Josh Jacobs

Packers HC Matt LaFleur Surprised By RB Moves

The Packers were one of the major players in the free agent RB carousel. The team couldn’t convince Aaron Jones to take a pay cut, leading to the veteran’s release. The Packers quickly scooped up former Raiders star Josh Jacobs as Jones’ replacement, completely revamping the top of their depth chart.

[RELATED: Packers Sign RB Josh Jacobs]

While it seemed likely that the Packers would approach Jones about a reduced salary, there weren’t many people who anticipated the Packers pivoting to a different star running back. That includes head coach Matt LaFleur, who admitted to reporters this week that he was caught “off guard” by the sudden moves.

“There were some other things in play, obviously with Aaron Jones, and I didn’t quite know how everything was going to go,” LaFleur said (via Jason Wilde of “It just happened really fast on that Monday. … It happened really fast, so I don’t know all the details of that. I’m not involved in those types of conversations. But we were super excited (to get Jacobs).”

Jacobs shouldn’t have any issues replacing Jones’ production. Following a 2022 campaign where he led the NFL with 2,053 yards from scrimmage in 17 games, Jacobs was limited to only 13 contests in 2024. Still, the 26-year-old managed to top 1,100 yards from scrimmage, although that was partly due to him garnering more than 20 touches per game. Jones followed up four-straight seasons of 1,000-yard production with 889 yards from scrimmage in 13 games this past season.

The team will also be counting on Jacobs to fill the leadership void left by Jones, although LaFleur told reporters that he’s challenged Jordan Love to step into a larger vocal role. Jones left the franchise with the third-most rushing yards in team history, and the head coach acknowledged that moving on from the veteran was “really tough.”

“[Jones has] always been team first,” LaFleur said (via Wilde). “He walks the walk, and he does everything. He’s just such a pro, [and] that’s always tough to replace.”

The Packers will have some continuity on their depth chart in AJ Dillon. The organization hit the former second-round running back with the rarely used four-year qualifying offer, locking the player into a one-year deal.

Raiders’ Josh Jacobs Offer Did Not Approach Packers’ Proposal

Perhaps the busiest day in terms of RB1 movement in NFL history sent Josh Jacobs to Green Bay. This came after multiple reports indicated Raiders interest in keeping their 2023 franchise player.

The Raiders did make Jacobs an offer, and The Athletic’s Vic Tafur indicates it was the second-best proposal the former rushing champion received this month (subscription required). But the Packers’ proposal, per Tafur, came in well north of where the Raiders were willing to go for their five-year starter. Jacobs is now set to replace Aaron Jones as Green Bay’s top back.

Las Vegas’ offer not being especially close to Green Bay’s is rather interesting given the structure of Jacobs’ Packers contract. Although the Pack gave Jacobs a four-year, $48MM deal — numbers that match where they went for Jones in 2021 — only $12.5MM of that is fully guaranteed. Jacobs is due a $5.93MM roster bonus on Day 5 of the 2025 league year, making that a pivotal date for his prospects of playing a second Packers season. With the team moving on from a seven-year performer in Jones, it would stand to reason it wants Jacobs for at least two seasons.

Jacobs’ Packers defection brought an end to two years of negotiations. The team was reported to have made Jacobs a better offer than the Giants submitted to Saquon Barkley before last summer’s deadline for tagged players to sign extensions. Though, another report indicated the previous Raider regime did not make an aggressive pursuit to extend Jacobs.

The Giants were believed to have offered Barkley a deal in the neighborhood of $22MM guaranteed. While Barkley’s bet on himself paid off — in the form of an Eagles deal including $26MM guaranteed at signing — no other RB this offseason topped $14MM guaranteed at signing. D’Andre Swift‘s Bears deal included the $14MM number. After his 2022 rushing championship, Jacobs finished with just 805 rushing yards and produced the fifth-worst rushing yards over expected number (per Next Gen Stats). The 2019 first-round pick also missed the Raiders’ final four games due to multiple contusions.

The Raiders expressed interest in keeping Jacobs, who was among those who stumped for Antonio Pierce to land the full-time HC job. But they hired a new GM (Tom Telesco) who came to Las Vegas after refusing to extend Austin Ekeler‘s contract with the Chargers last year. Telesco showed interest in adding Ekeler to the Raiders’ backfield, but with it only taking a two-year, $8.43MM deal to send the dual-threat back to Washington, it is safe to assume Vegas’ Jacobs proposal came in higher.

The running back carousel did not send one of the recent starters to Nevada, potentially pointing to the Raiders addressing the position in the draft. For now, Jacobs fill-in Zamir White — a 2022 fourth-round pick — sits atop the depth chart.

