Melvin Ingram

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Players

The deadline to designate franchise or transition players for 2017 has passed. Here’s the rundown of the players that were tagged, plus the candidates that did not receive the designation:

Franchise players (exclusive):

Franchise players (non-exclusive):

*second tag; players receive raise over designated salary for position tender

Candidates who didn’t receive tags:

Chargers Franchise Tag Melvin Ingram

The Chargers have placed the franchise tag on edge rusher Melvin Ingram, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Ingram becomes the fifth pending free agent to be handed the franchise tender today, joining Chandler Jones, Kawann ShortJason Pierre-Paul, and Le’Veon Bell."<strong

[RELATED: Los Angeles Chargers Depth Chart]

Ingram, 27, will earn a one-year, fully guaranteed salary of roughly $14.75MM, although the exact figure won’t be known until the NFL announces the official salary cap for 2017. After seeing Ingram post 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons, Los Angeles was more than willing to pay that total in order to ensure he’ll will remain with the Chargers for at least one more campaign.

Rival clubs can still bid on Ingram, but they’d have to sacrifice two first-round picks in order to sign him away. Los Angeles has until July 15 to sign Ingram to an extension, or he’ll be forced to play out the season on the one-year tender.

Ingram placed fourth on the most recent edition of PFR’s Free Agent Power Rankings, and was listed second on our list of free agent edge defenders, just behind Jones and ahead of Pierre-Paul. The No. 6 pass rusher in the NFL last season — according to Pro Football Focus — Ingram will return to Los Angeles to pair with PFF’s No. 5 edge player, Joey Bosa. Both defenders will likely play end in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley‘s 4-3 scheme.

The 2017 free agent class of edge defenders is rapidly thinning now that Ingram, Jones, and Pierre-Paul are all under the franchise tag. Nick Perry (Packers), Jabaal Sheard (Patriots), James Harrison (Steelers), and John Simon (Texans) look like the next best options among pass rushing free agents.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ingram, Johnson To Be Franchise Tagged?

Melvin Ingram and Trumaine Johnson are among the players expected to be franchise tagged between now and March 1, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Schefter also lists Kirk Cousins, Le’Veon Bell, Kawann Short as guys who are likely to get the tag. Melvin Ingram (vertical)

While Cousins, Bell, and Short have long been seen as likely franchise candidates, things were less certain when it came to California’s two top free agents. Ingram has racked up 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but the Chargers have lots of holes to fill and some believed that the team would direct those resources elsewhere. Johnson, meanwhile, is coming off of a so-so season and the Rams will have to pay a surcharge in order to tag him for a second time.

It’s likely that the latest salary cap projection is playing a role in the decisions. It now sounds like the cap will land somewhere between $166MM and $169MM, up from $155.27MM last year. The one-year franchise tenders are expensive, but they are easier to swallow now that all 32 teams will have a little extra room to work with.

Our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings had Ingram as the fourth-best free agent on the board. Johnson was outside of the Top 10 but earned honorable mention.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2017 Free Agents By Position: Defense

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. After looking at offense, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

[RELATED: Top 2017 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense]

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These 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, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

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

Edge defender:

  1. Chandler Jones
  2. Melvin Ingram
  3. Jason Pierre-Paul
  4. Nick Perry
  5. Jabaal Sheard
  6. James Harrison
  7. John Simon
  8. DeMarcus Ware
  9. Lorenzo Alexander
  10. Andre Branch
  11. Julius Peppers
  12. Charles Johnson
  13. Datone Jones
  14. Mario Addison
  15. Dwight Freeney

The Cardinals have already made it abundantly clear that Chandler Jones will see the franchise tag this offseason, and Melvin Ingram and Jason Pierre-Paul are also candidates to be tagged by the Chargers and Giants, respectively. If the latter two are able to hit the open market unfettered, however, they both figure to break the bank. Ingram, Pro Football Focus’ No. 6 edge defender, could be a fit for both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, while JPP will be looking for a long-term commitment after signing consecutive one-year deals.Chandler Jones (vertical)

The rest of this year’s crop of free agent pass rushers is a blend of young defenders searching for their first payday and veterans on the hunt for one last contract. Among the players with youth still on their side, Packers edge defenders Nick Perry and Datone Jones figure to interest different clubs, as Perry is a better match for a 3-4 defense while Jones needs to restart his career as a 4-3 defensive end. John Simon has been overlooked while playing alongside the likes of J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus but could represent a hidden gem, while the Dolphins are reportedly prioritizing Andre Branch.

