Kirk Cousins

Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Thursday, March 9th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:

Quarterback:

  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Mike Glennon
  3. Nick Foles
  4. Brian Hoyer
  5. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  6. Case Keenum
  7. Matt McGloin
  8. Mark Sanchez
  9. Geno Smith
  10. Ryan Mallett
  11. Josh McCown
  12. Christian Ponder
  13. Blaine Gabbert
  14. Matt Schaub
  15. Ryan Nassib

Honorable mention: Shaun Hill

As of this writing, Kirk Cousins is far and away the best potential free agent quarterback in this year’s crop. By the time March gets here, we’re fully expecting Cousins to be spoken for. Ultimately, the Redskins could franchise tag him, work out a long-term deal with him, or swing some type of trade that nets them a massive haul of talent and picks. That will leave a crop of retread quarterbacks that would probably best serve as transitional options for QB-needy teams. Kirk Cousins

Mike Glennon hasn’t done much in his 18 career starts, but talent evaluators are still in love with his size and potential. The 6’7″ quarterback will get more money this spring than you might expect, particularly since there are no surefire QBs in this year’s draft.

Teams looking for stopgap QBs will find a plethora of experienced, though perhaps uninspiring, signal callers. Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick all have their best football behind them, but they could hold down the fort for a team in 2017 and maybe even find some success if the defense is strong enough. Of course, the ideal role for those guys would probably be as a backup to a better, younger quarterback.

Running back:

  1. Le’Veon Bell
  2. Eddie Lacy
  3. LeGarrette Blount
  4. Latavius Murray
  5. Darren McFadden
  6. Jacquizz Rodgers
  7. Rashad Jennings
  8. Danny Woodhead
  9. Rex Burkhead
  10. Tim Hightower
  11. DeAngelo Williams
  12. Andre Ellington
  13. Chris Johnson
  14. Christine Michael
  15. Robert Turbin

Consider Le’Veon Bell‘s name written in Etch-A-Sketch, because he is very unlikely to get near the open market. That could leave Eddie Lacy as the best tailback available in March. Lacy has struggled with weight issues in recent years and he lost much of the 2016 season to injury. Still, he is a bruising back that could nicely complement a quicker ball carrier. Before he was shut down for the year, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry in five games for Green Bay.

LeGarrette Blount (vertical)In the last two years, LeGarrette Blount seems to have put his off-the-field troubles behind him. Whether that’s a sign of his maturity or a product of the Patriots’ culture remains to be seen. Teams can ignore his past indiscretions, but they will be wary of his age. Blount turns 31 in December.

Latavius Murray has shown glimpses of being a special running back, but he has been inconsistent and his 4.0 yards-per-carry average of the last two years isn’t overly impressive. Darren McFadden ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2015, but 2016 was pretty much a lost year for him. Jacquizz Rodgers seemed to break out last year, but he wound up succumbing to the same injury bug that took down a host of other Buccaneers running backs. Speaking of injuries, Rashad Jennings was initially brought to the Giants to be a workhorse back, but two of his three years in New York were marred by ailments. Everyone in this tier has the potential to make a difference, but none should be counted on as anyone’s main guy in 2017.

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Kirk Cousins Won’t Sign Extension Before Franchise Deadline

Pending free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t planning to ink an extension with the Redskins before the franchise tag deadline on March 1, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.Kirk Cousins (vertical)

[RELATED: 2017 Franchise Tag Candidates]

Because Cousins signed the franchise tender last season, he’d be due a 120% raise if tagged again this offseason, meaning he’d be entitled to a one-year, fully guaranteed salary of $23.94MM. As such, Cousins’ financial calculation is a simple one: not only would accepting the tag force Washington to work off that nearly $24MM total in negotiations, but Cousins can point to exact numbers in terms of guaranteed money on a long-term deal.

As Florio writes, a tag in 2017 plus another 120% raise in 2018 would equal more than $52MM in guarantees over the next two seasons, and Cousins would be unlikely to accept any figure that comes in south of that total on an extension. Plus, Cousins will probably sign the franchise tender immediately (as he did in 2016), thus backing the Redskins into a position where Cousins has nothing to lose.

