Brian Burns

NFC Contract Details: Packers, Moore, Maddox, Burns

Here are some details on recent new contracts around the NFC:

  • Eric Wilson, LB (Packers): One year, $1.38MM. According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Wilson’s new contract with Green Bay includes a base salary of $1.21MM and a signing bonus of $167.5K.
  • Kristian Welch, LB (Packers): One year, $1.21MM. Demovsky also tells us that Welch’s re-signed deal will have a base salary of $1.13MM and a signing bonus worth $20K. Welch can earn an additional $20K with a workout bonus as well as a per game active roster bonus of $2,647 for a potential season total of $45K.
  • Chris Moore, WR (Cardinals): One year, $2MM. Moore’s contract with the Cardinals will have a guaranteed amount of $750K comprised of $250K of his 2024 base salary (worth a total of $1.28MM) and a $500K signing bonus, according to Howard Balzer of USA Today Sports. Moore will add another $50K with a workout bonus and an additional $10K per game that he’s on the active roster for a potential season total of $170K in per game active roster bonuses.
  • Avonte Maddox, CB (Eagles): One year, $1.5MM. Maddox’s new deal will have a guaranteed value of $875K consisting of $500K of his base salary (worth $1.13MM in total) and a $375K signing bonus.
  • Brian Burns, OLB (Giants): Five years, $141MM. We noted recently that Burns’ deal was not worth the reported $150MM amount and was actually for $141MM. Thanks to Dan Duggan of The Athletic, we now know that the $9MM difference comes from incentives wherein he can earn an additional $1.8MM for each year that he either reaches 12.5 sacks, makes a Pro Bowl, or earns first-team All-Pro honors. He’s reached that sack total once in 2022 and made two Pro Bowls in 2021 and 2022, but because he didn’t reach any of those achievements last year, the potential $1.8MM won’t count against New York’s cap space in 2024.

Free Agency Notes: Giants, Vikings, Jets, Hawks, Huff, Commanders, Ekeler, Raiders, Dolphins, Jacobs, Rams

The Bryce Huff market did not reach the level of Jonathan Greenard‘s, and Danielle Hunter also scored a better guarantee compared to the Jets‘ contract-year breakout pass rusher. But the Eagles needed to give Huff a three-year, $51.1MM deal with $34MM guaranteed. That came about because, per Huff, the Commanders, Giants, Seahawks and Vikings joined the Jets in pursuing him. The Jets had expressed interest in keeping the former UDFA, who led the team in sacks last season, but their 2023 Will McDonald draft choice appeared to point Huff elsewhere.

Minnesota came in early with its Greenard signing (four years, $76MM, $38MM fully guaranteed), while Washington turned to one of Dan Quinn‘s ex-Cowboys charges — Dorance Armstrongsoon after. The Giants made a bigger splash hours later by trading for Brian Burns, in a deal that involved a second-rounder going to the Panthers and fifth-rounders being swapped, while the Seahawks devoted their funding to fortifying their interior D-line (via the Leonard Williams deal). Huff, 26, led the NFL in pressure rate last season but was not used as a full-time D-end. It should be expected the Eagles, who have Haason Reddick in trade rumors, will up Huff’s usage.

Here is the latest free agency fallout:

  • As Lloyd Cushenberry and Andre James scored nice contracts, the center market has not seen Connor Williams come off the board. It should be a while on that front. Rehabbing an ACL tear, Williams is not expected to sign anywhere anytime soon, agent Drew Rosenahus said during a WSVP interview (via the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson). Williams going down in Week 14 certainly has impacted his market. Pro Football Focus graded the two-year Dolphins blocker as a top-five center in each of his two Miami seasons. Ahead of his age-27 season, the ex-Cowboys draftee will probably need to show teams he is healthy or on track to full strength before a deal commences.
  • The Raiders lost their starting running back in free agency, seeing Josh Jacobs join the Packers. Zamir White is tentatively in place as Las Vegas’ starter, but the now-Tom Telesco-run club did show interest in Austin Ekeler, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets. Telesco was with the Chargers when they signed Ekeler as a UDFA and when they extended him, but the GM did not greenlight a second extension last year. That led to trade rumors and a small incentive package. Ekeler signed a two-year, $8.43MM Commanders deal, indicating (via the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala) the NFC East team showed the most interest. Despite leading the NFL in TDs in 2021 and 2022, Ekeler received only $4.2MM fully guaranteed — ninth among FA backs this year.
  • As for Jacobs, his guarantee fell well short of Saquon Barkley‘s and shy of the Bears’ commitment to D’Andre Swift. The Packers signed Jacobs to a four-year, $48MM deal, but Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio notes only the $12.5MM signing bonus is guaranteed (plus a $1.2MM 2024 salary). Beyond 2024, this is a pay-as-you-go deal. Jacobs is due a $5.93MM roster bonus on Day 5 of the 2025 league year, creating a pivotal date for Green Bay’s backfield. The Packers are known for shying away from guarantees beyond Year 1, in most instances, but it is interesting to see the gap between guarantees Barkley could secure ($26MM) and Jacobs’ locked-in money.
  • The gap between Xavier McKinney‘s Packers deal and the Ramstwo-year Kamren Curl pact ended up wider than the aforementioned RBs. Curl agreed to a $9MM accord, per the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. Curl, 25, has two seasons to show he can command a more lucrative contract. But McKinney (four years, $68MM) showed how valuable an age-25 offseason can be for earning power, making the Curl contract look quite Rams-friendly.
  • Jonnu Smith‘s two-year Dolphins deal came in at $8.4MM, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Miami will guarantee the former Tennessee, New England and Atlanta tight end $3.96MM. No guarantees are present beyond 2024,’s Albert Breer tweets. Miami’s three-year Jordyn Brooks accord lands slightly lower than initially reported, with Wilson adding the ex-Seattle linebacker signed for $26.25MM. Brooks’ contract features $16MM guaranteed; just $9.5MM of that sum is guaranteed at signing.

NFC East Notes: Reddick, Eagles, Burns, Giants, Kendrick, Cowboys, Commanders

The Eagles signed Bryce Huff and reached a reworked agreement with Josh Sweat. Brandon Graham is coming back for what would be a record 15th season with the franchise, and Nolan Smith is going into his second season. This setup would stand to point Haason Reddick out of town, and the Eagles recently made a contract adjustment that could help facilitate a trade. The team moved Reddick’s $1MM bonus, which was scheduled for March 15, to April 1, according to’s Jeremy Fowler.

Reddick, 29, is due a $14.25MM base salary in 2024; that amount is almost entirely nonguaranteed. The Eagles gave Reddick permission to seek a trade ahead of free agency, and while the Philadelphia native said he did not request to be moved, the team’s other decisions at edge rusher may have made that decision already. Calls have come in, and it will be interesting to see what offers emerge. A team acquiring Reddick would likely be doing so with the intent of extending him, which will impact his value. He of back-to-back double-digit sack seasons and the driving force behind Philly nearly breaking the 1984 Bears’ single-season sack record in 2022, Reddick is tied to a $15MM AAV; that ranks 19th among edge defenders.

Here is the latest from the NFC East:

  • On the edge rusher topic, the GiantsBrian Burns extension is not quite as lucrative as initially reported. While the extension can be worth up to $150MM,’s Albert Breer notes its base value checks in at $141MM with $76MM fully guaranteed. The deal will pay out $90MM over the first three years. In terms of total guarantees, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan places that number at $87.5MM. Burns’ 2024 base salary is fully guaranteed, but his 2025 and ’26 numbers are not. Burns has $10.75MM of his $22.25MM 2025 base guaranteed at signing; his $22.25MM 2026 base is guaranteed for injury. The deal features a surprisingly flat structure that does not involve void years, giving the Giants — who would have Kayvon Thibodeaux eligible for an extension in 2025 — some flexibility down the road. Burns’ $28.2MM AAV tops T.J. Watt for second among edge defenders, but his full guarantee trails the Steelers All-Pro’s $80MM figure.
  • The Giants created some additional cap space Thursday, moving $10MM of Dexter Lawrence‘s base salary into a signing bonus. This will free up $7.5MM in space for New York, ESPN’s Field Yates tweets. The Giants did not move all of Lawrence’s 2024 base into a bonus, potentially leaving some room in case more funds are needed. Lawrence’s $22.5MM-per-year deal runs through 2027.
  • Eric Kendricks agreed to a one-year, $3MM Cowboys deal, and ESPN’s Todd Archer notes he accepted a lesser offer in order to rejoin Mike Zimmer in Dallas. The longtime Vikings starter had agreed to terms with the 49ers, but a lower cost of living — albeit for a player who has made $52MM in his career — and a familiar scheme will await him in Dallas. The 49ers moved on to De’Vondre Campbell.
  • While Devin White‘s Eagles contract can max out at $7.5MM,’s Ari Meirov indicates the deal’s base value comes in at $4MM ($3.5MM guaranteed). This is a staggering drop for White, who had requested the Buccaneers trade him — as he pursued a top-market ILB contract — last year. The former top-five pick will follow the likes of Kyzir White, Zach Cunningham and Nicholas Morrow as low-cost solutions on Philly’s defensive second level.
  • Frankie Luvu‘s Commanders contract can max out at $36MM, but KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson notes the base value is $31MM. Washington is giving the productive Carolina linebacker $14.6MM guaranteed at signing. Just $2MM of Luvu’s $8.5MM 2025 base salary is fully guaranteed. Another $4.5MM locks in on April 1, 2025. Clelin Ferrell‘s one-year Commanders pact is worth $3.75MM with $3.1MM guaranteed, per Wilson, who adds $1.5MM is also available via incentives. As for DB Jeremy Reaves, Wilson adds he re-signed on a two-year, $6MM contract. The Reaves deal includes $2.7MM guaranteed. Lastly, Jeremy Chinn‘s Washington deal includes a $4.12MM base salary ($3.5MM guaranteed), via Wilson.