After managing nine sacks over the first nine years of his NFL tenure, Lorenzo Alexander busted out with 12.5 quarterback takedowns in 2016, and now could be looking for a double-digit annual salary. James Harrison and Charles Johnson, meanwhile, look like good bets to return to Steelers and Panthers, respectively, but DeMarcus Ware could be something of a wild card — after missing 11 games in the past two seasons, does the 34-year-old have enough left in the tank? The same could be asked of Dwight Freeney, who at age-37 posted three sacks in a rotational role for the Falcons.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Kawann Short
  2. Calais Campbell
  3. Johnathan Hankins
  4. Brandon Williams
  5. Dontari Poe
  6. Chris Baker
  7. Bennie Logan
  8. Nick Fairley
  9. Alan Branch
  10. Jared Odrick
  11. Karl Klug
  12. Terrell McClain
  13. Lawrence Guy
  14. Earl Mitchell
  15. Stacy McGee

Unlike the edge defender market, the 2017 cadre of interior defensive lineman shouldn’t be overly affected by the franchise tender. Head coach Ron Rivera recently confessed the Panthers will “probably” have to use the tag on Kawann Short, but the rest of the defensive tackles listed here should be able to hit the open market. Of the remaining defenders, Campbell is the best overall player, but given that he’s entering his age-31 season, he may not cost as much as Johnathan Hankins, Brandon Williams, and Dontari Poe.Johnathan Hankins (Vertical)

Hankins is only 24 years old, and though the Giants are trying to retain him along with the rest of their defensive core, the 6’3″, 320-pound mauler should represent an attractive option to a number of clubs this offseason. Williams, too, offers a massive presence on the inside, while Poe could intrigue clubs based on his first-round pedigree and athleticism (though his play hasn’t always matched his potential). The Redskins’ Chris Baker is a solid, well-rounded defensive tackle, and could constitute a consolation prize for teams that miss out on their top targets.

The rest of the class offers an interesting mix of nose tackles (Bennie Logan), interior pass rushers (Nick Fairley, Earl Mitchell), and run stoppers (Karl Klug, Alan Branch), so clubs hoping to bolster their defensive line should find no shortage of options. Jared Odrick recently hit free agency after being released by the Jaguars, while Terrell McClain, Lawrence Guy, and Stacy McGee could be underrated finds for the right team. McClain, for what it’s worth, has already been linked to the Falcons.

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AFC Notes: Patriots, Jaguars, Ingram, Jets

Patriots tight ends coach Brian Daboll is set to become the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss writes that the departure will leave “a notable void on the staff.” The former Browns, Dolphins, and Chiefs offensive coordinator will surely have more of an opportunity to run his own system at Alabama, although Reiss notes that Daboll was considered the “coordinator-in-waiting” if Josh McDaniels left the organization for a head coaching gig.

Who’s going to fill the role? Well, Reiss believes Bill Belichick will give a long look at several coaching assistants, including Nick Caley, Mike Pellegrino, and Cole Popovich. The team could also look to promote promising assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski.

Reiss also throws one other name into the mix: former head coach Chip Kelly.

Let’s check out some more notes from the AFC…

  • The Jaguars believe former first-rounder Jalen Ramsey is capable of being a top cornerback, but will that prevent the organization from pursuing another defensive back? Ryan O’Halloran of Jacksonville.com suggests that Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye could be an option, and one opposing coach believes the duo would form a “lethal” combination. Of course, the writer notes that the hypothetical would be moot if the team re-signs Prince Amukamara.
  • If Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram hits the open market, ESPN.com’s Mike Wells believes he’d be an intriguing option for the Colts. Indy was tied for 19th in sacks last season, while Ingram has compiled 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons.
  • ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini explores which of the Jets impending free agents they should prioritize re-signing. Left tackle Ben Ijalana and linebackers Josh Martin and Mike Catapano. Meanwhile, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is at the bottom of Cimini’s list.

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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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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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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AFC Notes: Siemian, Bolts, Browns, Cushing

After his second missed start this season, Trevor Siemian is expected to return on Sunday for the Broncos-Titans game, a player source informs Mike Klis of 9News. The first-year starter has missed 2 1/2 games now, with the two Paxton Lynch starts showing perhaps the rookie is not ready for regular duty.

Klis points out the mid-foot sprain Denver’s starter suffered is usually an injury that shelves players for multiple games, using Ronnie Hillman‘s six missed contests during the 2014 season as an example. Lynch completed 12-of-24 passes for 104 yards against the Jaguars last week, picking up his first win as a starter but doing so in less-than-optimal fashion.

Siemian is coming off his best game as a pro — a 368-yard, three-touchdown effort in an overtime loss to the Chiefs — but now needs to distance himself from another setback to avoid an injury-prone label after already missing time with a shoulder malady. For the Broncos, they likely need the second-year success story to return to make a last-ditch run at the AFC West title or possibly just to make the playoffs. Siemian (15 touchdown passes, seven INTs, 2,396 air yards) continuing to play reasonably well would continue to muddy the waters for the franchise in the future, though, with the first-round investment in Lynch still putting him in line as the quarterback of the future.

Here’s more from the AFC, continuing with more out of the West.

  • A substantial amount of money being tied to players on IR contributed to the Chargers‘ decisions about their replacements and extension decisions, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. In losing players like Stevie Johnson, Keenan Allen, Jason Verrett and Danny Woodhead, the Bolts have a 17-man IR contingent and that represents $29.3MM of the team’s cap space. This helped influence what kind of experience the Chargers ($1.3MM in cap room) could target as replacements for these players since longer-tenured veterans naturally cost more. Additionally, this matter partially impacted extension talks for Melvin Ingram or Woodhead, Gehlken reports, adding the Joey Bosa cash-flow uncertainty affected these talks as well. Both are impending UFAs, with Ingram set to be an in-demand commodity if he reaches the market.
  • Placed on IR recently, John Greco suspects he suffered the same mid-foot Lisfranc injury Joel Bitonio did, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. The Browns‘ starting right guard, Greco would likely undergo surgery just as Bitonio, Cleveland’s left guard starter, did in October. The 31-year-old Greco’s been a Browns starter since 2012 and is optimistic about a 2017 return, just like Bitonio. He will visit Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., next week to determine the next course of action. Despite entering what would be his 10th NFL season, Greco is under contract for just $975K in 2017.
  • Jamar Taylor and the Browns agreed to a three-year deal worth $15MM, and Joel Corry of CBSSports.com argues (on Twitter) this is a team-friendly pact despite the former Dolphins corner finishing the 2015 season as a healthy scratch for his former employer. This salary rests $2MM per year less than displaced starter Tramon Williams is making, leading Corry to believe Williams won’t be around next season (Twitter link) after Taylor supplanted him in the lineup. Williams will turn 34 in March and, as part of a three-year deal worth $21MM, would stand to make $7.5MM in 2017 — all but $500K of which is nonguaranteed, pointing to a cap-casualty future for the former Packers cog.
  • Brian Cushing‘s been playing with multiple broken bones in his back in his eighth Texans season, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports. “There’s two fractures in my back, but those are things you have to push through,” Cushing said. “Obviously, it’s painful, and I’m not able to get as many reps as I want in practice right now, but I’ll be out there Sunday with my team. I’ve missed a number of games with season-ending injuries, and I don’t want to miss any more time, so as long as I can walk, I’ll be out there.” The 29-year-old Cushing played at least 14 games in 2014-15 but saw his ’12 and ’13 slates end early because of ailments.

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.