Jordan Poyer

Bills To Open Von Miller’s Practice Window

OCTOBER 5: After experiencing no speedbumps during the Bills’ wing of practices in Buffalo ahead of their London game, the future Hall of Famer is making the trip to England, per NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. The Bills have nearly three weeks to activate Miller from the PUP list, but making the trip ahead of the Jaguars matchup represents a good sign of a Week 5 return.

OCTOBER 1: Bills defensive end Von Miller opened the season on the PUP list as he continues to recover from the ACL tear that ended his 2022 campaign prematurely. That meant that Miller would miss at least the first four games of the season but would be eligible to return for Buffalo’s Week 5 contest against the Jaguars next Sunday.

Per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Bills are opening Miller’s practice window, and the future Hall of Famer will resume practicing this week. Once that happens, the club will have three weeks to add him to the 53-man roster, and if they do not do so, he will be ineligible to return this season.

Obviously, the Bills would not open the practice window if they did not believe Miller was close to game-ready (indeed, at the beginning of August, GM Brandon Beane expressed optimism that Miller would suit up for Week 1). However, that does not necessarily mean that Miller will be in the lineup in Week 5. As Schefter notes, Buffalo will continue to be cautious with Miller, and there is not yet a definitive return date.

Now 34, Miller signed a six-year, $120MM contract with the Bills in March 2022. In his first season in western New York, which lasted just 11 games, the eight-time Pro Bowler posted eight sacks and was viewed as one of the league’s best all-around defenders in the eyes of Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. This offseason, Buffalo signed Leonard Floyd as something of a contingency plan, and Floyd has acquitted himself nicely, posting 3.5 sacks through the first three games of 2023.

Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa have also had some success this season, but the return of Miller will nonetheless be a welcome development for a team that has designs on a deep postseason run. The team currently ranks second in the league in terms of total defense, points allowed, and sacks, and Miller’s presence will make an already-imposing unit even more formidable.

In other news, safety Damar Hamlin is making his 2023 debut against the Dolphins today. While Hamlin participated in all three of the Bills’ preseason games, this will mark the third-year pro’s first regular season action since he collaped on the field due to commotio cordis in a Bills-Bengals game in January. Hamlin’s inspiring recovery has now come full circle, and he has taken the place of the injured Jordan Poyer on the active roster.

Brandon Jones, DeShon Elliott To Vie For Dolphins S Job

In Jevon Holland, the Dolphins have a locked-in safety starter. The 2021 second-round pick has become one of the NFL’s better back-line defenders. As Vic Fangio prepares for his first training camp as Miami’s defensive coordinator, a key question will involve the other safety position.

The Dolphins did not operate aggressively in free agency here, likely for multiple reasons. One of them: a belief in Brandon Jones. The fourth-year safety is coming off a torn ACL, but the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson notes the team is high enough on the returning starter it did not pursue a high- or mid-level contract with a veteran safety.

A 2020 third-round pick, Jones has started 24 career games — including 20 over the past two seasons — and formed a promising tandem with Holland. But the Dolphins did not stand down entirely in free agency. The team did not make a notable offer to Jordan Poyer, per Jackson, despite the Bills safety being intrigued by a warm-weather city with a friendlier tax code. (Poyer re-signed with the Bills.) But Miami did sign former Baltimore and Detroit safety DeShon Elliott, adding the fifth-year veteran for just $1.77MM.

These two will vie for the position alongside Holland, per Jackson. Both players are coming off injuries. Jones’ ACL tear occurred in Week 7, while Elliott played through a shoulder injury to close his 2022 Lions run. The shoulder problem limited Elliott this offseason as well, but the former sixth-round pick is expected to be fine for the start of Miami’s regular season. As such, he poses a threat to Jones’ job in the latter’s contract year.