Panthers To Send OLB Brian Burns To Giants

At last, a resolution is coming in the Brian Burns saga. Two years after Burns became extension-eligible, he is being traded. The Giants will be the team to pay the franchise-tagged player now.

The Giants are sending the Panthers second- and fifth-round picks for Burns,’s Ian Rapoport reports. This deal will also come with an extension. New York will give Burns his long-sought-after extension, signing off on a five-year deal worth up to $150MM. The contract includes $87.5MM in guarantees. The Giants held an extra second-round pick from the 2023 Leonard Williams trade; that will come in handy as the team replenishes its pass rush.

Carolina-New York conversations on Burns had taken place for a stretch, and with the Panthers pausing extension talks for the 2019 first-round pick, that will lead to a scenery change. The Panthers kept Ejiro Evero in place as DC, and GM Dan Morgan was in the front office during Burns’ negotiations last year and when the Rams made a monster trade offer — one that far surpasses this actual haul — in 2022. But the Panthers were unable to complete a deal. They will now take what they can get and move on.

This moves comes nearly 18 months after the Rams proposed two first-round picks and a third for Burns at the 2022 trade deadline. In the aftermath of the Matt Rhule firing, the Panthers balked and prepared extension talks with Burns in 2023. Those conversations did not produce an agreement, and it did not sound like anything was close last year. The sides broke off talks before the season, and although more trade offers — not on the level of the Rams proposal — came out, the then-Scott Fitterer-run Panthers stood pat.

Burns has not been a top-tier edge rusher, having recorded one 10-plus-sack season (12.5 in 2022) in his five-year career. But the Giants will bet on the Florida State alum’s consistency. Burns has tallied at least 7.5 sacks in each of his NFL slates. He totaled eight last year. The former Ron Rivera-era Panthers draftee has tallied between 18 and 22 QB hits over the past four seasons. Burns’ 46 career sacks rank 12th in the NFL since 2019.

The Giants took a bit to reinvest in their edge positions following the Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon trades, but they took Azeez Ojulari in the 2021 second round. That was a Dave Gettleman-era move, and Ojulari did not play well in 2023. Ojulari only totaled 2.5 sacks in 11 games, undercutting Thibodeaux’s breakout to a degree. The Giants will pay up for Burns to go with Thibodeaux’s rookie deal, which can run through 2026 via the fifth-year option. While Burns’ AAV is not yet known, anything north of $28MM (T.J. Watt‘s deal) would bump him into second place behind only Nick Bosa among edges.

This wraps a long-running partnership for the Panthers, who had struggled to complement Burns on the edge. Yetur Gross-Matos and Justin Houston were unable to adequately do so, with hybrid performer Frankie Luvu — who is signing with the Commanders — being Carolina’s other top LB pass rusher. Gross-Matos and Marquis Haynes are free agents now. The Panthers will be in dire need at this premium position, and Monday saw a few of this year’s top edge players choose destinations already. The draft stands to be an avenue for the rebuilding team.

Giants, Panthers Discussing Brian Burns Trade

Much of Monday’s action has related to the opening of free agency, which will officially take place later this week. Trades – in certain cases – are still very much on the table as a roster-building strategy this time of year.

Should the Panthers elect to trade franchise-tagged edge rusher Brian Burns, the Giants could be a landing spot. SNY’s Connor Hughes reports a mutual interest exists between Burns and New York on a trade which would be accompanied by a lucrative new deal. The sides have been discussing Burns for a while, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini reports. No deal is final, but it appears this process has legs that could produce finality to a long-running saga. As of Monday afternoon, this process is trending toward a deal, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones tweets. Nothing is final just yet, however.