Washington reportedly wants to reach a long-term deal with Cousins, but as of earlier this month, the two parties hadn’t made much progress towards an extension. At one point, Redskins management may have considered letting Cousins gauge his value on the open market, but that won’t happen now that Cousins backers Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay are now in head coaching positions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins Considered Letting Kirk Cousins Test Free Agency

Earlier this offseason, the Redskins were “of a mind” to let quarterback Kirk Cousins hit free agency in order to let the open market determine his financial value, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. Washington’s view on Cousins has seemingly changed now that Cousins backers Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay are now in head coaching positions and could theoretically take a run at the Redskins quarterback, per Breer.Kirk Cousins (Vertical)

[RELATED: 2017 Franchise Tag Candidates]

Progress between Washington and Cousins has been slow in recent weeks, and within the Redskins’ front office there is some “internal resistance” to the concept of using the franchise tag on Cousins for the second consecutive season. Per Breer, some Washington executives believe that giving Cousins nearly $24MM for the 2017 campaign would hinder negotiations with the sixth-year pro, as Cousins would be unlikely to accept a lower annual salary after setting $24MM as a baseline.

In sum, the Redskins seem incredibly unlikely to allow Cousins to reach free agency, and will probably use the franchise tender if now long-term deal is reached. Washington’s concern over San Francisco poaching Cousins if he heads to the market unfettered aren’t unfounded, as Cousins is reportedly Plan A for the 49ers at quarterback. A Los Angeles pursuit makes less sense, as the Rams just drafted Jared Goff first overall in last year’s draft.

In his two years as a starter, Cousins has helped the Redskins to plus-.500 seasons – including a 9-7, NFC East-winning showing in 2015 – while flourishing statistically. Cousins is coming off a year in which he completed 67 percent of passes, nearly reached the 5,000-yard mark (4,917), and tossed 25 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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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No Progress Between Redskins, Kirk Cousins

The beginning of free agency on March 9 is just over three weeks away, but the Redskins and the most valuable unsigned player in the NFL, quarterback Kirk Cousins, still haven’t made progress toward a long-term agreement, reports Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Talks between the two sides are poised to “intensify” over the next couple weeks, according to Jones.

Kirk Cousins (vertical)

Redskins president Bruce Allen said last month that the club’s goal is to lock up Cousins for the long haul, but doing so might cost in the neighborhood of $90MM and $110MM – including $50MM to $60MM in guarantees – on a four- to five-year contract, posits Jones. If that’s too big a commitment for Washington, whose brass has differing opinions on Cousins, it could place the franchise tag on the 28-year-old as early as Wednesday and no later than March 1.

The Redskins tagged Cousins at $19.95MM last season, and doing so again this winter would cost them $23.94MM. The likelihood is that the Redskins would use the non-exclusive tag on Cousins, adds Jones, which would enable the five-year veteran to negotiate with other teams. Should someone sign Cousins to an offer sheet, that club would have to send two first-round picks to the Redskins as compensation. That would perhaps be an unpalatable price to pay for bottom-feeding teams like the 49ers and Browns, both of whom have been connected to Cousins this offseason.

For the Redskins, losing the highly productive Cousins would lead to a significant short-term downgrade under center, as Jones writes that the team would seriously consider turning to backup Colt McCoy as a stopgap as it grooms an early round signal-caller behind him. Cousins’ departure could also deter free agents from signing with the Redskins this offseason, per ESPN.com’s John Keim, who notes that “multiple agents” around the league want their clients to join the team if the QB stays in the fold.

It’s easy to see why Cousins is regarded highly by his colleagues: In his two years as a starter, he has helped the Redskins to plus-.500 seasons – including a 9-7, NFC East-winning showing in 2015 – while flourishing statistically. Cousins is coming off a year in which he completed 67 percent of passes, nearly reached the 5,000-yard mark (4,917), and tossed 25 touchdowns against 12 interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Redskins Rumors: Cousins, Long, Scheme

This week’s been heavy on Redskins news, from the latest on DeSean Jackson‘s status, to counterpart Pierre Garcon being a coveted commodity, to updates on what’s been an interesting month for the team’s defensive staff. Here’s more coming out of Washington.