Jones, 25, and Elliott, 26, were teammates at Texas in the late 2010s. The latter has started 35 career games, earning a job alongside Chuck Clark. Elliott started 16 games for the Ravens in 2020 and six in 2021; the Lions gave Elliott 13 starts last season. Of course, Detroit struggled on defense for much of the season and has since overhauled its secondary. This will lead Elliott — Pro Football Focus’ No. 45 overall safety last season — into Fangio’s scheme.

PFF rated Jones 64th overall in 2022, though his coverage stats revealed improvement in that area. Prior to the knee injury, the plus blitzer (five sacks in 2021) held a 62.5% completion rate allowed as the closest defender and allowed a 78.0 passer rating. Both marks were significantly better than Jones’ 2021 coverage performance, though Fangio’s zone-based system will mark a change from a Josh Boyer scheme that capitalized on Jones’ blitzing skill.

The Dolphins have Holland signed to his rookie deal through the 2024 season. With two big-ticket cornerback contracts on their books (for Xavien Howard and trade acquisition Jalen Ramsey), that will prove important. The team also used its top draft choice (No. 51 overall) on former South Carolina nickel Cam Smith. With big investments at four of their five DB spots, the Dolphins will count on low-cost production from the other post. The loser of the ex-Longhorns’ competition will represent quality depth.

Bills To Re-Sign S Jordan Poyer

MARCH 17: Poyer agreed to terms on a deal that comes in at a lower rate than his previous Buffalo pact. The Bills are giving the All-Pro safety a two-year deal worth $12.5MM, Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News tweets. The contract maxes out at $14.5MM, via incentives, with O’Halloran adding $760K of Poyer’s 2024 money becomes guaranteed on Day 5 of the 2024 league year. That date will be significant for Poyer, with KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson adding (Twitter link) the 11th-year defender’s $4.74MM base salary for next season becomes guaranteed then.

MARCH 15: Although the Bills let Tremaine Edmunds walk earlier this week, they are planning to retain their other priority free agent. Jordan Poyer is expected to re-sign with the team, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

This will be Poyer’s third Bills contract. The veteran safety signed with the team in 2017 and later reached an extension agreement. The Bills are now keeping the 11th-year defender around for at least a seventh season with the team. It is a two-year deal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Poyer sought a second Bills extension last year, but when nothing materialized, he spoke with other teams this week. The market did not produce what he wanted, with Cameron Wolfe of NFL.com noting Poyer felt his age affected his value here (Twitter link). The longtime Buffalo safety is 32, so he is probably right. But he earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2021 and made the Pro Bowl last season. The Bills will bet on Poyer continuing to be productive in his early 30s.

The Bills have obtained considerable value from Poyer, who has been instrumental in the team’s rise during Sean McDermott‘s tenure. Months after being hired, McDermott signed off on a four-year, $13MM deal for Poyer, whose profile at the time was nowhere near where it is today. Following two playoff trips with Poyer and safety tandem partner Micah Hyde, the Bills extended both. Poyer signed a two-year, $19MM extension in 2020. Given his view of an age-limited market this year, it should not be expected his third Bills pact will exceed his second by much.

The Raiders looked into Poyer but ended up signing ex-Eagle Marcus Epps on a two-year, $12MM accord. Hyde is already attached to a two-year, $19.25MM pact. Vonn Bell also failed to land an eight-figure-per-year deal on this year’s market, despite being only 28.

The Bills have managed to keep their top-flight safety duo together on middle-class contracts. Hyde is coming off a season in which a neck injury sidelined him in September, and Damar Hamlin‘s cardiac arrest brought the NFL to a standstill in January. Hamlin has made remarkable strides and wants to play again, but it is unknown when that will come to pass.

Poyer has started 91 games with the Bills and has intercepted nine passes over the past two. Last season, Pro Football Focus slotted the former seventh-round pick 48th overall among safeties. But the former Eagles draftee has been in McDermott’s system for six seasons. With the Bills set to have a new defensive coordinator in 2023, he and Hyde stand to benefit the new McDermott lieutenant after Edmunds’ departure.

