I did the same last year so why not rekindle the article as the window to apply franchise tags has now opened! Not all teams are going to use the tag, some (like the Raiders!) don’t have the players worthy enough of keeping around. Here’s my take on what players I think will get the tag though.
Atlanta Falcons – Grady Jarrett, Defensive Tackle
Jarrett has turned in to somewhat of a wrecking ball in the middle of the Atlanta defensive line and at only 26, would seem like someone that the Falcons will want to keep around. With a new set of coordinators and a lot of talent already on the roster, the Falcons will be looking to the 2019 season with a lot of hope and keeping all of their key pieces in place will be key. The draft though is loaded with defensive lineman and the Falcons may choose to jettison Jarrett for a rookie instead of paying him top dollar.
Baltimore Ravens – CJ Mosley, Inside Linebacker
Per a previous article I wrote on the needs of the AFC North, the Ravens could have quite a bit of talent and experience leaving the team this off-season. Terrell Suggs is the wrong side of 35 and unless he signs a low income deal, the Ravens will seek to keep their other defensive leader Mosley in place to continue rebuilding. Mosley has been a stalwart for this Baltimore team, missing only three games since he was drafted in 2014. His stat lines have never jumped off the page but his leadership and untangibles are enough to warrant tagging him.
Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Lawrence, Defensive End
According to recent reports, the Cowboys won’t tag Lawrence for a second year but they’d be fools to let him leave. Whilst it would be an expensive move to make, remember, good pass rushers are hard to find and whilst there’s a lot of talented pass rushers coming out of college this year, Lawrence is a proven entity. Another double digit sack season in 2018 and equally impressive tackle numbers is production that would be hard to replace. Unless they can get a deal done, the Cowboys should tag him again
Houston Texans, Jadeveon Clowney, Outside Linebacker
It was a slow start to his NFL career after an explosive time in college that ended with him being picked in the No.1 spot. The last three seasons have at least seen him play a substantial amount of games and has 18.5 sacks in the last two. The cost of keeping him and JJ Watt (along with the presumably impending need to pay Deshaun Watson) could be something that prevents the Texans offering Clowney a long term deal now. Keeping him on the tag for another year and seeing how Watt does in 2019 could be an option. Also an option would be to tag and then trade him….
Kansas City Chiefs, Dee Ford, Outside Linebacker
The Chiefs probably would have gone to the Super Bowl had Dee Ford lined up in the correct position. But then, you could make up a similar line for most of the Chiefs defensive unit and through the season, Ford was the best player on that side of the ball for the Chiefs. 13 sacks and seven forced fumbles are going to be hard to replace. Couple that with Ford probably having the quickest step off the line (even when he’s lined up correctly!) means he’s a talent that is too difficult to replace. Upcoming contracts for key offensive players will be worrisome but the Chiefs can’t let Ford hit free agency.
LA Rams, CJ Anderson, Running Back
I wanted to get an offensive player on this list and I think Anderson could be important the the Rams going forward if there are genuine question marks over the fitness of Todd Gurley. Anderson took a big workload from Gurley and gave the Rams a big battering ram of a weapon to smash through the middle of the opposing defensive line. The cap for running backs isn’t too bad but getting him on a long term deal would be the better way to go!
New England Patriots, Trey Flowers, Defensive End
Not convinced this will happen given how Belichick likes to churn through players but Flowers was their best D-Lineman through the 2018 season and his services would be in high demand throughout the league should he hit free agency. The Patriots could have quite a number of holes to Fillon the championship winning team so this could be an easy fix to make.
San Francisco 49ers, Robbie Gould, Kicker
It’s becoming a little more common to see kickers on such lists. The Ravens have previously tagged Justin Tucker and the Patriots did likewise with Gostowski a few years ago. If the 2018 season taught us anything, it’s that special teams is becoming increasingly important and a good kicker even more so. The 49ers struggled to get the ball into the end zone in 2018 which meant a lot of work for Gould who responded in kind with a 97% success rate from field goals and 93% in PATs, not stats to baulk at. If a long term deal can’t be done, then Gould is almost a certainty for the tag
Seattle Seahawks, Frank Clark, Defensive End
A common theme – pass rushers getting the tag. As I said above and as Jon Gruden said last year, good pass rushers are hard to find. Clark has been consistently good through the last three seasons with 2018 being his best in terms of production. 13 sacks and three forced fumbles where he became the go to man for pass rushing following the departure of Michael Bennett. The success of the Seahawks means they’re picking later in the draft then many would have expected so will miss out on a blue chip prospect but keeping Clark around for another few years will help, to do that, it looks like they need to tag him before free agency hits.