5 NFL players who have played their way into the franchise tag
The 2019 NFL regular season is now one month away from its conclusion, which means free agency and all that comes with it is not too far away. It also means teams have to begin to determine who will get their franchise designation should they be inclined to hand out the tag.
Most NFL players are not fans of the franchise tag, and they could make an effort to get rid of it, but at least in 2020, it will remain. Accordingly, some potentially hot free agent targets will get tagged by a team in an effort to keep them in the building.
Here’s a look at five players who could receive franchise tags.
5. Shaq Barrett, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
We’ve discussed Barrett previously here at Larry Brown Sports, suggesting that he may be in line for a massive contract in 2020. That remains a possibility, but it’s also entirely possible the Buccaneers can’t meet his demands and slap him with the franchise tag, essentially keeping Barrett in town for one more season while trying to work out a contract extension that works for both sides. In 12 games this season, he’s recorded an impressive 14.5 sacks to go along with six forced fumbles, four stuffs and one interception.
4. Justin Simmons, S, Denver Broncos
After two solid seasons to start his NFL career, Simmons fell off the map in 2018, and many assumed the team would not look to re-sign him once his rookie contract expired. However, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio has completely course-corrected Simmons in 2019, who is playing at a Pro Bowl, if not an All-Pro level. To go along with his elite PFF grade of 90.7, Simmons has recorded 70 tackles, 10 passes defensed and three interceptions in 12 games this season. He’s also allowed just 19 receptions on 35 targets, which is one of the better ratios for a safety in the NFL. Needless to say, the franchise tag seems likely for Simmons, especially when considering the run that’s expected on the position once free agency hits.
3. Brandon Scherff, RG, Washington Redskins
Some will immediately point to Scherff’s nine penalties as an argument against the franchise tag, but when looking at the full sum of the parts, that’s clearly his weakest area. Scherff remains an elite-level guard capable of pass protecting and run blocking, and that is difficult to come by in today’s NFL. If he’s allowed to reach the free agent market, Washington will be unlikely to get him back given the trend in recent years to vastly overpay for offensive line talent (even low level talent). The two sides held extension discussions earlier in the season but they fizzled, so don’t be surprised to see Washington slap Scherff with the franchise tag and then aggressively negotiate a new deal.
2. Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are going to have an interesting and difficult decision on their hands this offseason. Forget about the fate of head coach Jason Garrett, they’re going to need to determine who is more worthy of the franchise tag: Dak Prescott or Amari Cooper. It seems highly unlikely that Jerry Jones would risk losing either, so expect to see Prescott land the big extension he’s been angling for, leaving Dallas to slap Cooper with the franchise tag. He may not be thrilled with that after earning big money over the previous two seasons, but that’s the cost of doing business in the NFL.
1. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
Who in the world could have ever possibly seen this coming? After his career with the Dolphins went bust, Tannehill was traded to the Titans to serve as Marcus Mariota’s backup. However, after Mariota began the season poorly and found himself benched, Tannehill was thrust into the starter role and has excelled. He has led Tennessee to a 5-1 record since taking over under center, while passing for nearly 1,500 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions over that span. The Titans are now one game behind the Houston Texans for the AFC South lead, and placing the franchise tag on Tannehill has become a very real possibility. If he continues to play well over the final month of the season, you can take it to the bank that he’ll remain in Tennessee in 2020.