Raiders To Sign S Marcus Epps

The Eagles have lost another defender in free agency. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that safety Marcus Epps is expected to sign with the Raiders.

The defensive back will get a two-year, $12MM deal from Las Vegas, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). The contract includes $8MM in guaranteed money.

Epps had a career season for the Eagles in 2022, starting a career-high 17 games. The defensive back finished the campaign with 94 tackles and six passes defended, and he had another 13 stops in three postseason starts. The 27-year-old only finished as Pro Football Focus’ 71st-ranked cornerback among 88 qualifiers, but the site did give him a top-12 score in rush defense.

With Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averett hitting free agency, the Raiders have been mentioned as a potential suitor for free agent defensive backs. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter), there was mutual interest between the Raiders and Bills safety Jordan Poyer, but it seems like the organization opted for the cheaper alternative.

The defending NFC champions have already seen a handful of defenders leave today. Besides Epps, the Eagles have also lost defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and linebacker T.J. Edwards to free agency.

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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Bills S Jordan Poyer Addresses Pending Free Agency

The Bills face the possibility of losing at least one of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer in free agency next month. The former is likely to test the open market, and the latter is aware of the options he will have once his contract expires.

On the latest episode of the Jordan Poyer Podcast, the veteran elaborated on his current situation, which will see him become a free agent for the first time since joining the Bills in 2017. During the past six years, Poyer has established himself as one of the league’s most consistent producers at the position. He earned All-Pro honors in 2021, and received a Pro Bowl nod this season after recording four interceptions in 12 games.

The 31-year-old angled for a new contract last offseason, and his production and cap numbers made him a logical extension candidate. No new deal materialized, however, and while Buffalo remains interested in bringing him back for the right price, Edmunds is likely to be the higher priority. Acutely aware of that, Poyer is looking forward to exploring his options.

“I definitely want to keep playing,” the former seventh-rounder said. “I’m excited. I’m going to enjoy this process. Not really sure what to expect. I do know I’m a ball player, so whatever team does get J-Po, I believe they’re going to be better. So, I’m excited for what’s to come. If that’s Buffalo, I’ve been out there six years and know what to do. If not, that’s just part of the business… I would love to go to a state that doesn’t take half my money… If it wasn’t Buffalo, it’d be nice to be warm. It would be nice to see the sun, maybe, every week or so, every other week at least” (h/t Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk).

The Bills have work to do in the coming days simply to become cap compliant, let alone ink deals with their pending free agents. Poyer is likely to have a significant market for his services, especially on a short-term deal from Buffalo or elsewhere. His remarks point to ambiguity regarding the Bills’ willingness to sign him to another big-ticket deal, and the uncertain future he faces as a result.

“I’m excited about the next opportunity,” he added. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out or how it’s going to work out. What’s going to make sense is going to make sense.”

2023 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

Set to begin its fourth decade of existence, the franchise tag remains a valuable tool for teams to keep top free agents off the market. This year’s tag window opens at 3pm CT on Feb. 21 and closes at 3pm CT on March 7. The NFL released its franchise tag figures — regarding the non-exclusive tag, at least, which will apply to all but one possible tag recipient — earlier this month, and teams are busy budgeting for free agency.

The legal tampering period opens March 13, with the new league year (and official free agency) starting March 15. 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).

With high-profile free agents weeks away from hitting the market, here are the players who figure to be tagged or at least generate conversations about a tag ahead of the March 7 deadline.

Locks

Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens)

One of the most obvious tag candidates since the tag’s 1993 debut, Jackson has been extension-eligible since January 2021. He and the Ravens went through negotiations in 2021 and 2022, negotiating into the season two years ago and stopping talks before Week 1 — a Jackson mandate — of last season. The self-represented quarterback has declined multiple Ravens offers in this span and failed to finish a season for the second straight year. The endless extension drama and rumblings of team frustration about Jackson’s failure to return from an ankle injury aside, the team will tag the former MVP.

Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta said last month he had not decided on using the exclusive or non-exclusive tag — the former preventing teams from talking to the QB, the latter opening the door to offer sheets — but a recent report suggested the team is more likely to roll the dice by using the non-exclusive tag. This would allow another team to sign to Jackson, 25, to the fully guaranteed deal he covets (in a transaction that could send two first-round picks Baltimore’s way) but also hit the Ravens with just a $32.4MM cap hit.

With the Browns collecting three first-rounders and change for Deshaun Watson, the Ravens would almost definitely want more than the two-first-rounder haul attached as baseline compensation for franchise tag offer sheets. But an exclusive QB tag is expected to check in beyond $45MM; this would severely restrict the Ravens in free agency.

The Browns’ Watson extension changed the game for the Ravens, creating a potentially unbridgeable guarantee gap. Jackson has long been connected to seeking a deal north of Watson’s $230MM fully guaranteed; the Ravens offered $133MM guaranteed at signing last year. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti spoke out against the Browns giving Watson that money, and tag-and-trade scenarios involving the top quarterback in Ravens history have entered the equation. It will be a fascinating offseason in Baltimore, even after DeCosta and John Harbaugh expressed hope Jackson can be extended.

Likely tag recipients

Orlando Brown Jr., T (Chiefs)

Criticized by some for turning down the Chiefs’ six-year, $139MM extension offer in July 2022, Brown stayed healthy this season and earned another Pro Bowl nod. The mammoth left tackle is 2-for-2 in Pro Bowls as a Chief, and although he is not quite a top-tier blindsider, he would be one of this year’s top free agents if permitted to hit the market. The Super Bowl champions are not expected to let that happen. A second Brown tag would come in at $19.99MM, being 120% of his 2022 salary.

Brown, 26, cited insufficient guarantees in the Chiefs’ July proposal, which contained $38MM guaranteed at signing and $52.25MM guaranteed in total. The total guarantee figure trailed only ex-Ravens teammate Ronnie Stanley among tackles, while the full guarantee would have placed Brown fourth at the position. Brown turning down that proposal brought risk, and some in the Chiefs organization expressed frustration with the talented blocker. But the former Ravens right tackle’s bet on himself still appears to be paying off. This will be a crucial offseason for the Chiefs and Brown. A third tag — 144% of Brown’s 2023 salary — in 2024 would be viewed as untenable, sending him to free agency on the Kirk Cousins/Trumaine Johnson path. That makes July 15 a fairly firm deadline for Brown and the Chiefs.

Josh Jacobs, RB (Raiders)

After Las Vegas’ new regime passed on Jacobs’ fifth-year option, he became the first Raider to win the rushing title since Marcus Allen in 1985. Jacobs led the NFL in touches in 2022 (393) but was never a primary ball-carrier at Alabama; the former first-round pick should still have some tread on his tires. Running back extensions have become popular but divisive in recent years. While Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and (for now) Ezekiel Elliott are attached to deals worth at least $15MM per year, the Raiders can tag Jacobs at just $10.1MM.

Jacobs, 24, has expressed a desire to stay in Nevada, and Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler want to continue this partnership as well. With many quality running backs on track for free agency, new deals could be finalized before the Raiders become serious about Jacobs negotiations. Whether that happens this year or not, the former first-round pick is unlikely to reach the market.

Daron Payne, DT (Commanders)

After early-offseason extension rumblings, the Commanders did not move too far in this direction last year. They re-upped Terry McLaurin and let Payne play out a contract year. But Payne turned 2022 into a platform campaign that stands to make him one of this year’s top free agents. The Commanders are soon to have $26MM in additional cap space, by moving on from Carson Wentz, and the team will likely give strong consideration to keeping Payne off the market. The defensive tackle tag costs $18.94MM. Washington has begun Payne talks, but those are still in the early stages.

