Los Angeles Chargers Rumors & News

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates


Starting today, NFL teams will be able to place franchise and transition tags on potential free agents for the first time. While the window for franchise tags is open, most clubs won’t actually tag any players right away.

As our list of important dates for the 2017 offseason shows, the deadline for teams to assign those tags doesn’t come until Wednesday, March 1st. Usually, when it comes to NFL contract discussions, deadlines spur action, so teams will wait until that deadline approaches to officially use franchise tags, once it becomes clear that they won’t be able to strike a longer-term deal yet with their respective free-agents-to-be.

Even though the action might not heat up for a couple more weeks, it’s worth taking a closer look at what to expect during 2017’s franchise tag period. The NFL hasn’t officially announced the salary cap figure for 2017, but former agent Joel Corry of CBSSports.com recently projected the 2017 franchise tag salaries based on a presumed $168MM cap. Here are the expected non-exclusive franchise tag amounts:

  • Quarterback: $21.395MM
  • Running back: $12.377MM
  • Wide receiver: $15.826MM
  • Tight end: $9.894MM
  • Offensive line: $14.444MM
  • Defensive end: $16.955MM
  • Defensive tackle: $13.468MM
  • Linebacker: $14.754MM
  • Cornerback: $14.297MM
  • Safety: $10.961MM
  • Punter/kicker: $4.863MM

(For a refresher on the characteristics of the exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, as well as the transition tag, be sure to check out PFR’s glossary entry on the subject.)

Here’s our look at the most likely candidates to be tagged, along with several more outside possibilities:

Virtual Locks:

Chandler Jones, DE, Cardinals: Maybe Jones should headline a category titled “Super Duper Virtual Locks.” In January, coach Bruce "<strongArians said that the Cards would apply the franchise tag to Jones if they were unable to immediately lock him up to a long-term deal. Then, just this week, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill offered additional confirmation of that plan. The $16.955MM tag will be applied to Jones in the next couple of weeks and the two sides will then have until the summer to work out a long-term deal. The odds of a longer pact coming together seem pretty good, considering the Cardinals knew what they were getting themselves into when they traded for Jones last year.

Kawann Short, DT, Panthers: Panthers head coach Ron Rivera admits that Short will “probably” be tagged and, unlike ex-teammate Josh Norman, Short doesn’t have a problem with it. The 28-year-old was the third-best defensive tackle in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the Panthers will gladly pay him ~$13.5MM on a one-year deal. A multi-year agreement could require an average annual value of $17MM, so our early guess is that Short will wind up actually playing on the tender.

Le’Veon Bell
, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
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Chargers Hire Richard Smith As LBs Coach

  • The Chargers have hired ex-Atlanta defensive coordinator Richard Smith to coach their linebackers, per a team announcement. Smith, who was atop ATL’s defense the past two years, became a coaching free agent when the team fired him last week. The 61-year-old has been working with pro linebackers since 1988, when he was with the now-defunct Houston Oilers, and has since coached LBs in Denver, San Francisco, Detroit and Carolina.

Chargers Not Expected To Pay D.J. Fluker 2017 Option Salary

  • Matt Slauson figures to return for a second Chargers season, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune notes, before adding that D.J. Fluker‘s future is less certain. Despite the Bolts picking up Fluker’s fifth-year option last year, Tom Telesco is unlikely to bring the converted guard back at the $8.8MM option price. Fluker’s 2017 salary is guaranteed against injury only, so the Chargers could cut him and save that money.
  • Gehlken also expects the newly relocated team to at least restructure King Dunlap‘s contract if not outright release the veteran left tackle. Dunlap, 31, is due to make $5.25MM and take up $8.125MM of Los Angeles’ cap. He’s due a $500K bonus if on the roster by March 18. The Chargers reworked Dunlap’s contract last year, converting $1.2MM of his $4.5MM salary into availability-based bonus payments. He earned back $800K of that $1.2MM last season. It would cost the Bolts $3.25MM in dead money to cut Dunlap.

Chargers Interview Richard Smith For LBs Coach

Former Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith is interviewing for the Chargers‘ linebackers coach position, according to Jack Wang of the Orange County Register. Smith was fired by Atlanta on Wednesday after leading a defense that finished just 27th in DVOA, but linebackers are his specialty, as he’s coached the position at four other NFL stops. Smith’s interview could mean Los Angeles expects Robert Saleh, the team’s other candidate for ‘backers coach, to land the 49ers DC gig.

  • Vikings offensive assistant Drew Petzing could be a candidate for the club’s vacant wide receivers coach role, reports Andrew Kramer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Twitter link). Longtime Minnesota WRs coach George Stewart defected for the Chargers earlier this offseason.

