NFL News & Analysis

Franchise tag candidates for all 32 NFL teams

The NFL never sleeps, and neither do we here at PFF. The first important date of the 2021 offseason is already right around the corner, as February 23 marks the opening for when teams can place the franchise or transition tenders on their respective free agents. That tag window runs through March 9. Teams may use only one tender per offseason, so the decision has ripple effects across the roster.

Following Adam Schefter’s report that the salary cap is expected to be between $180 million and $181 million, we split the difference with a $180.5 million 2021 salary cap projection. Using that figure, franchise tag projections tentatively come out to: 

Position Designation 2021 Projection ($180.5M Cap)
Cornerback $14.894M
Defensive end $15.893M
Defensive tackle $13.736M
Linebacker $14.630M
Offensive line $13.602M
Punter or kicker $4.433M
Quarterback $24.829M
Running back $8.561M
Safety $10.496M
Tight end $9.495M
Wide receiver $15.808M

With these numbers in mind, we took a look across the NFL to discuss the most likely franchise tag candidates for all 32 teams (if there is one).

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WFT


2020 overall grade: 72.8
Projected franchise tag number: $14.630M

Reddick’s explosion at the end of the season is exactly the type of situation the franchise tag mechanism was designed for (at least in theory), as the Cardinals now would presumably like to see another full season of Reddick playing on the edge. The former off-ball linebacker made the switch for the 2020 season, and once he settled into his new role, he exploded down the stretch.

He was named PFF’s “biggest surprise” at edge rusher for the 2020 season, in large part because of an absolute tear over the final four weeks of the campaign — including a five-sack outing against the Giants. The Cardinals may still want to see more from their 2017 first-round selection, and as a result of the drop in the salary cap, his franchise tag number isn’t all that different from the roughly $10 million fifth-year option that Arizona declined after the 2019 season. This enables the Cardinals to get a complete look at Reddick as an edge rusher and then perhaps pay him after 2021 when Chandler Jones will also be a free agent coming off his age-31 season.


2020 overall grade: 68.2
Projected franchise tag number: $10.496M

The Falcons stuck by Keanu Neal after injuries knocked him out for almost the entire 2018 and 2019 seasons. He played the 2020 campaign on a $6.466 million fifth-year option. Neal capitalized on the opportunity to showcase his talent before hitting free agency, particularly demonstrating his durability while playing almost 1,000 snaps. However, new defensive coordinator Dean Pees runs a lot of Cover 2 looks, and many feel that wouldn’t jell well with what Neal excels at. This could potentially work against a reunion in Atlanta.

Neal is a prototypical box safety who could play fast and downhill for his former head coach Dan Quinn, now the Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, or in a number of other predominantly Cover 3 schemes.


2020 overall grade: 69.9
Projected franchise tag number: $15.893M

This may not be too likely, as the reason Ngakoue even found himself in Baltimore this year was because of his refusal to play on the franchise tag in Jacksonville. That certainly could be more indicative of his feelings about the organization than the franchise tag, however.

But it’s not impossible, and a very important wrinkle here is that Ngakoue did not negotiate a no-tag provision into his revised one-year, $12 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings (who then of course traded him to the Ravens midseason). Ngakoue agreed to take a substantial pay cut just to get out of Jacksonville, dropping his $17.788 million franchise tag all the way down to $12 million.

The second franchise tag number is either the league-wide number or 120% of the player’s prior year salary — whichever is greater. Ngakoue’s teammate, edge rusher Matthew Judon, also negotiated a revised franchise tag number for 2020. The Ravens originally placed the linebacker franchise tag on him, but he argued he was a defensive end. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last.

Ultimately, the Ravens agreed to take the average of the two numbers ($17.808M and $15.828M) and pay Judon $16.808 million for 2020, meaning a second tag for him would eclipse $20 million.

This leaves Ngakoue as the likely candidate in Baltimore.

BUFFALO BILLS: T Daryl Williams

2020 overall grade: 79.4
Projected franchise tag number: $13.602M

Some may have expected to see linebacker Matt Milano instead, but the franchise tag positional designations provide our reasoning here. The “linebacker” designation for franchise tag purposes includes 3-4 outside linebackers; for example, edge rusher Shaquil Barrett had the linebacker franchise tag placed on him for the 2020 season. While Milano is a very good off-ball linebacker and is looking for a new deal that could potentially reach $14.630 million on a per-year basis, that number is probably close to the ceiling, if not above it.