Washington has some mouths to feed on its defensive line, with both Montez Sweat and Chase Young now extension-eligible. The team already paid Payne’s Alabama and Washington D-tackle teammate, Jonathan Allen, and drafted another Crimson Tide interior rusher (Phidarian Mathis) in Round 2 last year. Mathis went down in Week 1, and Payne broke through for an 11.5-sack, 18-TFL season. A tag here is not an open-and-shut tag case, but it would be a tough blow for the Commanders to see their sack leader walk. Regrouping with Payne, 25, would make more sense, especially with the team not preparing to spend big at quarterback this offseason.

Tony Pollard, RB (Cowboys)

Seeming likelier by the week, a Pollard tag would keep an emerging playmaker with a light career workload in the fold. The Cowboys are believed to be strongly considering a tag here, even with Ezekiel Elliott‘s bloated contract on the books. Elliott taking less to stay — it would need to be a lot less — has already been floated, opening the door for his better-performing (in recent years, at least) backup to stick around on the $10.1MM number or via an extension.

It would be strange to tag a backup, but Pollard, 25, is essentially a Dallas starter. He matched Elliott with 12 touchdowns in 2022 and smashed his career-high scrimmage yards number with 1,378. Pollard’s 631 career touches rank just 24th among backs since 2019, pointing to a few prime years remaining on the horizon. With Elliott’s cap number near certain to move down from its present $16.7MM place and Pollard not at risk of seeing his fractured fibula affect his 2023 availability, the former fourth-round find should be back in Dallas.

The Giants’ decision

Daniel Jones, QB

Passing on Jones’ fifth-year option — an understandable decision, given Jones’ first three seasons — leads the Giants to one of the more interesting free agency quandaries in recent memory. After making Saquon Barkley a higher priority regarding in-season extension talks, Big Blue’s new regime has come around on Jones. The former No. 6 overall pick piloting the Giants to the divisional round for the first time in 11 years transformed his value from where it was entering the season, and GM Joe Schoen all but assured the fifth-year passer will be back with the team in 2023. Will that be on a long-term deal or via the tag?

If the Giants and Jones, 25, cannot find common ground before March 7, the tag will likely come out. The team encountered this situation with Leonard Williams in 2021 and tagged the trade acquisition for a second time. That preceded a monster extension. The Giants probably should be careful here, with two late-season matchups against a porous Vikings defense boosting Jones’ value — to the $35MM-per-year range. But the team also should be eager to see Jones in Brian Daboll‘s offense and surrounded by better pass catchers.

Saquon Barkley, RB

A Giants team that battled injuries and bad investments at wide receiver relied on Barkley for much of 2022. Losing the two-time Pro Bowler for nothing will bring considerable risk. Jones sitting atop the Giants’ to-do list may be a pivot from the midseason point, when Schoen referenced a Barkley tag. A positional value-based course change could send Barkley to free agency.

The Giants are believed to have offered Barkley a deal in the $12.5MM-per-year neighborhood, and while the former No. 2 overall pick cited his injury history (21 missed games from 2019-21) in saying he is not looking to reset the running back market, Schoen noted the sides’ 2022 negotiation did not come close to a deal. Barkley, 25, is believed to be seeking a contract near McCaffrey’s $16MM-per-year market-setting price. A $14MM-AAV compromise could be in play, but Barkley may also be keen on testing the market.

Tagging Jones at $32.4MM would clog the Giants’ cap ahead of free agency, whereas as a Barkley tag ($10.1MM) would not drain the team’s funds on the same level. Barkley can make a case he is worthy of the McCaffrey-Kamara tier, given his production (when healthy) and versatility — and the salary cap jumping nearly $30MM (to $224.8MM) since those stars’ 2020 extensions were finalized. But the Giants are not yet prepared to go much higher than the $12MM-AAV range — the second tier for running backs. Jones talks not producing a deal would put the Giants to a decision; Barkley could become one of the most talented backs to hit free agency.

While Barkley is a better player, Jones has become the Giants’ top priority. Tagging the quarterback would be far more expensive than cuffing Barkley. A Jones extension/Barkley tag scenario remains the best Giants path, but that can only come to fruition if Jones agrees to terms before March 7.

