Stephon Gilmore

2017 NFL Franchise Tag Candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virtual Locks:

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

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


Le’Veon Bell
, RB, Steelers: We’ve known for a while now that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell. For all of his off-the-field headaches, Bell still stands as one of the league’s most dynamic running backs and a one-year, $12.3MM deal would suit Pittsburgh just fine. Sometime after the tag is in place, we’re expecting the two sides to agree on a long-term deal. As I wrote in our most recent edition of the Free Agent Power Rankings, Bell will top LeSean McCoy‘s ~$8MM AAV and Doug Martin‘s $15MM in guarantees on a new multiyear pact. Of course, other factors such as cash flow will be pivotal in talks, particularly given the limited shelf life of running backs.
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PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings 2.0

For 30 of the NFL’s 32 teams, the offseason is already underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the early January edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

Free Agent Power Rankings 2 (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): Cousins may not be the best player on this list, but he will come away with the most guaranteed money of any free agent this offseason. Quarterbacks are perpetually in high demand and short supply and as a result Cousins could become one of the league’s three highest paid signal callers. Because Washington has already used the franchise tag on Cousins, a repeat would cost them a whopping $23.94MM for 2017. The belief is that Cousins is seeking that $23.94MM number as an AAV goal. There has been talk of the Redskins shopping their star QB, but the team has since publicly stated its intention of locking him up to a long-term dealKirk Cousins (vertical)

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Jones has been an absolute stud ever since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2012. If we go by the numbers at Pro Football Focus, 2016 was actually Jones’ best year to date. This past season, he finished out with a strong 87.4 overall score, tying him for seventh amongst all edge rushers with Houston’s Whitney Mercilus. In the previous four seasons with New England, Jones averaged a 79.38 on PFF. Every team could use a sack machine like Jones, but coach Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. He’s technically ticketed for unrestricted free agency, but it doesn’t sound like Jones is going anywhere.

3. Kawann Short, DT (3): Unlike former teammate Josh Norman, Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short says he won’t have any problem signing the franchise tender if the team tags him. “I wouldn’t fight it or anything,” said Short in early January. In 2016, he turned in his fourth straight 16-game season and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-best interior defender. Short, 28 this week, also had six sacks on the year. I think the Panthers would be wise to hit Short with the ~$13.468MM franchise tag or sign him to a long-term deal, but there is at least a non-trivial chance of him reaching the open market.

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AFC Notes: Jaguars, Bills, Dolphins

Although quarterback Blake Bortles has been a disappointment since the Jaguars drafted him third overall in 2014, the organization remains bullish on the soon-to-be 25-year-old. “I’ve said this time and time again: ‘I think we can win a lot of games with Blake; I think we can win a Super Bowl with Blake,” general manager Dave Caldwell told John Oehser of the team’s website. “I think he needs to improve and I think we need to improve around him, too, in order for that to happen.” The Jags amassed just three wins this season with Bortles, who went backward after a promising 2015. Bortles’ interception total decreased from 18 to 16, but he threw 12 fewer touchdowns than his 35-score 2015 and averaged a paltry 6.2 yards per attempt after posting a 7.3 YPA the previous year.

More on Bortles-led Jacksonville and a couple of its conference rivals:

  • Whether pending free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore will return to the Bills in 2017 is “all up to them,” the five-year veteran told Conor Orr of NFL.com. “They seem like they’re going to turn it around out there but, like I said, I don’t know what’s going to happen. They got a decision to make,” said Gilmore, who has spoken on the phone with two prominent members of the Bills’ new staff in head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Gilmore’s overall performance declined in 2016, as he fell from Pro Football Focus’ ninth-ranked corner in 2015 to No. 61, but he did intercept a career-high five passes across 15 starts. While this year’s free agent class could feature other No. 1-caliber corners like A.J. Bouye and Trumaine Johnson, Gilmore is happy to measure his résumé against theirs. “I know the other guys (cornerbacks on the market). But I did it for five years at a high level. I like myself,” he declared.
  • The Dolphins made a key trade with the Eagles last March to acquire two defenders – cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Kiko Alonso – as well as the 13th pick in the draft (offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil) for No. 8. Now, Miami is once again aiming to go the trade route to bolster its roster, executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum informed Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We’re going to look at every avenue to improve the team. That could mean trades that start around the combine, and then we’ll get into free agency,” Tannenbaum said. “Our focus philosophically is we’re going to try to keep our own [free agents] as best we can. But [plan to] be opportunistic via free agency or trades, and draft as well as we can.”
  • Bills offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio suffered an injury to his hip thanks to a fall at home and had to undergo surgery Wednesday, the team announced. The expectation is that Kouandjio will be ready for training camp. The 2014 second-round pick from Alabama appeared in 12 games and started five in Year 3 of his pro career.
  • The Jaguars have hired Mark Collins as their new linebackers coach, tweets Sporting News’ Alex Marvez. Collins spent the previous two seasons coaching the Jets’ outside linebackers.

