides as one of multiple impact 3-4 tackles in this class. Although, the Panthers are likely to place the franchise tag on Kawann Short and the Ravens have been open about their desire to keep Brandon Williams.

[RELATED: Chiefs’ Top 3 Offseason Needs]

Dorsey also attempted to quiet noise about a potential Packers future. He’s signed through 2017, but Skretta notes that is the last year of his Chiefs contract. The team wants to extend he and Andy Reid, also in the final year of his deal, but rumors about a Dorsey return to Green Bay have cropped up at multiple points this offseason.

From my family’s perspective and mine, this has been the greatest four years of my life. I love this city, I love this team, I love this community. I think this is one of the most stable franchises in the NFL,” Dorsey said. “I love coming to work every day. I don’t know what more I can say.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eric Berry: “Definitely” Won’t Play Under Tag

Last offseason, the Chiefs were unable to strike a long-term deal with Eric Berry and they delayed things by using the franchise tag. The Chiefs could theoretically tag him again at an increased rate, but the safety says he won’t play along if that’s the route KC chooses. He says he’s “definitely not” playing on the franchise tender in 2017 (Twitter link via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Eric Berry

Berry earned $10.86MM on the one-year tender last year, a surprising outcome for many in the football world who looked at a long-term accord as a sure thing. Berry also dragged his feet before putting pen-to-paper, giving the impression that things were a bit frosty between the two sides. In August, ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher told PFR that he did not envision a multi-year deal for Berry and the Chiefs.

It’s difficult to see that at this point. If the Chiefs weren’t willing to satisfy him with a long-term offer [in 2016], why would they do it [in 2017]?,” Teicher said.

This time around, it would cost the Chiefs $12.967MM to use the franchise tag for a second time. With limited cap space, the Chiefs might not be prepared to give Berry the type of accord he’s looking for. The Chiefs have the right to tag Berry twice, but Josh Norman managed to pout his way out of Carolina last year when faced with the prospect of a tag. Berry has a very different personality than Norman, but he seems equally unsatisfied with the specter of a franchise tender.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

For 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams, the offseason is already underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the early January edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

Free Agent Power Rankings 2 (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): Cousins may not be the best player on this list, but he will come away with the most guaranteed money of any free agent this offseason. Quarterbacks are perpetually in high demand and short supply and as a result Cousins could become one of the league’s three highest paid signal callers. Because Washington has already used the franchise tag on Cousins, a repeat would cost them a whopping $23.94MM for 2017. The belief is that Cousins is seeking that $23.94MM number as an AAV goal. There has been talk of the Redskins shopping their star QB, but the team has since publicly stated its intention of locking him up to a long-term dealKirk Cousins (vertical)

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Jones has been an absolute stud ever since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2012. If we go by the numbers at Pro Football Focus, 2016 was actually Jones’ best year to date. This past season, he finished out with a strong 87.4 overall score, tying him for seventh amongst all edge rushers with Houston’s Whitney Mercilus. In the previous four seasons with New England, Jones averaged a 79.38 on PFF. Every team could use a sack machine like Jones, but coach Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. He’s technically ticketed for unrestricted free agency, but it doesn’t sound like Jones is going anywhere.

3. Kawann Short, DT (3): Unlike former teammate Josh Norman, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short says he won’t have any problem signing the franchise tender if the team tags him. “I wouldn’t fight it or anything,” said Short in early January. In 2016, he turned in his fourth straight 16-game season and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best interior defender. Short, 28 this week, also had six sacks on the year. I think the Panthers would be wise to hit Short with the ~$13.468MM franchise tag or sign him to a long-term deal, but there is at least a non-trivial chance of him reaching the open market.

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West Notes: Dominik, Shanahan, Smith, Berry

Before the mystery candidate for the 49ers’ GM job became revealed as off-the-board hire John Lynch, fellow TV analyst Mark Dominik received consideration for the GM job, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (on Twitter). However, the sides never scheduled an interview. But Lynch getting the job doesn’t necessarily mean a path from ESPN to the 49ers isn’t on the table for Dominik.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported Lynch plans to bring in an experienced personnel man as his top lieutenant, and CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora wonders if Dominik — the Buccaneers’ scouting director during part of Lynch’s career in Tampa before becoming the team’s GM later — will land in San Francisco because that familiarity with Lynch (Twitter link).

