Free Agency Diary

What The Franchise and Transition Tags Mean For Each NFL Team

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There were 10 players who received the franchise tag by Tuesday’s deadline, and many of them were expected.  We’re going to break down what each tag means to each team.

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets

It wasn’t a huge surprise that Wilkerson received the franchise tag, but this likely wasn’t the long-term plan for the Jets.  When they selected Leonard Williams with the sixth-overall pick in the 2015 Draft, New York likely believed that they would be able to let Wilkerson test the free agent market and if he left they would receive a high compensatory pick.  With the off the field issues that former first-round pick Sheldon Richardson has, the team had no choice but to keep the talented Wilkerson and they’ll likely let Richardson go when his contract is up.

Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens

Tucker is one of the best kickers in football and the tag will pay him just over $4.5 million in 2016 if he can’t get a long-term deal done with Baltimore.  This was a no-brainer for the Ravens, as you don’t want to get into a bidding war or possibly lose your accurate kicker.

Cordy Glenn, OT, Buffalo Bills

The Bills offensive line had plenty of injuries last season and they couldn’t let a premiere offensive tackle like Glenn hit the market.  With so many teams having struggles at the position, Buffalo would have been in a bidding war that they likely couldn’t have won.

The impact of this move left the team releasing defensive end Mario Williams, who wasn’t a great fit for Rex Ryan’s 3-4 defense, and they will now have a difficult time trying to bring back offensive guard Richie Incognito, who was stellar in 2015.  Expect the Bills to sit out the first week of free agency and try to improve their team with lower priced, value types of signings.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears had virtually no choice but to place the franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery.  Like the New York Jets, this wasn’t the original plan last year when they selected wide receiver Kevin White in the draft. Unfortunately, White was injured and when he was healthy our sources in Chicago say that he wasn’t anywhere near as good as they expected him to be.

Expect Chicago to focus on fixing their defense through free agency and possibly early in the draft, assuming they don’t go quarterback with their first-round pick.

It’s more likely than not that the Bears will not come to a long-term deal with Jeffery before the start of the season.

Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers

This was a no-brainer for the Panthers, as they had to lock up Norman, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.  Both parties would like to work out a long-term deal and it’s likely that they will get something done.

The NFC champs don’t have a lot of holes and they don’t figure to be huge players in free agency. Norman’s tag won’t affect their offseason plans all that much.

Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami Dolphins (Transition Tag)

The Miami Dolphins placed the transition tag on Vernon, which would pay him approximately $12.7 million in 2016 assuming he were to sign it.  The transition tag allows Vernon to explore free agency and gives the Dolphins an opportunity to match whatever deal he signs.

With the need of legitimate pass rushers on the market, expect Vernon to receive a lot of attention in free agency, as he will be the most sought after guy at the position.  Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have significantly more cap space than the Dolphins do and should make a strong play for the 27-year old.

Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos couldn’t let Von Miller test the free agent market as he would have likely received the highest contract for a defensive player in NFL history.  Denver placed the exclusive franchise tender on him, meaning that he can’t negotiate with any other teams, as it’s possible that some team would have given up a pair of first-round picks for his services if he received the “regular” franchise tag.

This move leaves the Broncos susceptible to losing defensive end Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan in free agency.  Denver can’t compete with the money that other teams will have and they still have to work out a deal with quarterback Brock Osweiler.

All of this can change if the Broncos can get a deal done with Miller which would open up some more cap space.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

Like a few of the franchise tags placed to other players, the tag placed on quarterback Kirk Cousins was made out of fear.  Cousins had a great nine-game stretch to finish the regular season and Washington was afraid of letting him go to another team and he replicating that for an entire season.

With that said, the Redskins were also afraid that Cousins might regress back to what he’s been for the first three years of his career and that’s why a long-term deal isn’t in the cards this offseason.

Washington has a pretty healthy cap and will need to improve in their secondary as well as the defensive line and linebacker.

Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

Eric Berry was the best free agent safety on the market and despite the Chiefs having plenty of important decisions to make with their expiring contracts, this was their primary concern.  Kansas City is under the gun to get a long term deal done with Berry, as he’s the most inspirational player on the team.

They must also get a deal done with Berry so they can work on locking up free agent linebacker Derrick Johnson, cornerback Sean Smith or defensive end Tamba Hali.  It’s likely that they’ll have to let a few of those players go, but Berry was a player that they couldn’t survive without.

Trumaine Johnson, CB, Los Angeles Rams

This was a small surprise as the Rams had both starting cornerbacks expected to hit free agency with Johnson and Janoris Jenkins.  The tag will pay Johnson nearly $14 million in 2016, and that’s a great starting point for his negotiations with the team.

Los Angeles will likely lose Jenkins in free agency and they need to figure out what they’re going to do at quarterback, whether they’d like to go after a Brock Osweiler or Robert Griffin, III, or roll into the season with Case Keenum and Nick Foles.  They must also improve their wide receiver position as well as the offensive line…again.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.