A recent development pointed to a trade being in play. Carolina paused Burns extension talks — once again, as the sides have been at it for a while off and on — just before franchise-tagging him. A tag had long been in play for the 2019 first-round pick, but trade offers have come in as well.

Teams pursued Burns at each of the past two trade deadlines, but Carolina stood pat. One of the bigger “what if?” trades in recent NFL history transpired in 2022, when the Rams offered two-first-rounders and a third for the talented edge rusher. The Panthers declined the offer, and they did not receive any proposals in that ballpark in 2023. Burns playing out his rookie contract will make matters more difficult for the Panthers to obtain comparable value to that Rams blockbuster offer in a trade.

Burns, 25, would obviously bring a major upgrade to the Giants. Big Blue has sought an edge rusher to pair with Kayvon Thibodeaux, and the first two years of a Burns contract would align with Thibodeaux’s rookie deal. The Giants can keep the 2022 first-rounder on his rookie pact through 2025, with a fifth-year option decision for ’26. Burns has sought a $30MM-per-year deal, however, and the Panthers have been reluctant to authorize it. As Carolina shifts to a new GM and coaching staff, it does seem like a trade is in play now.

While edge rushers are obviously valuable, Burns needing a top-market contract will cut into his trade value. He has not brought the kind of production Khalil Mack did when the Raiders received two first-rounders for the former Defensive Player of the Year. CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson offers that teams are hesitant to part with a first-rounder and change for Burns, who has one double-digit sack season on his resume. That said, Burns has 46 career sacks and has never totaled fewer than 7.5 in a season.

Panthers Place Franchise Tag On Brian Burns

With no long-term deal in sight, the Panthers will move forward with the expected decision on Brian Burns. The Pro Bowl edge rusher has been told he will receive the franchise tag, per Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report. The team has since announced the move.

Burns has long been an obvious candidate for the tag, which will pay out $24MM guaranteed. That figure will eat into much of Carolina’s available cap space if he plays out the 2024 season on the tender, but questions about his future with the organization have persisted for some time now.

Contract talks have been on and off between the Panthers and the 25-year-old. Burns played on his $16MM fifth-year option in 2023, and the lack of a long-term pact kept him in trade talks. Carolina once again elected to keep him in the fold, but the passing of the deadline did not spur a new round of negotiations. With the parties still not on the verge of an agreement, talks were put on hold during last week’s Combine.

For that reason, many have pointed to a tag-and-trade being on the table as the Panthers look to avoid Burns departing in free agency in 2025. The Rams made an offer including two first-round picks in 2022, and teams have remained highly interested in the Florida State alum. Washington was among the suitors in the build-up to this year’s trade deadline, and those still in a favorable cap situation will no doubt show at least a degree of interest. With Burns requiring a lucrative pact upon arrival, however, it would come as a surprise if Carolina was able to secure a better draft haul than the previous Rams offer.

Seeing as the non-exclusive tag has been used, Burns will be eligible to negotiate a contract with outside suitors. An agreement which goes unmatched from the Panthers will result in two first-round picks as compensation, though a trade would allow an acquiring team to pay out a different price to Carolina. Burns and the Panthers will be able to negotiate a long-term deal as late as July 15 if no trade takes place.

Given where things stand on that front, though, considerable progress would need to be made for an agreement keeping him in Charlotte beyond 2024 to be hammered out. Burns has been connected to a higher asking price (roughly $30MM per season) than the team is willing to reach. Nick Bosa‘s historic 49ers extension carries an AAV of $34MM, which comfortably leads the pack. Carolina would likely add Burns to the list of eight edge rushers earning between $22MM and $28MM on their respective pacts if a multi-year deal were to come to fruition.

Burns posted double-digit sacks for the first time in his career in 2022, totaling 12.5. He followed that up with eight last season, bringing his career total to 46 in five years. Not known for his run defense, he will nevertheless be an attractive option for teams looking to make a pricey investment along the edge. The Panthers will need to weigh their options on the Burns front while also sorting out the futures of other key defenders such as Frankie Luvu and Derrick Brown.

Panthers Pause Brian Burns Extension Talks

Brian Burns is an obvious franchise tag candidate in the event a long-term Panthers deal cannot be worked out. The latest development in this situation points further to the tag being necessary.

