2023 NFL Free Agency: Immediate analysis for all franchise-tag decisions

Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) looks to pass the ball against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the fourth quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The two-week window for teams to place the franchise or transition tag on one pending free agent officially closed Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST, with a few surprises along the way.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the absence of a franchise tag for Kansas City Chiefs tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who would’ve cost the reigning Super Bowl champions just shy of $20 million on his second consecutive tag. He may ultimately return to Kansas City, but there’s also a good chance another team will pay more for his services than the Chiefs were comfortable with.

Anyway, back to the players who did receive a franchise tag. The values for the non-exclusive franchise tenders at each position designation are as follows:

Position Franchise Tag Transition Tag
QB $32,416,000 $29,504,000
LB $20,926,000 $17,478,000
WR $19,743,000 $17,991,000
DE $19,727,000 $17,452,000
DT $18,937,000 $16,068,000
OL $18,244,000 $16,660,000
CB $18,140,000 $15,791,000
S $14,460,000 $11,867,000
TE $11,345,000 $9,716,000
RB $10,091,000 $8,429,000
ST $5,393,000 $4,869,000

The biggest storyline of the offseason is, of course, what will happen with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, so we’ll kick things off there.


BALTIMORE RAVENS: QB Lamar Jackson

  • Tag Value: $32,400,000 (quarterback non-exclusive tender)
  • 2022 Player WAR/Rank: 1.41 (19th)

A franchise tag here was a foregone conclusion; the more interesting outcome was whether Baltimore used the non-exclusive or exclusive franchise tag. By using the non-exclusive tag — which comes as a bit of a shock — the Ravens open the door for Jackson to sign with another team. 

If a player on the non-exclusive franchise tag does sign an offer sheet with another team, the incumbent team can either match that offer sheet in exact terms or receive two first-round picks. For clarity’s sake, these are original draft picks from that club, so if it were the Detroit Lions, for example, they would not send No. 6 and No. 18 from this year, but No. 18 and their 2024 first-rounder. If the Miami Dolphins wanted to sign Jackson to an offer sheet, they would have to wait until after the 2023 NFL Draft and then send 2024 and 2025 first-round picks.

At other positions, the barrier of two first-round picks is enough of a deterrent to prevent a team from offering a contract, but odds are a handful of teams would be more than willing to depart with two firsts for Jackson.

Over the past five seasons, Jackson’s 2.9% turnover-worthy play rate is the 12th lowest of 51 qualifying quarterbacks despite his 9.5-yard average depth of target being the fifth highest. He’s one of the best runners in the NFL regardless of position, and a one-man offense that would be quite hard to replace.

One angle here could be that Baltimore didn’t want to be the team that shattered contractual precedents again with a fully guaranteed deal, but if they have to match someone else’s offer sheet, then it isn’t their fault.


DALLAS COWBOYS: RB Tony Pollard

  • Tag Value: $10,091,000
  • 2022 Player WAR/Rank: 0.2 (7th)

Pollard was an ideal franchise-tag candidate given the low cost and lack of certainty now following his unfortunate leg injury sustained in the team's playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The presence of Ezekiel Elliott — who as of today is scheduled to earn more than Pollard in 2023 with his $10.9 million salary — makes this a very interesting situation.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently discussed the difficulty of adding weapons around quarterback Dak Prescott given his larger salary, but the team’s decision to pay two running backs at the top of the market complicates matters far more than Prescott’s compensation.

Perhaps the most notable downstream effect of Dallas’ decision to tag Pollard is that tight end Dalton Schultz — who played on the tag in 2022 — will now have a clear path to free agency. With the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise-tagging tight end Evan Engram, Schultz is the clear top player available at his position. Schultz’s importance to this Cowboys offense was on full display in the playoffs, as he recorded 18 targets, 12 receptions and three touchdowns over two games, though there were certainly some missed opportunities against the 49ers.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARSTE Evan Engram

  • Tag Value: $11,345,000
  • 2022 Player WAR/Rank: 0.31 (6th)

Engram played in 2022 on a one-year, $9 million deal that wasn’t all that far off from the tight end franchise tag, and he played his way into a real one this year coming off a career season. Engram earned his highest receiving grade (68.3) since 2018 and had the lowest drop rate of his career (4.5%), playing a critical role in the Jaguars’ miracle playoff comeback against the Los Angeles Chargers with seven receptions on eleven targets, 93 receiving yards and a touchdown. 

Jacksonville now has to account for $11.116 million in 2023 cash and cap for wide receiver Calvin Ridley on the books following his official reinstatement by the league, adding two big chunks in a matter of days. The Jaguars would probably be wise to get a multi-year deal done before the Minnesota Vikings strike a deal with T.J. Hockenson, and Engram's number could get up into the $13.5 million to $15 million per year range.

The primary ripple effect of this move is Jaguars tackle Jawaan Taylor now hitting the market. We mentioned Taylor before the combine as a non-quarterback who could sign a top-of-market deal at right tackle this offseason, and the NFL world has certainly caught up. Teams will be lining up to sign Taylor, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he’s one of the first big contracts announced on March 13.


LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: RB Josh Jacobs

  • Tag Value: $10,091,000
  • 2022 Player WAR/Rank: 76.0 (18th)

Jacobs averaged just under five yards per carry en route to a rushing title with his 1,653 yards on the ground, and he tacked on 400 receiving yards to land at No. 54 on the all-time list of total scrimmage yards in a season in NFL history. 

Las Vegas’ new brass declined his fifth-year option for 2023 of about $8.03 million, but Jacobs is still worth well more than the $2 million extra. Las Vegas does still have to figure out its quarterback situation after releasing Derek Carr.


NEW YORK GIANTS: RB Saquon Barkley

  • Tag Value: $10,091,000
  • 2022 Player WAR/Rank: 0.22 (4th)

A big reason the Giants worked right up until the 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with Daniel Jones was so they then could franchise tag running back Saquon Barkley.

Barkley is surely not stoked by the buzzer-beater deal signed by Jones that freed up the tag, though that obviously isn’t Jones’ fault.

General manager Joe Schoen faced a similar situation as assistant general manager of the Buffalo Bills with quarterback Tyrod Taylor in 2017 — Taylor is ironically the Giants' backup now — but this time around felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger on a multi-year extension with Jones.


WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM: DI Daron Payne

  • Tag Value: $18,937,000
  • 2022 Player WAR/Rank: 0.05 (47th)

The first franchise tag placed this offseason by almost a week, the Commanders made it clear right away that they were not going to let Payne hit the market.

If Payne would have somehow avoided the franchise tag, he would have arguably been the prize signing of the entire offseason, first and foremost because of his reliability. Payne has played the most snaps of any interior defender over the past three seasons and the third most since his rookie season in 2018.

Payne picked a great year to log career highs with 49 pressures and 11 sacks — the latter being double his prior season high. Head coach Ron Rivera said the team has no regrets in not extending Payne before this season, as it may have played a role in motivating him into a standout performance, but his price tag has certainly skyrocketed as a result. 

With Washington already paying interior defender Jonathan Allen and another good, young defensive lineman in edge defender Montez Sweat entering his fifth-year option season in 2023, there are a lot of tough decisions ahead for the Commanders. 

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