On tag radar

Jessie Bates, S (Bengals)

With Joe Burrow now extension-eligible, new contractual territory awaits the Bengals. Tee Higgins is also eligible for a new deal, with Germaine Pratt weeks away from free agency. Vonn Bell, a three-year Bengals starter who is also nearing free agency, would be a cheaper alternative at safety to keeping Bates on a second tag. Cincinnati also drafted potential Bates heir apparent Dax Hill in the first round. This all points to the Bengals letting Bates walk — as they did defenders Carl Lawson and William Jackson in 2021 — but the former second-round pick is still one of the league’s top safeties.

The Bengals and Bates never came close on an extension last year; the team’s conservative guarantee policy led to an offer of $16MM guaranteed at signing. While player personnel director Duke Tobin said last summer renegotiations this year will not be off the table, Bates will likely hit the market. The five-year Cincinnati starter, who will turn 26 next week, can be re-tagged at $15.5MM.

Jamel Dean, CB (Buccaneers)

The Bucs tagged Chris Godwin in each of the past two years and prioritized retaining their core players above all else during that span. But, with Tom Brady‘s void-years money hitting the Bucs’ cap in 2023, a Dean tag will be difficult to pull off. The Saints moving from $75MM-plus over the cap in February 2021 to creating room for a Marcus Williams tag, however, shows how teams can go from cap hell to carving out tag space. That said, Brady’s $35.1MM hitting the cap pushes the Bucs past $50MM over the 2023 salary ceiling.

Dean, 26, has been one of the team’s top players. The former third-round pick grades as Pro Football Focus’ No. 11 overall cornerback from 2020-22. This still looks like an unlikely proposition, with the corner tag at $18.14MM, but it should not be considered completely off the table.

Evan Engram, TE (Jaguars)

Tight ends Mike Gesicki, David Njoku and Dalton Schultz received tags in 2022, and the tight end tag again checking in as the third-cheapest ($11.36MM) this year makes the Jaguars keeping Engram off the market a logical step. The former Giants first-round pick broke through on his one-year Jags pact, filling a longstanding void for the franchise. Engram’s 766 receiving yards set a Jacksonville single-season tight end record. With mutual interest believed to exist, a tag as a bridge to a summer extension — ahead of Engram’s age-29 season — is a scenario to watch here.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S (Eagles)

The Eagles traded two Day 3 draft picks for Gardner-Johnson and moved him from corner to safety. After the ex-Saints slot defender led the NFL in interceptions, he will be in line for a payday. New Orleans and Gardner-Johnson, 25, could not come to terms last summer, leading to the trade, but Philadelphia wants to retain the imported DB. The Bengals kept Bates off the market last year with the safety tag, which checks in at $14.46MM this year. Given the volume of defenders the NFC champions have set for free agency, this looks like a longer-odds scenario.

Dre’Mont Jones, DL (Broncos)

Jones’ statistical production would not be in line with a tag. The talented defensive lineman has yet to surpass 6.5 sacks or 11 quarterback hits in a season, but the former third-round pick has offered consistency and earned praise from the front office. Following the Broncos’ decision to trade Bradley Chubb, GM George Paton identified Jones as a player the team wanted to keep. The advanced metrics also view Jones fondly; Pro Football Focus charts the former third-round pick in the top 20 for pressures since 2019. Jones is believed to be a higher priority compared to guard Dalton Risner, a fellow Denver free agent-to-be.

Sean Payton‘s team using a $19MM tag on a non-Pro Bowler would be risky during an offseason in which the draft capital-poor team — thanks to the Payton trade requiring a 2023 first-round pick — faces a key free agency stretch. Jones, 26, sticking around should also depend on whom the Broncos hire as defensive coordinator.