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.

Packers Expected To Sign RB Josh Jacobs

Josh Jacobs-Raiders reunion will not take place. The former rushing champion is expected to join the Packers, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The four-year deal is worth $48MM, the pair report in a follow-up.

Vegas had an offer on the table as of earlier today, proving the team’s intention of working out a multi-year deal. The threat of free agent departure has existed since last offseason, of course, when Jacobs received the franchise tag and talks on a new deal did not produce an agreement.

Vegas ultimately ended Jacobs’ training camp holdout by agreeing to a revised one-year deal which upped the value of the tag slightly. Coming off his best season, expectations were high in 2023 for the former first-rounder. However, he produced a career low in rushing yards (805) and yards per carry (3.5).

In spite of that, Jacobs represented one of the top backs on the market. The 26-year-old sat in the middle of the pack in terms of age amongst high-profile options who were available, many have whom have quickly landed deals. Terms of the Jacobs deal are roughly in line with many other notable RB deals given out today given the nature of the 2024 market, but to little surprise he has topped the list in terms of length and total value. The Alabama product will immediately take on an every-down role in Green Bay.

For a brief period on Monday, it appeared the Packers would have both Jacobs and incumbent starter Aaron Jones in the fold. However, the latter has been released after attempts to work out a pay cut fell through. With AJ Dillon set to depart in free agency, plenty of backfield carries and targets will be heading Jacobs’ way in 2024. Green Bay enjoyed success on the ground late in the season and into the playoffs, and continuing that production will be a key priority.

Doing so will take on a different dynamic with Jacobs (and not Jones) leading the way, not to mention the O-line departures which the Packers have seen. In any case, Green Bay’s offense will be built in large part on the ground game during Jordan Love‘s second year as a starter.

Raiders Unlikely To Keep RB Josh Jacobs Off Market; Team Has Made Offer

After three franchise tags diluted the 2023 running back market, it appears the free agent market will feature a flood of veteran starters this year. The Raiders are almost definitely going to need to outbid competition to keep Josh Jacobs.

The team had been trying to re-sign Jacobs, but with a new GM in place, some uncertainty entered the equation despite the former rushing champion stumping for Antonio Pierce earlier this offseason. The Raiders still want Jacobs back, but’s Jeremy Fowler indicates he is likely headed to the market.

Las Vegas has made an offer to Jacobs, per Mike Garafolo of, who adds the 2019 first-round pick could soon be tied to an eight-figure-per-year average salary. Coming off Jacobs’ 2022 rushing title, the Raiders made an offer to extend him just before the July deadline. Jacobs passed and was unable to replicate his strong form of 2022. While he showed more under Pierce in the season’s second half, the five-year Raiders starter only posted two 100-yard games in an 805-yard season that saw the Alabama alum rank in the bottom five in Next Gen Stats’ rushing yards over expected metric.

The legal tampering period begins in less than an hour, putting teams that want to keep certain UFAs in crunch time. Being this close to free agency for the first time, Jacobs will naturally want to see gauge his value when given the ability to speak with multiple teams for the first time. He and Saquon Barkley profile as the top backs available, and Fowler adds they may well be off the board early. Barkley’s market is expected to surpass Jacobs’, but this does give the 2022 rushing champ a shot to hit free agency before his age-26 season. Barkley did not have that chance last year, joining Jacobs and Tony Pollard in being tagged.

Barkley and Jacobs join Pollard, Austin Ekeler, Derrick Henry, D’Andre Swift, Devin Singletary and Gus Edwards as starters who will test free agency. Jacobs took a step back last year and finished the season on the shelf with multiple contusions. The Raiders also hired a new GM — Tom Telesco — who passed on renegotiating Ekeler’s deal last year with the Chargers, instead signing off on a small incentive package. With so many available backs, the Raiders may go shopping soon.

RBs A Priority For Ravens In Offseason

We noted something similar back in February, but the Ravens have made it clear lately that additions to the running backs group will be a priority in the offseason. Whether that comes through re-signing expiring deals, signing veteran free agents, or pursuing a rookie prospect, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic’s quote from general manager Eric DeCosta says it best: (they) need more than two running backs.

The Ravens have lots of work to do in the coming weeks with expiring contracts all over their 2023 roster, but DeCosta is fully aware of which potential departures leave them most bare. Both former undrafted veteran Gus Edwards and former second-round pick J.K. Dobbins are set to hit free agency this spring, as will late-season addition Dalvin Cook and practice squad backs Melvin Gordon and Owen Wright, though Wright, an undrafted rookie, has signed a futures deal with the team. That leaves only Justice Hill and another undrafted rookie in Keaton Mitchell as the only two running backs with in-game experience on the roster moving forward.