  • As a second standoff with Kirk Cousins appears to be brewing, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk injects another scenario that could either keep the quarterback in Washington on a year-to-year basis or affect negotiations on a potential long-term deal. While the Redskins using the franchise tag on their quarterback this year would pay him $23.94MM in 2017, doing so again in ’18 would come out to nearly $35MM. An untenable figure, but Florio notes the team could use the transition tag on Cousins in 2018 to lower that number. Applying the lesser-used tag would bring a 20 percent increase from Cousins’ prospective 2017 tag salary, producing a $28.78MM amount. This arrangement, while unlikely, could have an impact on how the team proceeds with Cousins’ deal in the coming months, with the first two years of said proposal reflecting the franchise-plus-transition amounts instead of the salaries mirroring a two-franchise tag format.
  • This $52.72MM over two years would make Cousins the highest-paid player in football, but that’s a possibility, notes ESPN.com’s John Keim. Cousins putting a near-5,000-yard season on top of what was a quality second half of the 2015 slate would obviously make him a viable passer on the open market. Although he may not get there, other teams would be lining up with interest, with the 49ers being just one. With that now factoring into his deal, Keim writes there’s a “good chance” Cousins’ AAV exceeds Andrew Luck‘s league-high $24.594MM. But with Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr entering walk years, and now the Falcons sending out signals they want to compensate Matt Ryan for his MVP season, Keim predicts one of these four passers being the league’s highest-paid player before next season starts.
  • Kory Lichtensteiger resided as Washington’s starting center for most of this decade, but after the 31-year-old retired, Spencer Long is now in that position. And both JP Finlay and Rich Tandler of CSNMidAtlantic.com expect Long to stay as the starting center next season and possibly serve as the long-term answer. Long’s rookie contract runs through 2017. Tandler also notes Scot McCloughan eyed now-Colts center Ryan Kelly with the Redskins’ first-round pick last year despite a 2014 third-round investment in Long.
  • The Redkins have used a 3-4 defense since Mike Shanahan‘s arrival in 2010, but Finlay argues they should pivot back to a 4-3 look unless a competent nose tackle arrives via the draft. Finlay expects new DC Greg Manusky to stay with a 3-4 look. Manusky’s been a DC for nine seasons — with the 49ers, Chargers and Colts — and utilized this alignment in each.
  • Substandard work during his first two offseasons will induce Bruce Allen to apply pressure on McCloughan during this one.

Redskins Notes: Cousins, WRs, Baker, Staff

Washington’s seen turnover on its coaching staff and has a potentially contentious negotiation with Kirk Cousins forthcoming. Here’s the latest emerging out of the nation’s capital, courtesy of the Washington Post’s Mike Jones.

  • The Redskins would prefer to keep Cousins on a long-term deal, with Jay Gruden “standing on the table” for the sixth-year quarterback. Jones notes, though, Cousins is “a little salty” and is well aware of the differing opinions on him that exist within the organization. There aren’t any indications the sides could be closer together on terms, and Jones adds a $24MM franchise tag looms as a high likelihood despite more than five months remaining until the extension deadline. A tag for Cousins basically ensures he’s not with the Redskins in 2018, Jones writes. A tag then — at 144 percent of his 2017 salary — would come out to roughly $35MM, and the quarterback in this scenario could see the Redskins as having no faith in him if a second tag is the reality come mid-July.
  • DeSean Jackson is likely to depart as a free agent, with Jones noting the deep threat is too inconsistent for the Redskins brass’ taste. The team has a higher opinion of fellow 30-year-old UFA Pierre Garcon, who has said he wants to stay in Washington. But with other teams seeking receiver help and many performers who could have been on the 2017 market (Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Allen Hurns, etc.) being extended, Garcon is one of the top pass-catchers available. That could complicate his return. The Redskins have not entered into negotiations with Garcon or Jackson, but that’s not necessarily seen as a deviation from the norm nor should it signal that neither wideout will return.
  • Washington hired James Rowe as its new assistant defensive backs coach, per Jones. This comes a day after the Redskins announced the hiring of Torrian Gray as their top secondary boss. Rowe comes straight out of the Division II ranks, having served as Valdosta State’s defensive coordinator in 2016.
  • Prior to moving toward Gray, the Redskins wanted now-Rams assistant Aubrey Pleasant to serve in Gray’s capacity. Money served as an issue that led to an irked Pleasant departing, with the move to Los Angeles coming after the Redskins previously blocked teams from interviewing their coveted assistant. Jones also notes league insiders wonder if Gray will be able to gel with some Redskins veterans who preferred Pleasant and avoid being given the “inflexible” tag previous secondary coach Perry Fewell was upon being fired along with DC Joe Barry.
  • Washington does not view defensive end Chris Baker as a high priority, instead being “lukewarm” on the lineman, Jones writes. He’s expected to want more than the Redskins are willing to pay. A Redskins starter for three seasons, Baker notched 10.5 sacks in 2015-16.

Latest On 49ers’ QB Outlook

Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is all but certain to be named the 49ers’ next head coach, and according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter), Atlanta’s current backup quarterback, Matt Schaub, could follow him to San Francisco. If that happens, Schefter says that Schaub could serve as a starter next season to bridge the gap to a younger signal-caller, or he could serve as a backup.

Dec 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub (8) warms up before the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets that Kirk Cousins remains Shanahan’s first choice, but if the Cousins plan falls through, Rapoport indicates that Jimmy Garoppolo, the Patriots’ current backup QB, would be Shanahan’s Plan B, followed by Schaub as Plan C.