[RELATED: Panthers Discussing Derrick Brown Extension]

The Panthers informed Burns’ camp during the Combine that talks are on hold, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports reports. Negotiations on a sizable second contract have run hot and cold as a decision on a tag draws nearer. Burns was to no surprise on the radar of several teams – including the Commanders – in advance of the trade deadline. Even after it became clear he would not be on the move, the former first-rounder confirmed midseason extension talks were not taking place.

Mutual interest is known to exist between team and player in Burns’ case, but time is running out to come to terms on a mega-pact. The franchise tag deadline is March 5, and using it will create a window until mid-July to work out an agreement or a trade sending him to a new team. Carolina turned down an offer of two first-round picks from the Rams, as well as overtures from other suitors in the hopes of keeping the two-time Pro Bowler in the fold. General manager Dan Morgan recently all-but guaranteed the tag would be used if needed to avoid Burns reaching free agency.

The franchise tag would cost $24MM in the event the Florida State alum was classified as an outside linebacker or $21.32MM if designated a defensive end. Even if a compromise were worked out, questions would continue regarding Burns’ future in Carolina. He has posted 46 sacks in five seasons, and he earned $16MM on the fifth-year option last season. A new pact will check in at a much larger rate given his success as a sack artist, although limitations against the run could hinder his value on the open market.

Still, several suitors would no doubt be prepared to execute a tag-and-trade if Burns does indeed become available. Entering his age-26 season, he will be expected to continue producing at a high level in 2024 and beyond. Without a resumption of talks (and tangible progress being made in short order), however, it will remain up in the air whether or not Burns will be suiting up for the Panthers in the future.

Panthers Would Consider Using Franchise Tag On Brian Burns

While the Panthers would prefer to sign Brian Burns to an extension, GM Dan Morgan told reporters that “all options are on the table” when it comes to retaining their star pass rusher, including the franchise tag. With the March 5 franchise tag deadline rapidly approaching, Morgan revealed that he’ll be meeting with Burns’ agent this week regarding a potential extension.

“We’ll have a little more clarity on the situation after that, but we’re working on it,” Morgan said (via Darin Gantt of the team’s website). “I think right now, all options are on the table. You know, what those options are, we’ll find out. I’ll have a little more clarity on that after I meet with the agent.”

The franchise tag for Burns would come in at $24MM for the 2024 campaign. While a hypothetical extension could produce a higher average annual value, the team would have more flexibility to lessen the impending cap hits. Still, the Panthers clearly don’t want Burns to walk away for nothing, and when asked pointedly if the Panthers would consider the franchise tag, the GM didn’t mince words.

“We would definitely use it if we had to use it, and you know, we love Brian,” Morgan continued. “Brian’s a Panther. Somebody that I know and that I’m close to, I played with his brother. So, I definitely love Brian. But all options are on the table for him.”

Burns has spent his entire career with the Panthers, earning Pro Bowl nods in both 2021 and 2022. From a counting-stats perspective, his 2023 numbers were down a bit; after averaging more than 10 sacks per season between 2020 and 2022, Burns finished with only eight sacks last year. He still finished the campaign with 16 tackles for loss and 18 QB hits, and Pro Football Focus still graded him as the 37th edge rusher among 112 qualifiers.

Nick Bosa currently paces all edge rushers with a $34MM AAV, and three other pass-rushers are making north of $25MM per season (T.J. Watt, Joey Bosa, and Myles Garrett). Burns is younger than those higher-paid counterparts, and while he may not receive the same total money or guarantees, he could push to be among the highest-paid edge rushers in terms of AAV.

We heard recently that the Commanders joined a number of teams in contacting Carolina about Burns’ availability leading up to this year’s trade deadline. While the pass-rusher would surely have a number of suitors in free agency, it sounds like he won’t even make it that far.

Commanders Pursued Brian Burns In 2023

Picking up draft capital in exchange for young edge rushers became one of the defining aspects of the 2023 Commanders’ season, which skidded off the rails following the trades of Montez Sweat and Chase Young. The team also looks to have been monitoring an edge player on another roster.

Washington joined a number of teams in contacting Carolina regarding Brian Burns‘ availability before the October 31 deadline, The Athletic’s Joseph Person notes (subscription required). The Panthers, as they have done at a few junctures over the past 14 months, squashed trade overtures for Burns.

The Jaguars, Falcons and Ravens inquired about Burns last year, with the Bears and 49ers — the teams that eventually landed the Commanders’ trade chips — also involved in the second deadline pursuit of the Panthers Pro Bowler. This was only the second-most notable deadline Burns pursuit, as the Rams’ two-first-rounder proposal will be difficult to beat. No team approached the Rams’ 2022 Burns offer last year. Though, it is certainly interesting the Commanders checked in.

