News & Analysis

NFL Franchise Tag Tracker: News, rumors and instant analysis

The NFL free agency period and the NFL Draft are two of the most exciting events of the football calendar. But before that, the offseason starts with the franchise tag period.

For those who don't know what this period is for, NFL teams have the chance to tag one of their impending free agents to a one-year tender if the two sides are unable to agree on a long-term deal. Some players play the year under the tag and sign a long-term deal; some play the year under the tag and return to free agency the following year, and some players are tagged and then traded away. Teams have until Thursday, March 12th to apply the tag to their desired player.

PFF will be tracking every rumor and transaction, and we will be giving instant reaction and advanced analysis below.

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OFFICIALLY TAGGED


The Baltimore Ravens place franchise tag on Matthew Judon

Matthew Judon receives the first tag of the 2020 offseason, and it’s up in the air whether or not he’ll be a Raven Week 1 or if he will be traded to another team. Considering his past play and projected contact of $13.5 million per year over four years — with $22 million guaranteed — it’s hard to imagine another team willing to cough up the assets for him.

Judon has never been great in any one facet of play, but he has developed into a solid yet unspectacular pass-rusher over the last couple of years. He's produced a two-year pass-rush grade that ranks among the 25 best at his position along with a pressure rate that rings in at 11th. However, no edge rusher had more unblocked pressures in that stretch than Judon, meaning that his pressure totals are somewhat deceiving. In fact, he actually ranks only 45th in pass-rush win rate since 2018.


The Denver Broncos have also administered the franchise tag to safety Justin Simmons

It's understandable why the Broncos don't want to part ways with Justin Simmons after just one year in Vic Fangio's defense. In 2018, Simmons ranked 85th among 91 qualifying safeties in PFF coverage grade, but in 2019, Fangio's first year at the helm, Simmons earned the second-best coverage grade among safeties and was most valuable safety in the NFL, per PFF WAR. He went from allowing the same number of touchdowns as interceptions plus pass breakups (four) in 2018 to not allowing a single touchdown while gathering 15 interceptions plus pass breakups in 2019.


The Los Angeles Chargers have franchised tagged TE Hunter Henry

It’s unclear whether or not Hunter Henry wanted to be tagged, but it’s a good move on the Los Angeles Chargers’ part considering Henry was getting close to elite status prior to his injuries the last couple of seasons.

In his first two seasons — 2016 and 2017 — Henry produced a receiving grade that trailed only Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski. He missed the entire regular season in 2018 and missed a handful of weeks at the start of 2019, but he still managed to overcome that to rank 14th in receiving grade while generating a seventh-ranked 117.6 passer rating when targeted. It’s a low-risk, high-reward transaction for the rebuilding Chargers.


The Jaguars have officially franchise tagged pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue

Yannick Ngakoue has already flat-out said that he is not going to be in a Jaguar uniform Week 1, so it's likely that Jacksonville did this just so they can get assets back in a trade, which is a smart move on their end.

Ngakoue has been a fairly solid pass-rusher throughout his career with the Jaguars, and he has ranked among the top 20 edge defenders in PFF pass-rush grade in each of the last three seasons. However, the team that does trade for Ngakoue is going to have to pay a good chunk of change. He’s projected to receive around $19.5 million per year, which would make him one of the five highest-paid edge defenders in the NFL — that’s a pretty steep price for a non-elite pass-rusher who is a below-average tackler and run-defender.


The Redskins have franchise tagged standout G BRANDON SCHERFF

Brandon Scherff is the highest-ranked guard on the market, per PFF's Free Agency Rankings Page, so it comes as no surprise to see the Redskins secure his services ahead of the 2020 NFL season. Scherff has battled injury over the last few years, but he is one of the best guards in the league when he's healthy. In his five seasons in the league, Scherff has never ranked lower than 21st among guards in PFF overall grade.


The New York GIANTS have franchise tagged DI LEONARD WILLIAMS

The New York Giants made a pretty surprising trade in the middle of the 2019 season by trading a 2020 third-round pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick to the New York Jets for interior defensive lineman Leonard Williams. After placing the franchise tag on Williams, that 2021 fifth-round pick becomes a fourth-round pick.

Tagging Williams is a bad move.

Williams has always been an above-average run-defender and pass-rusher. He’s never ranked in the top 10 in pass-rush grade or run-defense grade in any one of his five seasons in the NFL and in the last three seasons specifically he’s cracked the top 25 in both of those facets just one time each. Now, he’ll be paid like an elite interior defensive lineman.


THE TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS HAVE FRANCHISE TAGGED EDGE SHAQUIL BARRETT

Shaquil Barrett presents an interesting case, as he went from being one of the league's most underrated edge defenders to perhaps one of the league's most overrated in the space of one, albeit impressive, year. Barrett was a top 25 edge defender in every single season he spent in Denver, and while he maintained that status in 2019, he still only ranked 25th in PFF grade.

As we touched on earlier, sacks and forced fumbles aren't indicative of future performance. And while Barrett may have led the league in sacks with 20, eight of those were either unblocked or a cleanup, and he was just 20th among edge defenders in pass-rush win rate. Make no mistake, Barrett is a very good pass-rusher, he just shouldn't be overvalued because of his lofty sack total from 2019.