We heard several weeks ago that the 49ers could pursue Cousins, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency this year but who could receive the franchise tag for the second consecutive season. While the Redskins reportedly want to sign Cousins to a long-term deal, they are weighing their options in that regard, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk suggests that Washington could tag Cousins and trade him. The 49ers are one team with sufficient cap space to facilitate such a trade, and they would still have the opportunity to work out a long-term contract with Cousins before the summer deadline.

Garoppolo, meanwhile, is not eligible for free agency but is sure to attract attention in the trade market. While the Patriots are reportedly willing to deal him, there are a number of obstacles to such a trade, which makes Schaub the most realistic of the three above-mentioned options.

The Falcons signed Schaub to a one-year deal this past offseason, and he threw just three passes the entire season as the backup to the league MVP, Matt Ryan. Schaub was the Ravens’ backup quarterback in 2015, though he did get the opportunity to start two games for Baltimore in the wake of Joe Flacco‘s season-ending ACL tear that year. Before that, his last significant starting experience came with Houston in 2013. He of course put together a reasonably successful seven-year stint with the Texans — which included two Pro Bowl nods — after spending the first three years of his career in Atlanta, but his days as a starter are clearly over. As Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets, Schaub has started just 10 games over the last four seasons, and during that time, he has compiled a 3-7 record with a whopping seven interceptions returned for touchdowns. So if he does head out to the Bay Area, it will be easy to forgive 49ers fans for being a little less than excited.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Cousins, 49ers, Saints, Cardinals

If Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins becomes available either via the trade or free agency this offseason, the 49ers reportedly plan to pursue the 28-year-old. That would seemingly be a welcome development for Cousins, who praised the 49ers’ new leadership – rookie general manager John Lynch and soon-to-be head coach Kyle Shanahan – on Thursday. Cousins told KNBR 680 (via CSN Bay Area) that Lynch is “smart guy” and a “class act,” adding, ” I think it was a good hire and credit the 49ers for going outside the box and doing something different, and not just getting stuck in a rut of the same old thing.” Shanahan is an “offensive genius,” according to Cousins, who played under the longtime coordinator in Washington from 2012-13. “I’ve always been a big fan of Kyle’s,” Cousins said. “I’ve always spoken very highly of him from the day I was picked. And he called me right after the draft and preached belief in me and encouragement … I loved his system right away and saw it successfuly run with Robert Griffin. I’ve seen it now run successfully with Matt Ryan.”

More from the NFC:

  • Colts COO Pete Ward stated last month that an “associate” of Saints head coach Sean Payton reached out to Indianapolis about its head coaching job, but Payton denied that Friday. Payton told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that his only “associate” is agent Don Yee, who didn’t call the Colts, and the coach added that he had never even previously heard of Ward. While there were reports earlier this winter that teams – including the Colts and Rams – could explore trading for Payton, the Saints never made him available, he informed Florio.
  • Payton’s boss, Saints owner Tom Benson, brought an end to a long battle Friday in settling an ownership dispute with his heirs centering on both New Orleans’ NFL franchise and the NBA’s Pelicans, details Greg LaRose of NOLA.com. If not for the settlement, the parties would have headed to trial Monday (the trial would not have impacted Benson’s control over the teams). Prior to Friday, Benson had been looking to remove ownership shares in the Saints and Pelicans from trust funds created for his daughter and grandson. The family had a falling out on account of Benson’s third wife, Gayle, whom he married in 2004 and who, in the heirs’ opinions, has too much control over Benson’s business affairs.
  • The Cardinals are planning to have left tackle Jared Veldheer and right tackle D.J. Humphries trade places in 2017, offensive coordinator/line coach Harold Goodwin revealed Thursday (via Darren Urban of the team’s website). “Jared is a team player, D.J. is a team player, so I’m sure we’re going to have a little coach-to-player conversation, but right now, throwing it out there of my own accord, I think D.J. at left and Jared at right and we’re rolling and kicking butt,” Goodwin said. Veldheer went on injured reserve in October with a partially torn triceps. That opened the door for Humphries to move back to the left side, where he spent his college career at Florida. Humphries was impressive enough there with the Gators to end up as a first-round pick in 2015, though he was inactive for his entire rookie season before beginning last year on the right side. In a combined 13 starts at the two positions, he graded as Pro Football Focus’ 42nd-best tackle among 78 qualifiers. Veldheer, meanwhile, was far better at the time of his injury (No. 18 out of 74), but that won’t stop the Cardinals from moving him off his typical position. The 2017 campaign will be the penultimate season of the five-year, $35MM deal Veldheer signed with the Cardinals in 2014.

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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