NFL News & Analysis

2022 NFL Free Agency: Immediate reactions to all franchise tag decisions

Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown (57) lines up during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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.

As a quick primer, 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 sign a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline, some play the year under the tag and return to free agency the following year and some are tagged and then traded away. 

Teams have until 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday, March 8, to apply the tag to a desired player.

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


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CLEVELAND BROWNS: TAGGED TE DAVID NJOKU

per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

Tag Price: $10.8 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Long-term deal signed by deadline

Analysis: Paying this kind of premium for Njoku is rich. He has never lived up to his first-round talent. Njoku’s career-high PFF grade came in 2021 with a 70.9 mark, but that ranked just 14th in the NFL. Along with that, he ranked only 21st in PFF Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at the position. Between his inline blocking and receiving impact, whether he is lined up at receiver or not, Njoku hasn’t sniffed top-10 production, and yet he is getting paid as such.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that both the Browns and Njoku’s representatives are working toward a long-term deal. Whether they come to a long-term agreement or not, Cleveland is set to have two of the eight highest-paid tight ends in the NFL this season.

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: TAGGED OT ORLANDO BROWN JR.

per ESPN’s Adam Schefter

Tag Price: $16.7 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Plays 2022 on the tag

Analysis: Don’t rule out Kansas City coming to a long-term agreement with Brown, but for now, playing on the tag remains a possibility. Tagging the tackle was a guarantee after the team traded a first-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for him last year. In Year 1 with the Chiefs, Brown produced at a quality, but not elite, level. Yet, he wants elite player money.

Brown ranked 28th among all tackles in PFF grade (75.3) this past season. It was nearly identical to his other season at left tackle in 2020 with the Ravens when he ranked 25th at the position with a 77.8 mark. If Brown gets a long-term deal, it’s projected to be a five-year, $105 million contract with $73.5 million guaranteed, according to PFF. That would make him the fourth-highest paid tackle in the NFL.

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TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: TAGGED WR CHRIS GODWIN

per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Tag Price: $19.1 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Long-term deal signed by deadline

Analysis: Bringing back Godwin is a necessary move for the Buccaneers, who are in the midst of trying to woo quarterback Tom Brady out of retirement. Godwin could miss a large portion of the 2022 season as he recovers from a torn ACL and MCL suffered in Week 15, but he is expected to make a full recovery. He's earned an 80.0-plus PFF grade in four of his five NFL seasons, once coming in as the highest-graded receiver in the league (2019). The only campaign in which he didn’t grade that highly was during his injury-riddled 2020, and he still earned a top-30 mark at the position (76.0).

Godwin may not be a true X receiver, but that doesn’t take away from what he's capable of. His No. 8 ranking in PFF WAR generated among wide receivers since 2019 — and No. 1 among non-quarterbacks on the Bucs roster — backs that up.


CINCINNATI BENGALS: TAGGED S JESSIE BATES III 

per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

Tag Price: $13.5 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Long-term deal signed by deadline

Analysis: Bates was a vital piece of the Bengals’ playoff run. He was the highest-graded defensive back of the entire postseason (90.0). Over the past two seasons, Bates comes in as one of the 10 most valuable safeties in the league and the most valuable non-quarterback on Cincinnati’s roster. Whether he’s playing centerfield in single-high or in a two-high shell, he is a reliable playmaker on the backend. Losing him would have been a death blow for the Bengals, who will now try to retain him for many more years.


MIAMI DOLPHINS: TAGGED TE MIKE GESICKI

per ESPN’s Adam Schefter

Tag Price: $10.8 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Long-term deal signed by deadline

Analysis: Assuming the long-term price tag labels Gesicki a tight end, this is a good decision by the Dolphins. There’s some debate about whether he should be considered a tight end or a wide receiver since over half of his snaps in each of the past three seasons have come in the slot.

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound “big slot” has been a trustworthy target, as he leads all pass-catchers in contested catches (28) and is No. 12 among the group in explosive receptions of 15-plus yards from the slot. Because of his impact in the passing game, Gesicki ranks top 20 among tight ends and wide receivers grouped together in PFF WAR over the past two seasons.


DALLAS COWBOYS: TAGGED TE DALTON SCHULTZ

per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

Tag Price: $10.8 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Long-term deal signed by deadline

Analysis: With Amari Cooper reportedly out of the fold, keeping the rest of Dak Prescott’s supporting cast intact is essential for Dallas this offseason. Tagging Schultz — arguably the best tight end available in free agency — is Step 1 of that process.

The fifth-year pro not only finished the 2021 season as the league's sixth-highest-graded tight end, but he also earned the third-most PFF WAR at the position.

Schultz is good at finding soft spots in zone, he doesn't have an extensive injury history, he adds value after the catch, he wins at the catch point and he holds his own in the run game. He ranked sixth or higher at the position last year in drop rate (3.4%), contested-catch rate (63.2%) and broken tackles after the catch (13).


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: TAGGED OT CAM ROBINSON

per the team

Tag Price: $16.5 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Long-term deal signed by deadline

Analysis: For back-to-back years, the biggest surprise franchise tag belongs to the Jaguars and left tackle Cam Robinson. It was thought to be either Alabama tackle Evan Neal or NC State tackle Ikem Ekownu to be the No. 1 overall pick, but now it’s looking like Michigan edge defender Aidan Hutchinson. I’m in the camp that the team should take Hutchinson first overall and find a serviceable veteran in free agency — not tagging Robinson. He has generated negative PFF Wins Above Replacement (WAR) all four seasons on the field for the Jaguars. While Robinson improved in pass-protection this past season, he still produced well below the position average.


GREEN BAY PACKERS: TAGGED WR DAVANTE ADAMS

per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

Tag Price: $18.4 million
Prediction of Tag Outcome: Long-term deal signed by deadline

Analysis: Green Bay fans are rejoicing today. MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers is returning for another run, which means his top target — Davante Adams — will likely be returning with him. The Packers are placing the tag on him now, but odds are we see Adams sign a long-term deal with the franchise.

Adams finished as the highest-graded wide receiver of the 2021 regular season and the 2020 regular season. The Packers star puts out teaching tape every week with his elite route-running and release package. He shredded single coverage better than anyone in the NFL this season, according to PFF receiving grades.

An underrated aspect of Adams’ game is his reliability when Rodgers targets him. The wide receiver hauled in 96.1% of his catchable targets in 2021, the second-highest rate among players with at least 100 targets.


This article will continue to be updated live until the 4:00 p.m. EST deadline on Tuesday, March 8, passes
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