On the other hand, the offensive line franchise tag applies to all five positions along the line. This, of course, is wonderful for centers and guards and frustrating for tackles. Right tackle Daryl Williams was a great offseason addition for the Bills, playing on the veteran minimum and producing a 79.4 PFF grade in the regular season that ranked 21st among 93 qualifying tackles.

The $13.602 million number could be somewhere in the ballpark of what Williams is looking for on a per-year basis, but the Bills have a handful of players they need to take care of this offseason, so perhaps a long-term deal won't be reached. Bills general manager Brandon Beane looks like a genius for locking in cornerback Tre’Davious White and left tackle Dion Dawkins to five-year extensions right before several cornerbacks and left tackles were signed for much more.

Dawkins' 2020 extension averages $14.575 million per year, which provides solid leverage in negotiations with Williams. Of course, each negotiation is separate, but it’d be extremely challenging for Williams to justify making more than Dawkins (who plays the higher-paid tackle position, and very well), even if Dawkins’ deal is now a major discount.

If Beane does ultimately extend Daryl Williams before New Orleans Saints right tackle Ryan Ramczyk signs a massive new deal, he could again be early to the market and have a discount deal right away.


2020 overall grade: 81.2
Projected franchise tag number: $13.602M

With the Carolina Panthers reportedly in the mix on every available quarterback this offseason, including making a competitive offer for Matthew Stafford, one thing is clear: There will likely be a new signal-caller under center soon enough, even if not in Week 1.

That's all the more reason for Carolina to retain its best young offensive lineman, who's been a model of consistency at right tackle since becoming a full-time starter in 2018. The Panthers may lose left tackle Russell Okung to free agency, so they’ll need to replace him, as well, but losing both bookends cannot be an option.

The right tackle market has finally experienced the much-needed boost it deserved, with the Raiders' Trent Brown exploding the top of the market to $16.5 million per year followed by the Eagles' Lane Johnson raising that bar to $18 million. This franchise tag number would still slot in fourth among right tackles, just below the Browns' Jack Conklin, but Moton’s NFC South counterpart Ryan Ramczyk could very well change that soon.

Sep 27, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II (12) runs against Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee (27) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports


2020 overall grade: 88.4
Projected franchise tag number: $18M

There's no projection here, as Robinson would have his own franchise tag number because of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. The tag number for each player is either the league-wide calculation for their respective position or 120% of the player’s prior-year salary — whichever is greater. Robinson's “prior-year salary,” per the governing section of the CBA, is his full $15 million 2020 cap hit, so a tag of $18 million would come into play.

The $18 million figure comes out to almost exactly 10% of the projected $180.5 million salary cap, and this could provide Robinson some leverage in negotiations with Chicago. The Bears are in a very tough spot with respect to the salary cap, and judging by their activity in the quarterback market, they likely don't have their starter on the roster yet.


2020 overall grade: 76.3
Projected franchise tag number: $15.893M

William Jackson III was another potential candidate here, coming off his fifth-year option season having played well but perhaps not well enough for Cincinnati to feel comfortable doling out a long-term contract. The Bengals signed cornerback Trae Waynes to a three-year, $42 million contract before the 2020 season, but an injury kept him out for much of the year. With Waynes expected to return, Cincinnati may let Jackson hit the market.

Regardless, Lawson has emerged as a top-end edge rusher, with his 64 pressures in 2020 leading to a career-high 84.9 pass rush grade. However, 2020 was Lawson’s first season of playing over 500 snaps, so the Bengals may want to see a repeat performance before agreeing to a big, multi-year extension.



Sep 13, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a pass against the Los Angeles Rams during the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


2020 overall grade: 85.2
Projected franchise tag number: $37.691M

A second franchise tag for Dak Prescott of $37.691 million would trail only Patrick Mahomes’ $45 million and Deshaun Watson’s $39 million average-per-year amounts. Nevertheless, it seems likely, as the two sides remain divided in negotiations. They will then work off the tag to see if they can finally arrive at an acceptable deal for all involved, with that $37.7 million number effectively providing a floor in negotiations for Prescott’s average-per-year number.

As Jerry Jones himself has already said — which had to be music to Prescott’s representation’s ears — Prescott holds all the leverage at this point. A third franchise tag in 2022 would be over $54 million, bringing Prescott’s three-year total to $123,374,552. 

