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5 Players Who Could Receive the Franchise Tag

Teams can start using the franchise tag on February 20th, and these five players are most likely to receive the designation.
Franchise Tag

After watching the Kansas City Chiefs lift their second Lombardi Trophy in as many seasons just a few weeks ago, we are now officially at the first major point of the offseason: free agency. As of this posting, there are several big-name players set to hit the open market, but it’s no secret that a good chunk of those players will remain with their current teams. While it’s possible for players to come to terms on a new agreement before the start of the new league year, a few teams will use the franchise tag to keep their star players in-house for one more year.

For those unaware, all 32 teams have the right to use the franchise tag on one of their own impending free agents. Doing this keeps the player from reaching free agency and, assuming the player signs the tag, pays them either the average of the five largest salaries at the player’s position, or 120% of their salary from the previous season, whichever is greater.

Some players, like Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, have a provision in their contract preventing teams from using the franchise tag. However, for the vast majority of impending free agents, teams could use this tool if they so desire.

5 Players Who Could Receive the Franchise Tag

All 32 teams can use the franchise tag, but most won’t. As mentioned above, it’s an expensive tool to utilize and is usually saved for the best of the best. Last year, eight teams used the tag, and there will likely be similar usage this year.

Additionally, teams are still allowed to negotiate long-term deals with the player they franchise tag. For instance, last year the Ravens used the tag to keep Lamar Jackson from hitting the open market. After some back and forth, the two teams finally agreed on a five-year, $260 million deal. Other players like Josh Jacobs and Saquon Barkley eventually agreed to revised one-year deals.

On top of that, team also have the right to use the franchise tag as a means to trade players who otherwise would have walked for nothing. While this isn’t too frequent, it is known to happen. Back in 2020, the Jacksonville Jaguars traded a tagged Yannick Ngakoue to the Minnesota Vikings.

All of this is to say that a lot can happen once a player receives the franchise tag. In no particular order, these five players are most likely to be put in this situation.

The Candidates

Tee Higgins, Bengals

Tee Higgins is a great young wide receiver, and the Cincinnati Bengals have over $61.3 million in cap space. So, why can’t these two sides agree to a deal? While the Bengals have the short-term cap space to pay Higgins, they’re going to run into trouble when Ja’Marr Chase is due for an extension and Joe Burrow’s cap hit explodes. The franchise tag is a perfect solution, as Cincinnati can keep Higgins for 2024 before letting him go in 2025. Seeing as the Bengals are in the midst of their championship window, they might decide to keep Higgins for the lone season. However, if another team makes a big trade offer, Cincinnati might decide to send him off before adding another receiver in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Brian Burns, Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have had no shortage of organization misfortune over the past few years, but losing Brian Burns would take the cake. Over the past few years, the team turned down multiple first-round picks from the Los Angeles Rams for his services and opted to include D.J. Moore in a trade up instead of the pass rusher. Despite all this, the two sides have yet to agree to a long-term deal, which means the franchise tag is inevitable. Seeing as they don’t have a first-round pick this year, perhaps the Panthers trade Brian Burns if contract discussions don’t progress.

Justin Madubuike, Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens have several key playmakers set to depart in free agency, and they won’t be able to re-sign everyone. However, they cannot afford to lose Justin Madubuike. The 2023 Pro Bowler is one of the best interior rushers in the game and is entering his age-27 season. This is the type of player you build around, and the Ravens will use the franchise tag to ensure he doesn’t go anywhere.

L’Jarius Sneed, Chiefs

Chris Jones might be the bigger name, but using the franchise tag on him will result in a staggering $30.2 million cap hit. The Chiefs probably don’t have the money to do something like that, so they might as well use the tag on their other key defensive playmaker. L’Jarius Sneed broke out in a big way last year, and having two lockdown cornerbacks is crucial in today’s pass-happy NFL. Ideally, the Chiefs will find a way to keep both Snead and Jones around, and this is probably the best way to do that.

Josh Allen, Jaguars

The Jacksonville Jaguars had the fewest sacks in the NFL, but don’t that against Josh Allen. If anything, it’s a testament to how good he is that he managed to record a staggering 17.5 sacks despite having no other pass-rushing threat on the roster. You don’t let elite players like this hit the market. Jacksonville will use the franchise tag on their homegrown talent, and the two sides should be able to negotiate a long-term deal before long.

Main Photo: Jim Dedmon – USA Today Sports


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