Hill signed a two-year deal a year ago and will now play out the final season of that contract. He had the best season of his career in 2023 but has still failed to surpass 400 rushing yards or 4 touchdowns in a season. He expanded his role this year by adding 206 receiving yards. Mitchell was a pleasant surprise as a rookie, touting an outstanding 8.43 yards per carry average in eight games played. The diminutive back flashed elite speed and play-making ability when healthy, but a torn ACL midway through December leaves the team without their explosive second-year player for likely the entire offseason.

In our previous discussion on the subject, we laid out the cases for Dobbins and Edwards. Dobbins showed incredible upside as a rookie but has since struggled mightily to stay on the field. Edwards had been a reliable short-yardage and goal-line back in the early days of Jackson’s career, backing up Mark Ingram before teaming up with Dobbins and Hill. The big-bodied back with the nickname “Gus the Bus” has six years under his belt but showed no signs of slowing with a career-high 990 scrimmage yards and 13 rushing touchdowns this season. At the NFL scouting combine DeCosta made it known that the organization has not shut the door on the idea of bringing the two back. In fact, DeCosta claimed the team was “hopeful (they) can get something done with those guys,” per Ravens staff writers Clifton Brown and Ryan Mink.

We also explored the idea of free agency in our previous post. There are a number of big names hitting the open market this offseason, and Baltimore has already been connected to a few. Titans bell-cow Derrick Henry has been linked to the team since the days of the trade deadline. Other notable names like the Giants’ Saquon Barkley, the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs, and the Cowboys’ Tony Pollard have been mentioned, as well.

In the draft, there a couple intriguing names to look at like Michigan rusher Blake Corum or Texas running back Jonathon Brooks, but Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen is a name that has been making the rounds in Baltimore. If the team fails to sign any of the above veterans, expect the Ravens to pursue one of these players early in the draft. If a big name puts pen to paper, though, Baltimore will likely be content to take a late-round addition or even peruse the undrafted dregs once again.

Regardless, additions are going to be necessary in 2024. Especially with Mitchell coming back from a serious injury, the team can’t well expect to find success with only him, Hill, and Wright heading into the 2024 NFL season. Whether they bring back Edwards or Dobbins, sign a big-name in free agency like Henry or Barkley, or draft a high-end prospect, somebody will have to join the three currently in the running backs room.

Raiders Will “Attempt” To Re-Sign RB Josh Jacobs

None of the big-name, impending-free-agent running backs are expected to be franchise tagged, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that teams are closing the door on retaining their offensive focal points. This includes the Raiders, who will attempt to re-sign free agent RB Josh Jacobs, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

[RELATED: Raiders Remain Interested In Re-Signing RB Josh Jacobs]

There have been previous rumblings that the Raiders could look to retain the star running back, but only on their terms. The team had no interest in franchising Jacobs for a second-straight season, a move that would have locked the RB into a $14.14MM salary. That commitment would have placed Jacobs third at his position in average annual value (behind Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara) and would have marked a nearly $2.5MM increase on his 2023 cap hit.

Considering the deep free agency class at the position and the anticipated squeeze that some free agent RBs will surely face, it should be a relief for Jacobs that the Raiders are somewhat valuing continuity. The running back has spent his entire career with the organization, including a 2022 campaign where he finished with a league-high 2,053 yards from scrimmage to go along with 12 touchdowns. That performance followed the Raiders’ decision to not pick up his fifth-year option, making Jacobs an impending free agent last offseason.

The organization never let their star hit free agency, slapping him with the franchise tag instead. The two sides couldn’t agree to a long-term extension but ultimately reworked the 2023 contract to avoid a holdout. While Jacobs couldn’t match his 2022 production, he still compiled 1,101 yards from scrimmage before missing the final four games of the season.

This time around, Jacobs will be facing a different regime in Las Vegas, although that might not end up working out in his favor. As our own Adam La Rose recently pointed out, new Raiders GM Tom Telesco was running the Chargers front office when the organization allowed Austin Ekeler to pursue a trade in lieu of an extension. The standoff between running backs and front offices will certainly be one of the major story lines of the offseason, and Jacobs will be a central figure in the conversation.

If Jacobs doesn’t return to Las Vegas, the Raiders could pivot to Zamir White. The former fourth-round pick had a chance to start at the end of this past season, averaging more than 114 yards from scrimmage in his four games as the lead back.