We expect the franchise tag to be tendered to Prescott, but at this time, we don’t expect he’ll actually play on it in 2021. A big-time extension makes sense for both parties.


2020 overall grade: 88.3
Projected franchise tag number: $13.736M

The Broncos have addressed the interior of their defensive line consistently the past two seasons, with third-round picks in 2019 and 2020 (Dre’Mont Jones and McTelvin Agim, respectively), as well as trading a seventh-round pick to Tennessee for longtime star Jurrell Casey

Nevertheless, Shelby Harris had a standout 2020, whereas Casey missed the vast majority of the season to injury. Harris’ 83.5 pass-rushing grade ranked tied for sixth among all defensive interior players. Casey has an $11.681 million 2021 salary with nothing guaranteed, so he could become a cap casualty entering his age-32 season. A seventh-round pick wouldn’t make the Broncos think twice, and new general manager George Paton didn’t execute that trade, anyway.

DETROIT LIONS: WR Kenny Golladay

2020 overall grade: 81.6
Projected franchise tag number: $15.808M

Golladay missed the majority of the 2020 season while working hard to recover from a hip ailment, but he still shined in the four full games he battled through injury to play in. Golladay graded out at 85.7 in those four contests, and he put up 50 receiving yards and a touchdown or 100-plus receiving yards in each outing.

The Detroit Lions used the franchise tag on left tackle Taylor Decker prior to the 2020 season before ultimately reaching an agreement on a four-year, $59.65 million extension. Expect a similar situation this offseason with Golladay, especially considering new general manager Brad Holmes is still getting everything in order and assessing the team’s situation after the blockbuster Matthew StaffordJared Goff trade.


2020 overall grade: 79.4
Projected franchise tag number: $8.561M

After several attempts to reach an agreement on a long-term deal before and throughout the 2020 season fell short, Jones has hired mega-agent Drew Rosenhaus to navigate his free agency this upcoming offseason. 

Reports indicated the Packers offered Jones a deal that would have made him one of the five highest-paid running backs on a per-year basis, but the average-per-year number doesn’t matter as much as guarantees, especially at a position like running back. This is purely speculative, but the thinking behind switching representation with a franchise tag looming could be that Rosenhaus can leverage his lengthy list of clients to caution the Packers against using the franchise tag.

It can already be a challenge to convince some free agents to sign in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and after Aaron Rodgers is no longer there, it will only prove even more challenging. The last thing the Packers would want to do is also have one of the league’s biggest power brokers steering his clients elsewhere. Again, this is just a hypothetical idea, and the Packers also aren’t a franchise that seems to get strong-armed very often, if at all.


2020 overall grade: 86.2
Projected franchise tag number: $15.808M

Fuller played on a $10.162M fifth-year option in 2020. While he has shown flashes of elite play over his first four seasons, it was no surprise that Houston was not comfortable extending him, given his long history with various injuries. 

While he avoided the injury bug and played at an elite level in 2020 — which was even more notable because he no longer had the benefit of DeAndre Hopkins commanding opposing defenses attention — a six-game suspension for PEDs to close out his season wasn’t the ideal way to hit free agency. Deshaun Watson had made it clear he wanted Fuller back in Houston for 2021, but that was also back when Watson himself planned to be back in Houston for 2021. 

At this point, Fuller probably could command some attention on the open market, and he was apparently the subject of trade deadline talks with the Green Bay Packers and others, but another one-year deal to see if Fuller can play a full season would make a lot of sense.





2020 overall grade: 73.8
Projected franchise tag number: $15.808M

The Raiders may not get to this point with Agholor, as they seem motivated to bring him back on a fair deal for both parties. Furthermore, they drafted WR Henry Ruggs III in the first round of the 2020 Draft and WR Bryan Edwards later in the third, so they’re not particularly desperate for help at wide receiver.

Agholor's career trajectory has been unorthodox thus far, so you never know how negotiations can shake out if the two sides have different perceptions of value. The 2015 first-round pick had a breakout 2017 campaign, capped off with nine receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots. He fell out of favor in Philadelphia after that, and following a $9.387M fifth-year option in 2019, chose to sign for the veteran minimum with the Raiders for 2020. 

To his credit, he made the absolute most of his opportunity and impressed Jon Gruden and others. He’s earned a solid multi-year deal, and perhaps he gets one before the franchise tag comes into play.