With Josh Harris believed to be a central part of the course change, the Commanders made the surprising choice to trade both Young and Sweat at last year’s deadline. The new owner emphasized picking up draft assets, doing so before pushing out the team’s fourth-year HC/top decision-maker (Ron Rivera) after the trades helped drive the team to a 4-13 record and the No. 2 overall draft slot. For Washington to also be interested in Burns would seem to run counter to the newly established mission.

Then again, the organization’s Panthers ties could explain this effort. Rivera was in place as Carolina’s HC when Burns went off the 2019 draft board in the first round. Marty Hurney was as well, working in his second stint as Panthers GM when the team chose Burns 16th overall. Hurney worked under Rivera in Washington, serving as the team’s executive VP of player personnel previously. While Harris sacked Rivera, Hurney and former GM Martin Mayhew remain with the organization in different roles.

It would seem unlikely Harris would have signed off on a blockbuster Burns acquisition, but given the Panthers’ stance on the former Rivera/Hurney investment, it is a moot point anyway. In addition to turning down the aforementioned Rams offer, former Panthers GM Scott Fitterer refused to include Burns in the 2023 trade for the No. 1 overall pick. That led to D.J. Moore being sent to Chicago last March. The Burns trade developments have only emboldened the upper-crust sack artist on the contract front, and another chapter — this time involving new Panthers GM Dan Morgan — looks set to begin soon.

The Panthers remain likely to use their franchise tag on Burns, Person adds. The two-time Pro Bowler sought a $30MM-per-year deal during the 2023 offseason. At the time, that would have established a new position record. T.J. Watt held that distinction for two years, via his $28MM-AAV Steelers re-up, but Nick Bosa topped it on the $34MM-per-year accord the 49ers gave him in September. Burns has not proven to be in the Watt or Bosa class, but the Panthers have armed him with considerable leverage. Bosa’s extension will certainly impact the Panthers’ talks with Burns, which were effectively paused during the latter’s contract year.

Burns, who stands to be Carolina’s first tag recipient since Taylor Moton in 2021, said he wants to stay with the Panthers. But it will clearly be costly for the team to retain him. It will be interesting to see if Fitterer’s successor affects these talks. Though, Morgan was in place as Carolina’s assistant GM from 2021-23. A tag, which will cost approximately $22.7MM, will buy the Panthers more time. They would have until July 15 to extend Burns, though a trade can be worked out beyond that point.

2024 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

A valuable tool for teams to keep top free agents off the market, the franchise tag has been in existence since 1993. This week brought the opening of the 2024 tag window. Clubs have until 3pm CT on March 5 to apply tags. As the Giants’ situation showed last year, most of the tag-related business comes near the close of this window. Teams will continue to work toward re-signing their respective tag candidates, thus preventing a lofty franchise tender from hitting their cap sheet.

The legal tampering period opens March 11, with the new league year (and official free agency) starting March 13. Once a player is tagged, he has until July 15 to sign an extension with his respective team. Absent an extension agreement by that date, the player must play the 2023 season on the tag (or go the Le’Veon Bell/Dan Williams/Sean Gilbert route, passing on guaranteed money and skipping the season).

High-profile free agents remain weeks away from hitting the market. As PFR’s tag recipients list shows, a handful of players are prevented from taking their services to free agency each year. This year looks to present a few more tag candidates compared to 2023. With a handful of teams determining if they will need to use the tag to prevent a free agency path, here are the players who figure to be tagged or at least generate conversations about being franchised ahead of the March 5 deadline:


Josh Allen, OLB (Jaguars)
Tag cost: $24MM

GM Trent Baalke did not leave much suspense when he addressed Allen’s future last month. The veteran exec said the 2019 first-round pick will be a Jaguar in 2024, indicating the team would use its franchise tag if necessary. The Jaguars do have Calvin Ridley as a free agent, but the team would owe the Falcons a 2024 second-round pick if it extended the wide receiver’s contract before the start of the league year. The second pick sent to Atlanta will only be a third-rounder if Jacksonville lets Ridley hit free agency. It makes more sense for Jacksonville to circle back to Ridley after allowing him to test the market. An Allen tag effectively ensures that will happen.