Here’s more from the 49ers’ surprising hire, along with the latest from some other NFL teams as the Pro Bowl continues.

  • The six-year contract that’s expected to be offered to Kyle Shanahan is two years longer than the deals for both Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly, and one year longer than Jim Harbaugh, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com notes.
  • Alex Smith took from his exit interview with Andy Reid he will return for a fifth season as the Chiefs‘ starting quarterback. “We’ve talked a lot, and for sure, the talk was just the sense of urgency — [him saying] ‘let’s go get it, you and me,’ ” Smith said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “For both of us, I think you realize the opportunities are less and less.” Reid said as much publicly after the Chiefs’ second-round loss to the Steelers, but calls for the Chiefs to replace the middling quarterback will certainly come from pundits. Smith will turn 33 in May. He has two more years left on his deal and will take up $16.9MM of Kansas City’s cap in 2017. That number rises to $20.9MM in 2018, and by ’18, the Chiefs would save $17MM by parting ways with Smith.
  • Add Chiefs DC Bob Sutton to the list of those wanting Eric Berry to return. Joining Reid on this topic, Sutton said from the Pro Bowl, “That’s out of my wheelhouse but I mean, you’d be crazy not to [want him back],” Sutton said, via Conor Orr of NFL.com. “I thought he had an MVP-type season. He was a dynamic force. I don’t know how much more you could do. This guy had an impact on our entire team. Not just our defense, but our entire team.” Berry is a UFA for the second straight year. It would cost the Chiefs $12.967MM to retain him on the franchise tag again. Kansas City stands to possess less than $5MM in cap space before roster cuts are made.
  • Chiefs co-player personnel director Brett Veach looms as a candidate to fill new Colts GM’s Chris Ballard‘s shoes, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweets, pointing to his scouting acumen as a route up the ladder.

Extra Points: Chiefs, Lynn, Draft, Crawford

Andy Reid plans to use Tyreek Hill more next season. After the rookie began the year as mostly a special teams-only presence, he became featured as a frequent part of the Chiefs‘ offense, and Reid wants to increase his involvement.

He was averaging 35 plays a game [in 2016],” Reid said on a SiriusXM NFL Radio appearance (via Alex Marvez of the Sporting News). “Maybe he can double that or at least take it up a couple notches and allow him to get in more in a starting role. … I’d expect him to learn that whole [playbook] by the end of all the OTAs and training camp and then be even more of a threat.”

Hill scored 12 touchdowns and became a unanimous All-Pro selection as a return man. The polarizing speedster emerged as Chiefs’ best No. 2 receiver candidate in years by catching 61 passes for 593 yards. Hill becoming a bigger part of the Chiefs’ offense lessens their need for pass-catching help. During previous Reid years, the team relied on a committee approach to fill that role.

Here’s more from the Chiefs and the rest of the league.