Jordan Poyer, S (Bills)

Buffalo defensive stalwarts Poyer and Tremaine Edmunds are ticketed for free agency, but with the NFL still grouping rush- and non-rush linebackers together under its tag formula, Edmunds is not a realistic tag candidate. The linebacker tag ($20.9MM) trails only the QB price. Poyer, 31, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season and has been one of the Bills’ steadiest players in the Sean McDermott era. Signed during McDermott’s first offseason, Poyer has inked two Bills contracts. He angled for a third, eventually agreeing to an incentive package, and became indispensable during a season in which the Bills lost Micah Hyde to a September neck injury and saw Damar Hamlin face one of the scariest health issues in NFL history in January.

Hamlin aims to return, while Hyde is under contract. But a Bills defense that has seen inconsistency at corner for years could still use Poyer. If the parties cannot strike a deal before March 7, the $14.5MM safety tag may not be too steep here. That said, the Bills may try to avoid a tag and save some free agency dough for Edmunds.

Geno Smith, QB (Seahawks)

A $32.4MM quarterback tag does sound too steep for Smith, his Comeback Player of the Year award notwithstanding. The Seahawks traded Russell Wilson on March 8, 2022; they re-signed Smith to a one-year, $3.5MM deal on April 14. That low-cost, incentive-laden accord effectively illustrated the NFL’s view of the former second-rounder. While Smith’s stunning season upped his value tremendously, it still seems unlikely the franchise tag will come into play. A transition tag — worth $29.5MM and involving no draft compensation — would be a more logical move.

But the top tag has been floated as a Smith-Seattle scenario. The sides have begun negotiations, and Smith’s camp figures to factor the tag salaries into the talks. This process still feels like it will end in a Smith medium-term deal. But after a 30-touchdown pass season that also included an NFL-high 69.8% completion rate, the 32-year-old passer setting a high price as the tag deadline nears would force the team to consider cuffing its starter.

Bills May Have To Choose Between LB Tremaine Edmunds, S Jordan Poyer

The Bills are going to have some difficult decisions to make during free agency. According to Albert Breer of SI.com, the Bills have “confronted the reality that it’s going to be tough” to retain both linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer.

The Bills already have $240MM on the books for the 2023 campaign, and they’ve previously invested in sizable contracts at both linebacker (Matt Milano) and safety (Micah Hyde). As a result, the cash-strapped Bills will be hard pressed to find the necessary cap space to retain both of their key free agents, leading to a difficult choice as they prepare for the offseason.

ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg writes that the Bills “appear more likely to re-sign Edmunds than Poyer.” Edmunds’ impact on both the passing game and running game is invaluable, and while Poyer also brings top-notch production, the Bills would have a more difficult time replacing Edmunds’ production on defense. The linebacker has spent his entire career in Buffalo after being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft. The two-time Pro Bowler finished with his fifth 100-tackle season in 2022, adding six tackles for loss and seven passes defended. GM Brandon Beane acknowledged that the franchise tag could be in play for the impending free agent.

Poyer completed his sixth season with the Bills in 2022, finishing with 63 tackles and four interceptions en route to a Pro Bowl selection. The veteran earned a first-team All-Pro nod in 2021 after finishing with five interceptions and three sacks. After signing a four-year contract with the organization back in 2017, he inked a two-year extension with the Bills in 2020. Beane previously expressed interest in retaining Poyer, although he cautioned that the organization will need clarity on the cap before knowing how to proceed.

Last offseason, the Bills made one of the biggest splashes when they inked Von Miller to a mega-deal.. This time around, the Bills aren’t expecting as many fireworks. Beane previously told reporters that he’s not anticipating a major move at any point this offseason, admitting that they’re instead going to “have to work to get under the cap.”

Bills Notes: Miller, Edmunds, Poyer, Saffold

Von Miller‘s first season in Buffalo ended on Thanksgiving when he suffered a torn ACL. Unsurprisingly, Bills general manager Brandon Beane indicated that the veteran linebacker isn’t a lock to be ready for the 2023 season opener. Beane told reporters that it’s too early to know if Miller will be available for the entirety of the 2023 season, but the GM did express optimism that Miller should play a “good portion” of the year (per ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg on Twitter).