2020 overall grade: 69.3
Projected franchise tag number: $12.728M

A second franchise tag for Hunter Henry would bring his number up to $12.728M, which would trail only George Kittle‘s and Travis Kelce’s average-per-year amounts from their market-setting extensions prior to the 2020 season. 

Henry was a solid safety blanket for rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in 2020 and has done well to put any questions aside about his health after an ACL tear in 2018. Nevertheless, after the market exploded at tight end — with Kittle signing for $15M per year and Kelce for $14,312,500 per year — it’s possible we see a disconnect between the Chargers' camp and Henry’s. Cleveland's Austin Hooper had topped the tight end market at $10.5 million per year before Kittle and Kelce blew past him and there now exists a rather wide chasm. 

Working in Henry’s favor is the fact the Chargers doled out a four-year, $80.1 million extension for star wide receiver Keenan Allen, showing they’re more than willing to take care of their best receiving weapons. Perhaps an extension is reached that renders a second consecutive franchise tag futile.

Dec 6, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Rams safety John Johnson III (43) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


2020 overall grade: 85.6
Projected franchise tag number: $10.496M

One of the newest additions to the PFF team, analyst Diante Lee, debuted with an excellent article looking at the Brandon Staley-led Los Angeles Rams defense, and John Johnson III’s versatility in this scheme played a huge role in their success. They asked a lot of their safeties, and Johnson delivered in every facet.

The Rams lined up with two deep safeties more than any team and were still a stout unit against the run. Johnson III was one of just two safeties in 2020 with grades above 80.0 in both run defense and coverage, finishing the season with an 85.6 coverage grade and an 83.9 run-defense grade. Cincinnati Bengals' Jessie Bates III was the other.

The Rams seem determined to keep Johnson around if they can, but after their blockbuster move for Matthew Stafford and the solid play from young safeties Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller, perhaps they feel the need to spend elsewhere. If not, Johnson makes a lot of sense here as they push to get over the top in the NFC and make a Super Bowl run.





2020 overall grade: 79.3
Projected franchise tag number: $10.496M

Of course, the New Orleans Saints would love to do whatever it takes to keep Williams, but considering they’re roughly $75 million over the projected salary cap and don’t have a starting quarterback under contract, it could be very tough to even carry a franchise tag on the books.

The Saints freed up cap space with Sheldon Rankins’ fifth-year option in 2020 by adding void years on the end of it and prorating some of the money as a bonus (which we believe is the first time that’s ever been done), so perhaps they could try to go that route again with a franchise tag for Williams. Nevertheless, it’s going to be hard to retain Williams no matter what contractual approach the Saints take.

NEW YORK GIANTS: DI Dalvin Tomlinson

2020 overall grade: 75.2
Projected franchise tag number: $13.736M

A second franchise tag for Leonard Williams would cost $19.35 million in 2021, making it more likely the Giants will look to extend him to a long-term offer if they choose to retain him. While he should reach or perhaps even exceed that number on a per-year basis, it’s still a lot to carry on a $180.5 million salary cap.

The Giants are reportedly working hard to retain both Williams and Tomlinson — the latter of whom drew a trade-deadline offer from the Green Bay Packers — but that could prove challenging leading to the franchise tag. Tomlinson has always been a stout nose tackle against the run, but he took a big step in 2020 and earned a career-high 74.7 pass-rush grade.

In addition to 2019 first-round pick Dexter Lawrence, this seems a bit like overkill along the interior of the defensive line, especially considering the Giants’ edge rush unit finished with the fifth-worst grade in the NFL. Nevertheless, all three are undoubtedly great players that would wreak havoc on opposing interior offensive lines once again.

NEW YORK JETS: S Marcus Maye

2020 overall grade: 82.8
Projected franchise tag number: $10.496M

Maye has done his best to ease Jets fans’ pain after Jamal Adams was shipped off to the Seattle Seahawks. Drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft to be Adams’ running mate for years to come, Maye has developed into a really good player in his own right. He may not get you 9.5 sacks, but he’s a strong coverage player who can also come down in the box and do some damage of his own.

The Jets obviously don’t have a ton of talent to speak of, so retaining a player of Maye’s caliber should be a priority. If an extension cannot be reached, a franchise tag would make a lot of sense here. The Jets are one of the few teams that have ample cap space in 2021, so a large one-year salary for Maye doesn’t hurt them like it would many other clubs.