PFR’s 2017 Free Agent Power Rankings

The regular season is over and, for most teams, the offseason is underway. Here is the latest installment of our 2017 NFL Free Agent Power Rankings, which is comprised only of upcoming unrestricted free agents, and is ranked by projected guaranteed money. In parentheses next to each player, you’ll find their position in the November edition of the rankings. For more, check out our master list of all 2017 free agents.

2017 Free Agent Power Rankings With Text (vertical)

1. Kirk Cousins, QB (1): In 2015, Cousins established himself as a solid NFL quarterback. That summer, the Redskins told Cousins they wanted him to prove it all over again before giving him a monster contract. Cousins was happy to oblige and he has now increased his value even further. After a so-so start to 2016 season, Cousins closed out strong to finish as Pro Football Focus’ No. 8 ranked QB, putting him ahead of notables such as Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, and Philip Rivers. All of those players have gotten their big pay day and now it’s time for Cousins to join the club. "<strong

2. Chandler Jones, LB/DE (2): Before you start salivating over the idea of Jones joining your favorite team’s front seven, we have some bad news: Bruce Arians says the Cardinals will place the franchise tag on him if they cannot agree on a long-term deal. Whether it’s on a one-year, $16.955MM deal or a multi-year contract that tops Olivier Vernon‘s Giants deal, it sounds like Jones is staying put. Jones, 27 in May, played in all 16 games this year and racked up 11 sacks.

3. Kawann Short, DT (4): Contract talks between the Panthers and Short stalled last summer and Fletcher Cox‘s market-boosting deal with the Eagles didn’t help matters. Short wound up playing 2016 for peanuts ($1.473MM) and he turned in yet another stellar season. Short was the fourth-best interior defender in the league this season, per Pro Football Focus, and his 87.7 overall score was roughly the same as his 2015 mark, even though he had five less sacks. In June, it was said that the Panthers did not want to go too far beyond an average annual salary of $15MM. If he’s not franchised tagged or signed to a long-term deal by Carolina, there are a few teams that will happily go beyond that point.

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Bills Trim Roster To 53

The Bills announced that they’ve moved their roster to 53 players by cutting 21 players. That list of cuts includes notable names like fullback Jerome Felton, linebacker Manny Lawson, versatile cornerback Sterling Moore, and linebacker Randell Johnson."<strong

The Bills will save $2.35MM against the cap by releasing Lawson and $1.55MM by cutting Felton. By freeing up that cash, the Bills will have a little more room to work with as they negotiate a new deal with cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

Felton was signed as a free agent last offseason to a four-year pact worth $9.2MM, with $4MM guaranteed. Considering how the fullback position has been phased out by many NFL teams, that was a steep price to pay for the former Viking. With Minnesota, Felton acted as the lead blocker for Adrian Peterson‘s 2012 MVP campaign, paving the way for Peterson to nearly break the all-time rushing record. Felton himself went to the Pro Bowl that season, and was named second-team All Pro. The team is saving money by dropping the 30-year-old, but his release is also a sign of their confidence in Glenn Gronkowski.

Over the last three seasons, Lawson has appeared in all but one regular season game for the Bills. In 2015, Lawson appeared in every contest and started 14 games, racking up 45 tackles, 1 sack, and 5 pass deflections. Lawson is facing a one-game ban as a result of a domestic violence incident and that was thought to be a big blow in the season opener considering that the team will also be without top rookies Reggie Ragland and Shaq Lawson plus reserve linebacker IK Enemkpali. For one reason or another, the Bills have decided that they are better off without him.

Moore, 26, came over from Tampa Bay during the offseason, and has also spent time with the Patriots, Cowboys, and Raiders. Johnson, meanwhile, has been with Buffalo for the past two seasons, starting one game during that time.