Timing his sack breakthrough well, Allen registered a Jags-record 17.5 during his contract year. The five-year Jaguar has combined for 55 QB hits over the past two seasons and ranks top 10 in pressures over the past three. The tag regularly keeps top edge rushers from hitting free agency, and the 26-year-old pass rusher — while obviously wanting to be paid what he’s worth — expressed a desire to stay in Jacksonville long term.

The Jags have regularly unholstered their tag during the 2020s, cuffing Yannick Ngakoue in 2020 and then keeping Cam Robinson off the 2021 and ’22 markets. The team kept Evan Engram out of free agency last year. Robinson signed an extension in 2022, and the Jags re-upped Engram last July. The Ngakoue situation could be notable, as the edge rusher became disgruntled with the Jags and was eventually traded to the Vikings that summer. No signs of that level of trouble are brewing with Allen yet.

Jaylon Johnson, CB (Bears)
Tag cost: $19.8MM

Johnson is likely to become the first franchise-tagged cornerback since the Rams kept Trumaine Johnson off the 2017 market. The Bears are the most recent team to tag a corner, using the transition tag to cuff Kyle Fuller in 2018. They will almost definitely follow suit with Johnson, who has been rumored to be tagged for several weeks. A Ryan Pace-era draftee, Johnson expressed his desire to stay with the Bears ahead of his contract year. With that platform campaign producing some twists and turns, that price has gone up significantly.

After unsuccessful in-season extension talks, the Bears gave Johnson an 11th-hour opportunity to gauge his trade value. The Bears did not alert teams Johnson, 24, was available until the night before the Oct. 31 deadline. Although the Bills and 49ers engaged in talks about a trade, the Bears held out for a first- or second-round pick. Nothing materialized, which will likely come up during the team’s talks with Johnson. The Bears then extended trade pickup Montez Sweat, leaving Johnson in limbo. But the former second-round pick stuck the landing on an impact season. He is firmly in the Bears’ plans, and the team holds more than $66MM in cap space — plenty to squeeze in a tag onto the payroll.

Pro Football Focus’ top-graded corner in 2023, Johnson displayed a new gear that has made him worthy of a tag. Finishing with four interceptions and allowing just a 50.9 passer rating as the closest defender, the Utah alum soared to second-team All-Pro status. The Bears, who last used the tag on Allen Robinson in 2021, made no secret of their interest in retaining Johnson and will have a few more months to negotiate with him as a result of the tag.

Likely tag recipients

Brian Burns, OLB (Panthers)
Projected tag cost: $24MM

The Panthers hiring a new GM and head coach classifies this as just short of a lock, but familiar faces remain. Carolina promoted assistant general manager Dan Morgan to GM and blocked DC Ejiro Evero from departing. Burns has been viewed as a likely tag recipient since last season, after negotiations broke down. The Panthers have not offered a negotiating masterclass here, as Burns has been extension-eligible since the 2022 offseason. Since-fired GM Scott Fitterer had viewed Burns as a re-up candidate for two offseasons, but multiple rounds of trade talks boosted the 2019 first-rounder’s leverage.

In what looks like a mistake, the Panthers passed on a Rams offer that included two first-rounders and a third for Burns at the 2022 trade deadline. Carolina then kept Burns out of 2023 trade talks with Chicago about the No. 1 pick, ultimately sending D.J. Moore to the Windy City for the Bryce Young draft slot. Carolina also kept Burns at the 2023 deadline, as teams looked into the top pass rusher on the NFL’s worst team. Burns also saw his position’s market change via Nick Bosa‘s record-setting extension ($34MM per year). The 49ers’ landmark accord came to pass after Burns had set a $30MM-AAV price point, complicating Morgan’s upcoming assignment.

Burns, 25, has registered at least 7.5 sacks in each of his five seasons. While he has only topped nine in a season once (2022), the two-time Pro Bowler is one of the league’s better edge rushers. Given the Panthers’ history with Burns, it would be borderline shocking to see the team allow the Florida State alum to leave in exchange for merely a third-round compensatory pick.

Burns has said he wants to stay with the Panthers; he is unlikely to have a choice this year. The Panthers last used the tag to keep right tackle Taylor Moton off the market in 2021; the sides agreed to an extension that offseason.

Tee Higgins, WR (Bengals)
Tag cost: $21.82MM

Seeing their hopes of capitalizing on the final year of Higgins’ rookie contract dashed due to Joe Burrow‘s season-ending injury, the Bengals look to be giving strong consideration to keeping the Burrow-Higgins-Ja’Marr Chase trio together for one last ride of sorts. The Bengals hold $59.4MM in cap space — fifth-most currently — and structured Burrow’s extension in a way that makes a Higgins tag palatable. Burrow’s deal does not spike into historic cap territory until 2025.