PITTSBURGH STEELERS: T Alejandro Villanueva

2020 overall grade: 74.6
Projected franchise tag number: $13.602M

Villanueva has been as consistent a player as you can hope for at left tackle, with five straight seasons earning at least a 76.5 pass-blocking grade (including three above 80.0) on 995 snaps or more in each year. While he’ll be turning 33 in September, he’s only played six NFL seasons after serving in the military. He doesn’t have nearly as much tread on his tires compared to players his age, and we’ve also seen plenty of tackles play well into their 30s regardless.

Villanueva played out his four-year, $24 million contract signed in 2017 even though he easily could’ve gone back to the Steelers and asked to rip that up for a new deal, which he deserved. This could suggest that perhaps he’d rather agree to another multi-year extension with more assurances long-term, even if arguably below his true market value, just to avoid a franchise tag situation.

The Steelers have one of the more challenging salary cap situations in the entire NFL this offseason, so an extension that helps them keep his 2021 cap hit down would be preferable to a franchise tag.



2020 overall grade: 64.1
Projected franchise tag number: $14.894M

Griffin had an up-and-down 2020 campaign, dealing with various bumps and bruises throughout, but he maintained a relatively high floor of play on an otherwise injury-decimated and struggling Seahawks defense.

Griffin is a physical Cover 3 corner who would be an important player to retain for Seattle, given the major question marks around Quinton Dunbar for 2021. Griffin’s services would also presumably be sought after by a team like Las Vegas, where new defensive coordinator (and former Seahawks defensive coordinator) Gus Bradley will soon be implementing the same type of defense.

There is not a particularly strong cornerback market this offseason, which could work in Griffin’s favor if he’s one of few targets. While this tag number comes in above the average-per-year amount on our own free agent projection for Griffin, perhaps he’s seen in a more positive light across the league.

Oct 25, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) reaches for the end zone in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 45-20. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


2020 overall grade: 79.7
Projected franchise tag number: $15.808M

Godwin didn’t replicate his incredible 2019 campaign, but he showed tremendous toughness and perseverance playing through several injuries, including a broken index finger on his left hand. He still managed to play at a high level despite all of that, and of course the Buccaneers capped off their season with a Lombardi Trophy, which makes everything look a little brighter.

Nevertheless, Tampa Bay used the franchise tag on edge defender Shaquil Barrett for the 2020 season — a second tag would cost them just under $19M — and he needs a big-time extension following another great season capped off with 10 pressures in the Super Bowl. Longtime star linebacker Lavonte David may also get a new deal from Tampa Bay, leaving the younger Godwin as the potential odd man out.


2020 overall grade: 75.2
Projected franchise tag number: $9.495

Tennessee used the franchise tag on Derrick Henry last offseason before the two sides agreed to terms on a four-year, $50 million extension. While Tennessee doesn’t have the best salary cap situation heading into 2021 and have players like WR Corey Davis, LB Jayon Brown, edge Jadeveon Clowney and CB Desmond King II looking for new deals, Smith could be brought back for one more year on a relatively cheap franchise tag.

The defensive side of the ball undoubtedly needs more help than the offensive side — the Titans finished 28th in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play in 2020 — but we all know in today’s NFL that offense wins championships. With offensive coordinator Arthur Smith taking the head coaching job in Atlanta, and with Corey Davis most likely landing elsewhere, Tennessee may value some continuity among their offensive playmakers.


2020 overall grade: 76.0
Projected franchise tag number: $14.894M

A second franchise tag for Brandon Scherff would cost over $18 million, so it’s highly unlikely he’ll be following the Kirk Cousins route in Washington. And after trading left tackle Trent Williams to the San Francisco 49ers, a very large chunk of hypothetical money that was going elsewhere on the offensive line has now been cleared up for Scherff.

That leaves Darby, who signed a one-year flier with the Football Team following a down year in 2019 coming off an ACL injury. Darby was a solid wide corner for the Bills and Eagles before his injuries, even winning PFF’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2015. There are not many quality press-man corners available this offseason, so Darby could have a solid market coming off a strong campaign.

With the cornerback market finally taking a much-deserved jump following Jalen Ramsey’s five-year, $100 million extension, talks could get tricky if the Football Team is wary of Darby’s extensive injury history.


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