Here is the complete list of cuts:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Focusing On Deal For Stephon Gilmore

Now that Tyrod Taylor‘s deal is out of the way, the Bills are now focusing on working out an extension with star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, GM Doug Whaley says (via Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com). The two sides were in talks earlier this offseason, but discussions broke off with a significant gap to bridge. Stephon Gilmore (vertical)

[RELATED: Latest On Bills’ Manny Lawson]

It allows us to put all of our focus on Stephon Gilmore,” Whaley said. “It gives us a chance to say we have one piece of the puzzle done. Let’s try to get another piece of the puzzle done. Let’s not forget the fact that we have high profile players and they’re going to command top dollars. So we’re going to have to try our best to get them done. Will we get it done? We hope so, but it’s going to be process just like Tyrod’s contract.”

With the salary cap on the rise, Gilmore has a case to approach Josh Norman’s deal – especially given that he’s three years younger. Gilmore, who’s due $11.082MM in his fifth-year option season, reportedly wants a deal in that neighborhood (five years, $75MM) and there’s a pretty good case to be made for that. Still, the Bills are reluctant to go match those numbers as Norman is among the league’s top two corners in average annual value ($15MM, first), total guarantees ($50MM, first) and guaranteed money at signing ($36.5MM, second).

Last year, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Gilmore as the No. 9 cornerback in the NFL among 111 qualifying corners. If the Bills and Gilmore aren’t able to reach an agreement between now and next March, the franchise tag could be in play. That would probably cost Buffalo upwards of $14MM.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Rumors: Taylor, Gilmore, Bush

The Bills and quarterback Tyrod Taylor‘s agent, Adisa Bakari, are talking “relatively frequently” about a long-term contract and could reach an agreement before the season, perhaps within the next month, reports Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. It’s a “unique negotiation,” a source told Carucci, because Taylor doesn’t have a long track record of success.

Tyrod Taylor

Previously a backup with the Ravens, who chose him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft, Taylor joined the Bills last offseason on a cheap contract. He then proceeded to beat out EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel for the No. 1 job over the summer and post strong numbers as a passer and rusher in 14 regular-season games. Taylor (27 next week) ended up top seven among NFL QBs in yards per attempt (7.99) and passer rating (99.4) in 2015. He also completed 63.7 of his throws and accounted for 24 touchdowns (20 passing, four rushing) against a meager six interceptions. Further, Taylor paced all signal-callers in yards per carry (5.5) and trailed only MVP Cam Newton in rushing yards (568). Taylor could now be seeking Brock Osweiler-type money ($18MM per year), writes Carucci, which would be an enormous raise over the $3.1MM he’s scheduled to collect this season.

Elsewhere on the roster, Buffalo and contract-year cornerback Stephon Gilmore continue to make no progress toward an extension, according to Carucci. Gilmore, who’s due $11.082MM in his fifth-year option season, reportedly wanted a deal in the neighborhood of the Redskins’ Josh Norman (five years, $75MM) as of earlier this month. Norman is currently among the league’s top two corners in average annual value ($15MM, first), total guarantees ($50MM, first) and guaranteed money at signing ($36.5MM, second).

With the salary cap consistently on the rise, Gilmore has a case to approach Norman’s deal – especially given that he’s three years younger. And while the ex-South Carolina standout has missed 11 games since 2013, he has nonetheless been a stalwart for Buffalo. The 10th overall selection in his draft class, Gilmore has logged 53 appearances, 51 starts and nine interceptions since entering the NFL. Three of those INTs came last season in 12 games for Gilmore, whom Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked a tremendous ninth among 111 qualifying corners (Norman finished 11th).

If the Bills and Gilmore aren’t able to reach an agreement between now and next March, the franchise tag could be in play, notes Carucci, who doesn’t rule out an in-season extension. The tag would likely cost the Bills upward of $14MM to apply.

Taylor, Gilmore and the rest of the Bills could soon have a new teammate in running back Reggie Bush, whom the club has been in talks with as it seeks a replacement for suspended reserve Karlos Williams. While that dialogue has continued, Bush is mulling whether to jump on Buffalo’s offer or wait for another team’s backfield depth to take a hit this summer, per Carucci. Thanks to Williams’ four-game absence, not securing Bush would leave the Bills with 2015 success story Mike Gillislee and Dan Herron as their primary options behind star LeSean McCoy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills’ Stephon Gilmore To Report To Training Camp

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore wants a new contract, but he’s not about to miss important practice sessions with his team to build leverage. Gilmore tells Josina Anderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter) that he’ll report to Pittsford, New York later this week. Stephon Gilmore (vertical)

[RELATED: Bills Make Offer To Reggie Bush]

“I‘m planning to go out to training camp. I know what I am. It’ll happen eventually,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore is slated to earn $11.082MM for 2016, per the terms of his exercised fifth-year option. The two sides have been discussing an extension this offseason but the 25-year-old (26 in September) elected to table talks earlier this month as talks stalled. Still, it was widely expected Gilmore would report to training camp as he would be docked $40K for each day missed.

