Monday marked the first important day of the NFL off-season, as it was a day designated for teams to place the franchise tag on their most valuable asset. The franchise tag, a label that is put on a player that is about to become an unrestricted free agent, is often used to bind the player to the team for another season. Teams do this in order to retain their superstar talent and minimize the movement of players throughout the league. Only one franchise tag per team is allowed, which forces each team to be strategic in deciding which player they want to secure. Often times a team will have to sacrifice a good player at the cost of keeping another talented player, who the organization sees as a better investment.
This sacrifice can be seen in the tough decision that the Denver Broncos made when using their coveted franchise tag. Denver used its franchise tag on wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, at the cost of losing tight end Julius Thomas to the free agent market. Denver has not lost their athletic tight end yet, but it is inevitable that Julius Thomas will receive large offers from other teams. It will be difficult for Denver to match those offers, as they have only $16.5 million left in cap space, and their average contract is almost half that amount at $8 million. Even though Denver is likely to lose their Pro Bowl tight end, they are able to keep talent in the wide receiver position. Demaryius Thomas, a three-time, Pro-Bowler and the holder of three franchise receiving records, has proven to be a key factor in the high-powered Denver offense. With the use of the franchise tag, Denver hopes to be able to sign D. Thomas to a long-term contract, which would help the Broncos offense for years to come.
Another team with a predicament similar to Denver is the Dallas Cowboys. They were unable to lock both of their superstar players: wide receiver Dez Bryant and running back DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys chose to place the franchise tag on Bryant, enabling Murray to test the free agency waters. Similar to Julius Thomas, Murray will see huge offers from other teams, since he led the league in rushing last season. The Cowboys might not miss Murray too much, though, as there have been rumors about the Cowboys landing current Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson.
Another notable franchise tag designation was linebacker Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs. Houston was the league leader in sacks last season with 22, and he also provided leadership and physical play in the Chiefs strong front-seven.
Two different defensive linemen found themselves on the opposite end of a franchise tag designation. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants was given a franchise tag, while defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions was not. Pierre-Paul will look to sign a long-term deal with New York, and Suh will become one of the higher-valued players in free agency. It is estimated that Suh will receive an offer that is higher than J.J. Watt’s record deal with Houston, which was for six years and $100 million.
K. Stephen Gostkowski of the New England Patriots also received a franchise tag, which is rare for a kicker, but he led the league in points last year making him more than worthy of the tag. Charles Clay, tight end for the Miami Dolphins, also received an unusual franchise tag. Clay was given a transition tag, which means he can sign an offer with any team but the Dolphins will have a chance to match any outside offers.
This NFL off-season has started with a bang and it looks like it will develop into a very eventful one.
Thanks for making time for Grimes.