THE KANSAS CITY CHIEFS HAVE FRANCHISE TAGGED DI CHRIS JONES

Chris Jones has been one of the league's most impactful players ever since he first stepped foot on the NFL gridiron as a second-round rookie in 2016. Over the last couple of years, there hasn't been a better 3-technique pass-rusher not named Aaron Donald than Chris Jones. Over that stretch, Jones has produced a pass-rush grade, a pass-rush win rate and a pressure rate at 3-tech that trails only Donald over that span.


The PITTSBURGH STEELERS have franchise tagged EDGE BUD DUPREE

Bud Dupree was one of the many who came through in his contract year, and just like everyone else, he likely earned himself a big payday as a result. Dupree's career-high pass-rush grade was just 61.0 prior to last year, but he posted a 76.3 pass-rush grade in 2019 and racked up the most sacks (13) as well as the most forced fumbles (four) of his career.

However, those two particular stats aren't stable from year to year, and they're certainly not predictive of future performance. What is stable, however, is an edge rusher's pressure and pass-rush win rate, and, unfortunately for those who want to believe that Dupree has turned the corner, he didn't crack the top 40 in either win rate or pressure rate in 2019.


THE CINCINNATI BENGALS HAVE TAGGED WR A.J. GREEN

The Bengals' soon-to-be first overall pick, Joe Burrow, reportedly made it clear that he wants veteran wide receiver A.J. Green to be back with the squad for 2020, despite Green's injury history and likely high cost. As a result, the Bengals are likely going to grant him that, and it's really not a bad idea.

When healthy, Green is easily one of the NFL's top wide receivers. His PFF grade ranked among the top 11 wide receivers in six of the seven years from 2012-18, and the one season he didn't, he was still in the top 25. He hasn't played in 23 of the Bengals' last 24 games, but Green still ranks third in deep (20-plus yard targets) receiving yards and first in deep touchdowns since entering the league in 2011. Burrow needs his Ja'Marr Chase in the NFL, and A.J. Green can be that guy.


THE DALLAS COWBOYS HAVE TAGGED QB DAK PRESCOTT

Although it isn't official, it's virtually a lock that Dak Prescott will be in a Dallas Cowboy uniform come Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season. Dak isn't really given enough credit for what he did in 2019 — he was one of PFF's 10 highest-graded quarterbacks and was the third most valuable player in the NFL, per PFF WAR. He's a mid-tier quarterback who can produce at an elite level in any given year, and that's better than a lot of quarterback situations around the league.


THE TENNESSEE TITANS HAVE TAGGED RB DERRICK HENRY

Henry is an absolute tank and difficult to bring down — he owns the most broken tackles (71), yards after contact per attempt average (4.16) and runs of 10-plus yards (52 — 13 more than any other running back). However, he has seen 85 more carries than any other back and has benefited from having the sixth best offensive line run-blocking for him. The most important part of running back performance is how the player fares in the receiving game, an area that Henry has been poor in. He saw only 28 targets this year and dropped three while producing just one yard per route run, which ranks 37th of 48 qualifying running backs.

Considering the lack of positional value and having to put up over $10 million in capital for a running back that takes cap space away from positions that matter more, this is not a good move.


THE ARIZONA CARDINALS HAVE PLACED THE TRANSITION TAG ON KENYAN DRAKE

Kenyan Drake has been an up-and-down performer as a runner over the last three years, posting rushing grade ranks of fourth, 33rd and 20th. He has been one of the more elusive backs in that stretch by ranking fourth in broken tackles per attempt and fifth in yards after contact per attempt. The best thing Drake brings to the table is his receiving ability and it’s vital whoever picks him up uses that to their advantage like the Arizona Cardinals did. From Week 9 and on with the Cardinals, Drake recorded a 76.3 receiving grade, which ranked among the 10 best at the position, and averaged 9.3 yards after catch per reception on his 34 targets.


THE New England PATRIOTS HAVE TAGGED GUARD JOE THUNEY

This is a smart move done by Bill Belichick. Whether or not New England keeps Joe Thuney is dependent on Tom Brady’s decision, but either way they are in a good spot by doing this as they’ll either get assets via trade for Thuney or will be keeping one of the NFL’s best guards.

Over the last three seasons, Thuney has been the fifth most valuable guard in the entire league in regard to PFF WAR. In the last two seasons particularly, Thuney’s pass-blocking has been as good as anyone – his grade in pass-pro each season was second among left guards and his pressure rate was fifth among all guards. Of the 59 guards to register at least 250 true pass sets since 2018, Thuney is the only one to not allow a single sack.


THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS HAVE TAGGED SAFETY ANTHONY HARRIS

It would be an incredibly smart move for Minnesota to keep Anthony Harris. There hasn't been a better deep safety in the NFL over the last couple of seasons than Harris. He's played 980 coverage snaps in that span and was responsible for only 216 yards; he didn't allow a single touchdown, and he also added 17 combined pass breakups and interceptions. He isn't limited to only free safety, though, as he played over 41% of his snaps either in the box or in the slot in 2019, and he remained a high-level player at those alignments.

The Vikings could have very well done this with the intention of trading him. Given what I just mentioned about his elite play, there wouldn't be a shortage of interest across the league.


 

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