Gilmore wants a deal that would put him in the neighborhood of Josh Norman‘s five-year, $75MM contract with the Redskins. The Bills, so far, have been reluctant to approach those numbers. It’s not surprising that Gilmore is looking for that kind of money, particularly after placing ninth among 111 qualifying corners last season, per the advanced numbers at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Norman, meanwhile, finished 11th.

Without a long-term deal, Gilmore stands to be among the top corners available in free agency in 2017, along with Trumaine Johnson and hybrid defender Tyrann Mathieu The Bills may not want to take that plunge today, but a Gilmore extension could free up enough cash to ink quarterback Tyrod Taylor to a new deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills’ Gilmore To Play Out Final Contract Year

Talks have not progressed between the Bills and cornerback Stephon Gilmore and he is now set to play out the last year of his contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Gilmore will now earn $11.082MM for 2016, per the terms of his exercised fifth-year option. Stephon Gilmore (vertical)

Gilmore would reportedly like a contract similar to the five-year, $75MM pact Josh Norman inked with the Redskins in April but the Bills aren’t ready to approach that type of compensation for their 2012 first-round pick. Norman is currently among the league’s top cornerbacks in average annual value ($15MM, first), total guarantees ($50MM, first) and guaranteed money at signing ($36.5MM, second), but with the cap rising and prices for corners increasing, those rankings might not last long.

Whether it’s from the Bills or someone else, Gilmore has a case to approach Norman’s deal – especially given that he’s three years younger. And while the ex-South Carolina standout has missed 11 games since 2013, he has nonetheless been a stalwart for Buffalo. The 10th overall selection in his draft class, Gilmore has logged 53 appearances, 51 starts and nine interceptions since entering the NFL. Three of those INTs came last season in 12 games for Gilmore, whom Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked a tremendous ninth among 111 qualifying corners (Norman finished 11th).

If Gilmore were to hold out from camp, he would lose $40K per day. Needless to say, a holdout is not likely for Gilmore or any other player unhappy with his contract situation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

No Progress Between Bills, Stephon Gilmore

1:59pm: Gilmore would lose one regular-season game check (worth $652K) for every preseason contest missed, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. If he were to hold out all of August, it would cost him over $3MM – roughly $750K in daily camp fines and $2.6MM in preseason game fines (Twitter links).

9:02am: Bills general manager Doug Whaley indicated in February that the team was prioritizing an extension for cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but nearly five months have passed and the two sides aren’t progressing toward a new deal. As a result, Gilmore is a threat to hold out this summer and perhaps into the regular season, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. Gilmore already sat out voluntary OTAs in May, and the 25-year-old said at mandatory minicamp in June that he’d report to training camp “whenever I get there.”

Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore would like a contract similar to the five-year, $75MM pact Josh Norman inked with the Redskins in April, per Carucci, who writes that the Bills aren’t ready to approach that type of compensation for their 2012 first-round pick. Norman is currently among the league’s top two cornerbacks in average annual value ($15MM, first), total guarantees ($50MM, first) and guaranteed money at signing ($36.5MM, second), but with the cap rising and prices for corners increasing, those rankings might not last long.

Whether it’s from the Bills or someone else, Gilmore has a case to approach Norman’s deal – especially given that he’s three years younger. And while the ex-South Carolina standout has missed 11 games since 2013, he has nonetheless been a stalwart for Buffalo. The 10th overall selection in his draft class, Gilmore has logged 53 appearances, 51 starts and nine interceptions since entering the NFL. Three of those INTs came last season in 12 games for Gilmore, whom Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked a tremendous ninth among 111 qualifying corners (Norman, by the way, finished 11th).

If the Bills and Gilmore are unable to reach a deal this summer, he’ll play out this season on his $11.082MM fifth-year option. But holding out of camp would put a dent in the bank account of Gilmore, who would lose $40K per day.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.