  • Reid addressed Eric Berry‘s status as well, wanting the Chiefs to retain the decorated UFA safety. “We love E.B. I think everybody in our building would ditto that,” Reid said. “If we can get this thing done, that’s obviously a priority in the offseason. It’s been a good marriage.” It would cost the Chiefs nearly $13MM to apply the franchise tag to Berry again, but Tyrann Mathieu‘s $12MM-AAV+ deal raised the bar for safeties since the Chiefs’ last negotiations with Chiefs management. Berry acknowledged earlier this week he believed his agent has spoken with the Chiefs about a deal. Kansas City is projected to possess $4.6MM in cap room but can create over $16MM more by releasing Jamaal Charles and Nick Foles.
  • Prior to the Chargers entering the race, Anthony Lynn saw the Bills as the best opportunity for him. The newest Los Angeles HC was connected to every team in need of a coach, save for the 49ers. “To me, [Buffalo] was the best place for me to be because I knew the personnel, I knew all the people I was working with and I think that was the quickest turnaround,” Lynn said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Although, after the Chargers became interested, Lynn said he quickly pivoted to their situation. “They have a quarterback; they have key players at every position, at skill positions, and a young, talented defense, I thought that right there was a great opportunity,” he said. “And that’s where I put all my focus, was in that job after the season was over, and thank God it came through.”
  • Senior Bowl executive director and former Browns GM Phil Savage did not speak highly of this year’s quarterback class. “It’s probably not a good year to say, ‘We’ve got to have one,’ ” Savage said, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today. “You never know, but there’s questions with more guys this year.” Savage isn’t the first to cast doubt on the Deshaun Watson-, DeShone Kizer– and Mitch Trubisky-fronted class. Multiple execs expressed similar sentiments recently.
  • Cowboys defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford underwent shoulder surgery for the second straight offseason, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. Crawford faces an uncertain future as a starter, Hill writes. The veteran lineman, though, cannot be realistically cut this year. The Cowboys, who signed him to a five-year deal in 2015, would be saddled with $10.4MM in dead money.
  • Busy retooling their defensive staff, the Saints also interviewed Redskins assistant special teams coach Brad Banta for their special teams coach opening, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets.

AFC Notes: Chiefs, Bills, Dolphins, Jets

The Chiefs managed to keep star safety Eric Berry off the free agent market when they placed the franchise tag on him last offseason. Berry is once again unsigned as free agency approaches this winter, but the six-year Chief prefers to remain in Kansas City. “I hope so,” he informed Adam Teicher of ESPN.com on Wednesday. Berry’s also under the impression his representative and the team have opened contract talks, telling Teichner, “I think my agent had a conversation yesterday or something. It’s early.”

With defensive tackle Dontari Poe a strong candidate to end up with the franchise tag this offseason, the Chiefs might not have that as a fallback option to retain Berry in 2017. Not being able to tag Berry would perhaps hinder the Chiefs’ chances of keeping the 27-year-old, as the two sides never came close to reaching a long-term agreement last summer. Despite some displeasure with the fact that Kansas City tagged him last year, Berry went on to rack up his fifth Pro Bowl nod. In his second straight 16-game season, Berry amassed 77 tackles and a career-high-tying four interceptions.

More from the AFC:

  • The groin surgery Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor underwent earlier this month won’t play a role in whether the team will exercise or decline his option by the March 11 deadline, general manager Doug Whaley stated Wednesday. “Let me say this, all the prognostication is saying that it’s going to be something that will never play into it,” Whaley told reporters, including Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. If Taylor isn’t able to pass a physical by the aforementioned date, the Bills would be stuck with the $27.5MM in guarantees left on his contract. While it appeared immediately after the season that the Bills would part with Taylor in the next couple months, their offensive coordinator hiring may have changed that.
  • Bobby Grier, a longtime member of the Texans’ front office, is leaving Houston to join the Dolphins as a scouting consultant, according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. That means Grier will work with his son, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier. The elder Grier was instrumental in the Texans’ decision to draft three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt 11th overall in 2011 and was “the only NFL executive who did extensive work” on an unheralded Michigan quarterback named Tom Brady entering the 2000 draft, writes Kelly. Brady went in the sixth round that year to New England, and you know the rest.
  • Free agent quarterback Aaron Murray worked out for the Jets on Wednesday, per Adam Caplan of ESPN (Twitter link). Murray spent 2016 on the Eagles’ practice squad, but he has been available since they elected against signing him to a reserve/futures deal earlier this month. The 26-year-old was a standout at Georgia, where he became the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions and touchdowns, but he hasn’t recorded an NFL statistic since KC took him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.

PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings

The regular season is over and, for most teams, the offseason is underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the November edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

2017 Free Agent Power Rankings With Text (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): In 2015, Cousins established himself as a solid NFL quarterback. That summer, the Redskins told Cousins they wanted him to prove it all over again before giving him a monster contract. Cousins was happy to oblige and he has now increased his value even further. After a so-so start to 2016 season, Cousins closed out strong to finish as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 ranked QB, putting him ahead of notables such as Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, and Philip Rivers. All of those players have gotten their big pay day and now it’s time for Cousins to join the club. "<strong

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Before you start salivating over the idea of Jones joining your favorite team’s front seven, we have some bad news: Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. Whether it’s on a one-year, $16.955MM deal or a multi-year contract that tops Olivier Vernon‘s Giants deal, it sounds like Jones is staying put. Jones, 27 in May, played in all 16 games this year and racked up 11 sacks.

3. Kawann Short, DT (4): Contract talks between the Panthers and Short stalled last summer and Fletcher Cox‘s market-boosting deal with the Eagles didn’t help matters. Short wound up playing 2016 for peanuts ($1.473MM) and he turned in yet another stellar season. Short was the fourth-best interior defender in the league this season, per Pro Football Focus, and his 87.7 overall score was roughly the same as his 2015 mark, even though he had five less sacks. In June, it was said that the Panthers did not want to go too far beyond an average annual salary of $15MM. If he’s not franchised tagged or signed to a long-term deal by Carolina, there are a few teams that will happily go beyond that point.

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Jason Fitzgerald On Gronk, Romo, Giants, Chiefs

Who will be the top unrestricted free agents this offseason? Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com throws out several names that may not be tagged by their current teams (via Twitter): Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short, Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

The cap guru answered a number of additional questions last night on Twitter. We collected some of the highlights, which you can find below…

  • Considering his $7MM cap hit and low salary in 2017, Fitzgerald can’t envision the Patriots trading tight end Rob Gronkowski. We learned earlier this week that the 27-year-old needs back surgery, which should keep him out for the rest of the regular season.
  • Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram could ask for Ryan Kerrigan-money during free agency, according to Fitzgerald. The Redskins linebacker inked a five-year, $57.5MM extension with the team back in 2015.
  • Fitzgerald imagines that Chiefs safety Eric Berry still wants to be among the highest-paid defenders in the league, but he notes that the 27-year-old hasn’t received the buzz that often accompanies top free agents. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald could see the Chiefs spending to retain defensive tackle Dontari Poe, but he’s uncertain about defensive end Jaye Howard‘s future in Kansas City.
  • Fitzgerald believes the Cowboys should take whatever they can get for quarterback Tony Romo, with the writer referring to the conditional fourth-round pick sent from the Jets to the Packers in the Brett Favre trade. However, even if the team does trade the veteran signal-caller, Fitzgerald says the team’s cap situation will likely prevent them from being major players in free agency.
  • The Giants signed defensive end Olivier Vernon to a five-year, $85MM deal back in March, and Fitzgerald believes teammate Jason Pierre-Paul is likely to make even more money when he reaches free agency this winter. Ultimately, Fitzgerald predicts that the organization will franchise their star defender.

Justin Houston Placed On PUP

The Chiefs are down to the 75-man maximum after a handful of moves today (Twitter links via Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star). The most noteworthy item is that linebacker Justin Houston has been placed on the PUP list, meaning that he will be out for at least the first six weeks of the season. Justin Houston

Houston underwent postseason arthroscopic surgery on his knee, at which point his ACL was found to be “intact but not functioning.” His recovery timetable was up in the air, but it was expected that he would miss at least a few games to start the season.

One of the league’s top outside linebackers, Houston inked a six-year, $101MM extension with the Chiefs roughly one year ago, but was hampered by injuries in the first season of his new deal. Houston still played very well in 2015, but totaled just 7.5 sacks in 11 games, a fraction of what he turned out in the year prior.

Meanwhile, running back Trey Millard has been waived/injured and will likely return to the team and go through the rehab process. The team also freed up a spot when they released wide receiver Mitch Mathews, as agent Brett Tessler tweets. Between those three moves and the roster exemption given to the team for Eric Berry, KC is at 75.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.