Tag! You’re it!

I’m sure someone, somewhere has used that headline before.  Oh well.

It’s coming up to that time of the year where we’ll begin to see which players getting tagged with the illustrious franchise tag.  The 6th March is the deadline for teams to designate one of their key out of contract players with the tag.  I went through the list of free agents to be and had a look at which teams would be likely to use the tag

So, in no particular order I give you the candidates:

DeMarcus Lawrence – Defensive End – Dallas

Lawrence experienced a breakthrough season with the Cowboys in 2017 recording 14.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.  Even so, the Cowboys defensive line and pass rush isn’t great so this is one piece they can ill afford to let out of the door.  If they don’t want to commit to a long term deal, then at least the tag will allow them to see if Lawrence’s 2017 season was a fluke or whether he has genuine talent to be a threat for the next four to five years.

Le’Veon Bell – RB – Pittsburgh

Bell played under the franchise tag in 2017 and had a great season.  He had the most carries of his career (321), over 1,200 rushing yards and 655 passing yards.  Couple that with a total of 11 TDs (nine rushing and two receiving) and you’d think that Pittsburgh would have a contract in front of him before the Jaguars had left the away changing rooms.  But Bell wants big money.  Record setting money for the running back position.  And quite frankly the Steelers might not be able to afford it.  Tagging him will still be expensive and require some jugging on the salaries to come within the cap but at least it would mean only a short term deal to see if he can follow up with another big year.

Ezekial Ansah – Defensive End – Detroit

The second defensive end on the list.  Ansah had a good 2017 following a poor year in 2016.  12 sacks and one forced fumble was a good return for the fifth year player.  Detroit should of course tie him down to a long term deal as there are other areas of the team that should get focus from free agency and the draft.  Patricia comes into Detroit with a reputation of being a defensive wizard (despite the Super Bowl result) and he should ensure that he gets this talent locked down for at least another year if not more.

Donte Moncrief – Wide Receiver – Indianapolis 

The Colts have a tonne of work to do in the off-season to bring this franchise back into a position where they can compete for the AFC South.  First off should be to make sure that Luck is fit and then work from there.  Part of that is ensuring that he has quality receivers to throw the ball to.  Keeping Hilton, Moncrief and Doyle together should at least mean that the front office doesn’t have to spend high draft capital on receivers or get involved in any bidding wars for free agents.  Moncrief’s stats for last year were pretty poor and so it’s unlikely he will get tagged as the price for receivers is high.  Lets not forget though, the quarterback play in Indy wasn’t exactly brilliant!  If he does hit free agency I think is services will be in demand though

Dion Lewis – RB – New England

Malcolm Butler should be getting the tag from New England but following the Super Bowl it’s looking increasingly unlikely that that’ll be happening.  The next best thing would be to tag Dion Lewis.  Lewis had his best season in 2017 and broke through to probably be classed the No.1 running back in Foxborough despite there being quite a few good ones.  896 rushing yards and six TDs isn’t on the same level as Bell but he proved himself to be an important part of New England’s game plan.  Being honest, I don’t see it happening but maybe it should in what is increasingly looking like a period of instability in New England

Drew Brees – Quarterback – New Orleans

A living legend in New Orleans and if he’s allowed to walk out the door there’s likely to be uproar!  Despite his age there’s been no hints of retirement from Brees so expect to see him play in 2018.  With his contract now running out, where he plays could be the bigger question.  He wants to stay with the Saints and I’m sure they want to keep him but whether they can agree on a deal is another thing.  The cost for tagging a quarterback is very expensive though so whether this is the route they go down is doubtful but it would be a massive shame if he couldn’t finish his career as Saint.

Allen Robinson – Wide Receiver – Jacksonville

After a good few seasons of criticism, Blake Bortles may have turned around a few people in 2017 with his performances.  As I’ve said in previous articles, his numbers are slowly getting better.  And in 2017 he did it all without his leading receiver.  Robinson suffered an injury early on and never had a chance to get onto the field in 2017.  Now his contract is up and he could be heading to free agency.  If he gets there, despite his year out, I think his services are going to be in high demand therefore I’d really love to see the Jaguars give him a ‘prove it’ one year deal if nothing else.  If that can’t be arranged then tag him up and keep him on the books and lets see if he can maintain his form.

Tyler Eifert – Tight End – Cincinnati 

Another one like Robinson having spent the year injured.  I can see the Bengals going through somewhat of a transformation in 2018 (I’m avoiding using the word ‘rebuilding’ here as I don’t think it is).  AJ Green is obviously going to be the number one target but after that it’s all a bit blank still with John Ross not setting the league alight in his rookie year.  When he’s fit, Eifert is a top five tight end and, like Robinson, if he’s allowed to hit free agency he’ll be snapped up and that should be the incentive for the Bengals to keep him in Cincinnati.

Jarvis Landry – Wide Receiver – Miami

This is probably the most certain of tags in this list.  Or at least I hope it is!  Landry had a league high in receptions (112) but his yardage was still under a thousand yards (987 to be exact).  That, I think, was more to do with the quarterback play in Miami then anything else.  Cutler was an alright quarterback on his day.  But that was then and this is now and he’s gone (probably for the best).  Whether Tannehill is the man under centre or not is another thing but one thing is for sure, they should keep Landry.  True, Devonte Parker is developing into a good receiver as well but Landry has, for want of a better term, an X-Factor about him, similar to Odell Beckham.  Unless there’s something else happening behind the scenes which we don’t know about then they should keep him on the books without a moments doubts and if that can’t be done via a long term deal then it’s the tag

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