When Miller first suffered the injury on Thanksgiving day, he was expected to miss only a handful of games. However, exploratory surgery revealed that the linebacker had in fact suffered a torn ACL. The injury didn’t only prematurely end his 2022 season, but it also put the start of his 2023 campaign in doubt. Miller previously missed the entire 2020 season while recovering from a dislocated peroneal tendon.

After inking a six-year, $120MM deal with the Bills last offseason, Miller proceeded to start all 11 of his games for Buffalo. Following two-straight seasons of single-digit sack totals, Miller was well on his way to get back to that double-digit mark in 2022. He ultimately finished the season with eight sacks and 12 QB hits.

More notes out of Buffalo…

  • Speaking of injuries, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips revealed that he was playing through a torn rotator cuff that will ultimately require offseason surgery (via The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia on Twitter). The impending free agent is confident that he’ll be good to go for training camp. Meanwhile, quarterback Josh Allen is hoping he won’t have to go under the knife for his ailing elbow. The QB told reporters that he’s hoping to just rehab his elbow throughout the offseason (per Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News on Twitter).
  • Last offseaosn, the Bills made one of the biggest splashes when they inked Miller to that aforementioned contract. This time around, the Bills aren’t expecting as many fireworks. Beane told reporters that he’s not anticipating a major move at any point this offseason. “We’re going to have to work to get under the cap,” Beane admitted (via Getzenberg on Twitter). With more than $240MM on the books, the Bills are projected to be over the cap heading into the offseason.
  • One major move the Bills will have to consider is a new contract for linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Beane acknowledged that the franchise tag could be in play for the impending free agent, but the GM also noted that the tag value may be prohibitive thanks to the inclusion of edge rushers (via Skurski on Twitter). Beane also said the team would happily welcome back impending free agent safety Jordan Poyer, although the GM cautioned that they’ll need clarity on the cap before proceeding. A two-time Pro Bowler, Edmunds continued producing in 2022, finishing with his fifth-straight 100+ tackle season. Poyer, meanwhile, completed his sixth season in Buffalo with 63 tackles and four interceptions, resulting in a Pro Bowl nod.
  • Guard Rodger Saffold told reporters that he intends to play in 2023 and hopes to re-sign with the Bills, according to Buscaglia on Twitter. The 34-year-old indicated that he’s not looking to break the bank with his next contract and simply wants to be paid a fair amount for his age and ability. The offensive lineman also acknowledged that he’s willing to do what he can to stick in Buffalo. Saffold started all 16 of his games during his first season with the Bills.

Notable 2023 Pro Bowl Incentives

The NFL announced their 2023 Pro Bowl rosters this evening. Besides the ability to list the accolade on their career resume (plus the monetary bonus that comes from participating in and winning the game), many players had a financial incentive for wanting a Pro Bowl nod. We’ve collected some of the notable Pro Bowl contract incentives below, most via ESPN’s Field Yates on Twitter (unless noted).

Geno Smith‘s contract bonus came via a specific incentive that required not only Pro Bowl recognition but 20 touchdown passes, according to Yates (on Twitter). Smith hit that TD mark back in Week 13. The impending free agent is set to cash in following a breakout campaign during his age-32 season.

Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard has a more complex bonus worked into his contract. According to CBS Sports’ Joel Corry (on Twitter), Howard is one step closer to earning a $1MM bonus thanks to his Pro Bowl nod, but he’ll also need Miami to improve in either wins, points allowed, TDs allowed, total defense, interceptions, average net yards allowed per rushing play, or turnover margin.

Speaking of the Dolphins, the organization saved a chunk of future money since one of their players didn’t make the Pro Bowl roster. As Daniel Oyefusi of the Miami Herald tweets, Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option would have increased from $22MM to $28MM if he earned a Pro Bowl nod.