Examining Statuses Of 2023 RB Franchise Tag Recipients

One of the key talking points during the 2023 offseason was the continued downward slide of the running back market. High-profile players at the position met to discuss the matter, but to little surprise those efforts did not yield a firm plan for the future.

Three backs were hit with the franchise tag last spring: Saquon Barkley (Giants), Josh Jacobs (Raiders) and Tony Pollard (Cowboys). The latter quickly decided to sign his one-year tender, but the other two took until well past the deadline for extensions to be worked out for their immediate futures to become clear. Both Barkley, and later Jacobs, agreed to one-year pacts worth a higher maximum value than those of the tags. Now, all three face the prospect of a second tag or – far more likely – a trip to free agency.

With the RB market set to feature a longer list of names in 2024 than it did last offseason, teams will have a number of experienced options to choose from. An evaluation of each ’23 tag recipient’s performance this past year will no doubt be a key factor in determining the value for Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard. Here is a side-by-side look at each back’s production in 2022 compared to their totals while playing on the tag (or one-year equivalent):

Saquon Barkley (Age in Week 1: 27)

2022 (16 games): 18.4 carries per game, 1,312 yards, 10 touchdowns (57-338 receiving statline)
2023 (14 games): 17.6 carries per game, 962 yards, six touchdowns (41-280-4 receiving)

The Giants ran up against the 2023 tag deadline needing to find a way forward with both Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones. The four-year, $160MM commitment made to the latter allowed the tag to be used on the former, despite his track record as the focal point of New York’s offense when healthy. Barkley missed time in 2023 due to an ankle injury, and the Giants underperformed with and without him during a forgettable campaign. Still, New York’s offense will be lacking in playmakers even if Barkley is retained for 2024.

A trip to free agency is now expected, though, something the former No. 2 pick has publicly welcomed. No doors have been shut with respect to a Giants agreement being reached, but few circumstances (if any) have tangibly changed compared to last year. New York made a series of offers with an inversely proportional relationship between AAV and guaranteed figures during last offseason’s negotiations and a different approach this time around would come as a surprise.

Barkley out-rushed backup Matt Breida by 811 yards, so his departure would create a massive void at the RB spot. The Giants are likely to use the No. 6 pick in April’s draft on a much-needed offensive playmaker or a Jones successor, and either move will help their outlook in the passing game. The ground attack would face serious questions without Barkley in the fold or an impactful replacement, although one could be acquired in a more cost-effective manner through the draft or a short-term veteran addition. Barkley’s pedigree could make him the most attractive free agent running back option in 2024, and it would be interesting to see how willing New York would be to win a bidding war.

Josh Jacobs (Age in Week 1: 26)

2022 (17 games): 20 carries per game, 1,653 yards, 12 touchdowns (53-400 receiving)
2023 (13 games): 17.9 carries per game, 805 yards, six touchdowns (37-296 receiving)

Jacobs led the NFL in touches during the only full season with Josh McDaniels at the helm. That resulted in league-leading rushing and scrimmage yard totals, but the Alabama product saw a downturn in usage on the ground and in the air when on the field in 2023. His missed the final four games of the campaign, a span during which McDaniels’ replacement (Antonio Pierce) helped his case to have the interim head coach label removed.

Pierce is indeed in place on a full-time basis, something Jacobs and a number of other players endorsed. Vegas is willing to explore a deal with the two-time Pro Bowler, but the price point will be worth watching with respect to new general manager Tom Telesco. The latter was in charge of a Chargers regime which allowed Austin Ekeler to seek out a trade in lieu of extending him. Ekeler joined Barkley and Jacobs in agreeing to a re-worked pact last offseason which has him in line for free agency this March. Telesco could be inclined to repeat his aversion to a long-term RB commitment in Jacobs’ case.

The Raiders have a potential Jacobs replacement in the form of Zamir White. The 2022 fourth-rounder averaged 4.1 yards per carry this season, and he eclipsed 100 rushing yards in two of the four games Jacobs missed to finish the campaign. White has two years remaining on his rookie contract, so placing him atop the depth chart and drafting another member of the backfield would be a more cost-effective direction to take. Vegas is expected to pursue a quarterback addition, something which could require cap resources otherwise available to Jacobs if it takes the form of a free agent signing or trade acquisition.

Tony Pollard (Age in Week 1: 27)

2022 (16 games): 12.2 carries per game, 1,007 yards, nine touchdowns (39-371-3 receiving)
2023 (17 games): 14.8 carries per game, 1,005 yards, six touchdowns (55-311 receiving)

As expected, the Cowboys moved on from Ezekiel Elliott once no guaranteed salary remained on his deal. That paved the way for Pollard to take on an undisputed No. 1 role in 2023, as showcased by his increased touches. The Memphis alum’s efficiency suffered a notable drop, though; his 4.0 yards per carry in 2023 represented the lowest of his career. With questions in place regarding Pollard’s production as a full-time starter, a lucrative deal would increase expectations in his production further while complicating an already unenviable cap situation.

Dallas’ offseason will be defined in large part by the team’s ability to work out a Dak Prescott extension. The veteran quarterback possess extraordinary leverage in advance of negotiations on a pact both sides are eager to hammer out. The Cowboys will likely also need to prepare market-setting extensions for wideout CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons over the next two years, and re-signing Pollard would hinder those efforts. Allowing him to depart would create a major vacancy in the backfield, though.

Pollard and second-leading rusher Rico Dowdle (361 yards) are both pending free agents. The leading Cowboys rusher amongst RBs who are under contract for next season is Deuce Vaughn, who received only 23 carries as a rookie. Pollard has considerably more tread left on his tires than Barkley, Jacobs and a number of other free agent backs due to his time as Elliott’s backup. That (coupled with the lack of an obvious successor) could help his value and his effort to secure longer term on his next contact, albeit something which will come off the back of a relatively underwhelming year. At any rate, a tag for Pollard or any other Cowboy would come as a surprise.

The 2023 franchise tag cost $10.1MM at the running back position. In the case of Pollard and Barkley (whose one-year deal contained incentives paired with an identical base value), a second tag would cost $12.1MM. For Jacobs – who landed a slightly higher salary on his contract – a 2024 tag would check in at a price of $13.67MM.

Considering the performances of each member of the trio, their respective teams could aim to take another route this offseason and likely save considerable cap space in the process. Given the nature of their statistical showings, hesitancy on the part of interested teams with respect to a new agreement after another season of wear and tear would also be understandable. Further hurting the market for Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard is the depth of other veteran rushers set to be available.

Ekeler, along with two-time rushing champion Derrick Henry, is a pending free agent. The same is also true of 25-year-olds J.K. Dobbins and D’Andre Swift, who have each played out their rookie contracts and could profile as having higher upside given their age. While this year’s draft class is not viewed as having a plethora of impact prospects, recent history has shown teams can find production after Day 1 when looking to avoid expensive commitments at the position. For Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard, those factors will likely make it a challenge to secure multiple years of guaranteed money on their next pacts, regardless of where they come from.

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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Raiders Remain Interested In Re-Signing RB Josh Jacobs

One of the central figures in the running back franchise tag situation last offseason, Josh Jacobs was unable to work out a multi-year agreement with the Raiders. The parties landed on a one-year compromise, but they now face a similar set of circumstances.

[RELATED: Raiders Planning QB Addition]

Jacobs is a pending free agent, something with less lucrative implications for running backs than many other positions. The 2022 rushing champion is set to negotiate with new power brokers compared to last offseason, given the dismissal of Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels and their replacement with Antonio Pierce and Tom Telesco. Ziegler expressed a desire to re-engage in talks in 2024, and that sentiment appears to exist with the new regime.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports the Raiders are interested in exploring a Jacobs deal, though he cautions the team is prepared to do so “depending on the price.” Jacobs missed the final four games of the season, but he remained a key member of the team’s offense when on the field. He received 20 or more carries on five occasions in 2023, garnering added attention after Pierce took over as interim head coach.

As Fowler notes, Jacobs was a talking point while Pierce and the Raiders were conducting their offensive coordinator search. That process resulted in Luke Getsy being tapped for the role. His time in Chicago saw him oversee a run-based attack, and having Jacobs in the fold would give the Raiders’ ground game valuable stability. The Alabama alum will be 26 by the start of next season, and he has logged at least 217 carries in each of his five NFL seasons.

Jacobs’ workload could be a factor working against his market value, coupled with the overall landscape of the RB position. Fellow veterans Saquon BarkleyDerrick HenryAustin Ekeler and Tony Pollard are among the backs set to hit the open market next month. Jacobs averaged a career-high 4.9 yards per carry in 2022, but that figure dropped to 3.5 this season. He finished with 805 rushing yards and six touchdowns, matching the yards-per-rush mark as the lowest totals of his career.

The franchise tag is projected to cost roughly $12.4MM for running backs this season, but a second Jacobs tag would cost 120% of his 2023 earnings. Vegas would thus be required to spend at least $14.16MM on the two-time Pro Bowler, a figure which would likely outweigh his value on a multi-year agreement with the Raiders or an outside team. Coming off a down season in 2023, his market will be worth watching closely as the team contemplates its first offseason with new faces on the sidelines and in the front office.