While a future in which Chase and Higgins are signed long term is more difficult to foresee, the Bengals still carry one of the AFC’s best rosters. It is likely Burrow’s top two weapons remain in the fold for at least one more year. Higgins, 25, did not come close to posting a third straight 1,000-yard season. Burrow’s injury had plenty to do with that, though the former second-round pick started slowly. A Bengals 2023 extension offer underwhelmed Higgins, but the Bengals kept him out of trades. A tag will give Cincinnati the option to rent him for 2024. A tag-and-trade transaction is viewed as unlikely, as the Bengals load up again.

How the organization proceeds beyond 2024 will be a key storyline, but the Bengals — who kept Jessie Bates in similar fashion in 2022 — are positioned well to run back perhaps the NFL’s best receiving tandem. While director of player personnel Duke Tobin stopped short of guaranteeing Higgins will be a Bengal in 2024, signs point to it.

Justin Madubuike, DL (Ravens)
Tag cost: $22.1MM

Seeing their defensive coordinator depart and once again facing questions at outside linebacker, the Ravens have the option of keeping their top 2023 pass rusher off the market. They are probably going to take that route. Madubuike raised his price considerably during an impact contract year, leading the Ravens with 13 sacks. While Mike Macdonald was able to coax surprising seasons from late additions Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, Madubuike drove Baltimore’s defensive engine and will likely be guaranteed a high salary by signing his franchise tender.

Perennially interested in hoarding compensatory picks, the Ravens have regularly let breakthrough pass rushers walk in free agency. This dates back to the likes of Paul Kruger and Pernell McPhee and subsequently included Za’Darius Smith and Matt Judon. The Ravens have only been able to replace Judon with stopgap options — from Clowney to Van Noy to Justin Houston — and again must figure out a solution alongside Odafe Oweh on the edge. Madubuike, 26, proved too good to let walk; the former third-round pick will once again be expected to anchor Baltimore’s pass rush in 2024.

Antoine Winfield Jr., S (Buccaneers)
Tag cost: $17.12MM

We mentioned Winfield as the Bucs’ most likely tag recipient around the midseason point, and signs now point to that reality coming to pass. The Bucs want to re-sign Baker Mayfield and Mike Evans. The bounce-back quarterback’s tender price would check in at nearly $36MM, and because Evans was attached to a veteran contract, his tag number would come in well north of Higgins’ — at beyond $28MM. As such, the Bucs cuffing Winfield has always made the most sense, and after the second-generation NFL DB’s dominant contract year, it would be stunning to see the team let him walk.

The Bucs have let their recent top free agents test free agency, only to re-sign Shaquil Barrett (2021), Carlton Davis (2022) and Jamel Dean (2023). Winfield may be on a higher plane, having secured first-team All-Pro acclaim last season. Davis and Dean have never made a Pro Bowl; Winfield’s productive and well-regarded 2023 stands to separate him. Winfield, 25, tallied six sacks and three interceptions while forcing an NFL-leading six fumbles. This included a pivotal strip of DJ Chark in the Bucs’ Week 18 win over the Panthers, which clinched them the NFC South title.

Winfield will undoubtedly be eyeing a top-market safety extension. Derwin James established the current standard, $19MM per year, just before the 2022 season. Last year’s safety market did not feature big-ticket prices, for the most part, but the Falcons made Jessie Bates (four years, $64MM) an exception. If Winfield were to reach free agency, he would be expected to eclipse that.

The Bucs, who have used the tag three times in the 2020s, should not be considered likely to let Winfield follow Davis and Dean’s path by speaking with other teams. Tampa Bay has used the tag three times in the 2020s, cuffing Barrett in 2020 and tagging Chris Godwin twice. The team eventually re-signed both, and while the statuses of Mayfield and Evans (and All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs) create a crowded contract queue, the Bucs will certainly be interested in re-upping Winfield.

On tag radar

Saquon Barkley, RB (Giants)
Tag cost: $12MM

Barkley has said he wants to finish his career with the Giants, and the team will meet with the Pro Bowl running back’s camp at the Combine. But a recent report indicated the team is highly unlikely to tag the six-year veteran a second time. The Giants should not be ruled out from reversing course and keeping Barkley, given his importance to an otherwise low-octane offense, but it appears they are prepared to move on if the talented RB does not accept their extension offer this time around. A host of talented backs await in free agency, though Barkley would likely be the top prize were he to reach the market.

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