Chargers Hire Two Coaches

  • The Chargers have hired D’Anton Lynn as a defensive assistant and Dan Shamash as an offensive quality control coach, per Caplan (Twitter link). Lynn, the son of new Los Angeles head coach Anthony Lynn, coached with the Bills last year, while Shamash spent the 2016 season with Jacksonville.

2017 NFL Draft Order Set

With the Super Bowl in the rear view mirror, the offseason is officially underway for all 32 teams. We now have the complete draft order for the entire first round, with one exception which is noted below.

The Patriots, of course, will have the honor of having the last pick. The Falcons, after losing in heartbreaking fashion, will have the penultimate selection in the first round.

Here is the complete order, via ESPN.com’s Field Yates (Twitter links):

1. Browns

2. 49ers

3. Bears

4. Jaguars

5. Titans

6. Jets

7. Chargers

8. Panthers

9. Bengals

10. Bills

11. Saints

12. Browns

13. Cardinals

T-14. Eagles (via the Vikings)

T-14. Colts (Note: The Vikings and Colts have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broke by coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 14 and the other team getting the No. 15 pick.)

16. Ravens

17. Redskins

18. Titans

19. Buccaneers

20. Broncos

21. Lions

22. Dolphins

23. Giants

24. Raiders

25. Texans

26. Seahawks

27. Chiefs

28. Cowboys

29. Packers

30. Steelers

31. Falcons

32. Patriots

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On 49ers’ DC Search

Now that the 49ers have settled, or are about to settle, their vacancies at GM and head coach, the team will move on to filling its coordinator positions. Two names have surfaced to potentially head up Kyle Shanahan‘s first San Francisco defense, Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and likely Chargers hire Robert Saleh, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports (Twitter link, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com) and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter).

Glazer reports Shanahan “will want” to talk to Flores about the DC vacancy. The two will coach against each other today, with Shanahan leading the Falcons’ offense for the final time. Rapoport notes Saleh is a candidate as well despite serving in a lower-profile capacity with the Jaguars the past three seasons.

[RELATED: 2017 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Tracker]

Flores has not surfaced for any previous coordinator jobs this offseason and has spent one season as the Patriots’ linebackers instructor. However, the 35-year-old Flores has worked with the organization for 12 years — the past six as a defensive assistant. Previously, Flores coached New England’s safeties for four seasons before Steve Belichick took over that job, with Bill Belichick relocating Flores to the linebackers’ meetings. He does not have a connection to Shanahan since he’s spent his entire coaching career with the Patriots, but Saleh does.

The 38-year-old Saleh would make for an interesting candidate since he’s the likely choice to become the Chargers’ linebackers coach and follow Gus Bradley for a third time. He accompanied Bradley from Jacksonville to Los Angeles. The Bolts remain likely to hire Saleh as their linebackers coach, but he may have another higher-profile option. Saleh followed Bradley from Seattle to Jacksonville as well, but the duo initially worked together with the Texans during Shanahan’s time in Houston.

San Francisco previously targeted Bradley for this job, only he joined up with Anthony Lynn in Los Angeles after much consideration. The duo is vying to replace Jim O’Neil, who oversaw the league’s worst defense in 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers Could Pursue Saleh As LBs Coach

  • Former Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh could land with the 49ers or Chargers, a source tells Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Saleh worked under Gus Bradley dating back to the pair’s years with the Texans, who also employed Kyle Shanahan during Saleh’s stay in Houston.

Chargers Notes: Benjamin, SD

  • Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week, a source tells Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Benjamin was dealing with a grade-2 PCL sprain for several weeks last season. There’s no mention of Benjamin potentially missing an extended period of time, so he should be good to go this summer.
  • The Chargers officially terminated their lease with City of San Diego today, paying a $12.575MM termination fee in the process, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. It remains to be seen whether SD might redirect those funds towards an effort to lure the Raiders to town. As the Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas hit some roadblocks this week, mayor Kevin Faulconer reached out to see if the Raiders might be willing to move ~500 miles south.

Chargers Coach Chris Harris Interviewing With Redskins

The Redskins have interviewed Chargers assistant defensive backs coach Chris Harris and longtime NFL coach Tim Lewis for their vacant secondary coach position, according to Mike Jones of the Washington Post. Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link) reported last month that new Los Angeles head coach Anthony Lynn would retain Harris and several other defensive coaches, but the Chargers may simply be allowing Harris — whom Jones says is considered a “rising star” — to pursue a promotion. Lewis, meanwhile, has experience as a coordinator, and has spent time with the Steelers, Giants, Panthers, Seahawks, Falcons, and, most recently, the 49ers.