**Updated Friday morning, 10:12am CT**
This afternoon, we’ll know the fates of seven franchise-tagged players for the 2016 season and beyond. If their respective teams do not sign them to long-term contracts by 4pm ET/3pm CT, Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker will all play out the 2016 season on their one-year franchise tenders.
Will some of these players will reach lucrative multi-year deals between now and Friday afternoon? Or could we see all seven players nudged towards free agency in 2017? Here’s a complete rundown of what’s happening with each of these seven players as the deadline approaches:
Von Miller, Broncos
This offseason, Von Miller went from Dancing With The Stars to wrestling with the Broncos. Naturally, there is strong mutual interest in a new multi-year deal between Denver and the reigning Super Bowl MVP and the two sides even seem to have agreed upon terms of about $114.5MM over six years. However, there remains a significant gulf between the two sides when it comes to guaranteed money and cashflow in the first couple of years. As we’ve seen before, NFL contract terms are often not what they appear to be on the surface. In this league, you can be promised a small fortune, but it doesn’t mean much unless a significant portion of it is guaranteed and comes early on in the deal when the team values you most.
Back in June, the Broncos offered up a six-year, $114.5MM deal with nearly $40MM guaranteed in the first two years. However, Miller wanted more in the way of guaranteed cash and wanted a higher payout in the first three years. Soon after, Miller doubled down on his threat to hold out in 2016 if he does not get the multi-year deal that he is after and his teammates say that he’s not bluffing. Would one of the league’s best defensive players and fiercest competitors really stay home all year long rather than chase another ring and earn more than $14MM? It’s hard to imagine, but there’s also considerable incentive for Miller to stick to his guns in this situation.
If Miller opts to sit out the 2016 season, the Broncos will only be able to use the non-exclusive franchise tag on him and will not have the exclusive franchise tag at their disposal. Typically, a team that is able to pry a player away on the non-exclusive tag would have to forfeit two first-round picks to the former team. However, per the terms of the CBA, the compensation price would drop from two first-round picks to a first and a third if Miller were to sit out. Some teams would consider forfeiting two first-round choices to land Miller and even more teams would mull it over if that price drops to a first- and third-round choice.
Reportedly, Miller still harbors resentment towards the Broncos for the way that talks have gone this offseason. However, things could be changing now that Denver has updated their offer to give Miller $70MM in “solid guarantees.”
Because of Miller’s holdout threat, there’s arguably more at stake for the Broncos than the other six teams negotiating with their franchise-tagged stars.
Kirk Cousins, Redskins
After a breakout 2015 season, Kirk Cousins wants to be paid like a top NFL quarterback. The Redskins, meanwhile, want to see him do it all over again in 2016 before committing major dollars to him across a five or six-year period.
After watching Brock Osweiler go from backup to baller this offseason, Cousins’ camp is salivating at his potential payday on the open market. For Cousins to forego a shot at free agency down the line, his agents are demanding $43.89MM in guarantees over the first two years of the pact, for starters. Wonder where that number comes from? That’s the combined value of the 2016 franchise tag ($19.95MM) and the franchise tag in 2017 ($23.94MM), if the Redskins were to use it again. If Washington wanted to go for an unprecedented three-peat of franchise tags, it would cost them $34.47MM (!) in 2018.
Cousins earned just $660K in 2015, making him one of the league’s very best values last year. Now, he’s looking to cash in on his next deal and he’s made it clear that he’s willing to bet on himself in 2016. As of this writing, the two sides are not expected to come to an accord by Friday afternoon.
Alshon Jeffery, Bears
Alshon Jeffery is regarded as one of the league’s top wide receivers – when he’s healthy. That’s likely the sticking point for the Bears, who want to see the 26-year-old give them a complete season before they give him enough money to buy his own private island. The 6’3″, 216-pound receiver missed six games during his rookie season because of hand and knee injuries. Last year, he sat out seven contests due to calf, hamstring, groin, and shoulder ailments.
However, despite missing a good chunk of the 2016 season, Jeffery still racked up 54 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns. Since his breakout campaign in 2013, the former second-round pick has averaged 89 receptions, 1,312 yards, and eight touchdowns per 16 games. Jeffery might not have a perfect attendance record, but he is a true game-changer when he is on the field.
Right now, it doesn’t sound like the Bears are going to get a deal done with Jeffery. GM Ryan Pace doesn’t have any qualms about moving on from players of the past regime and he could theoretically allow Jeffery to walk thanks to the presence of Kevin White.
Continue reading about the rest of this year’s franchise-tagged stars: