The deadline for NFL teams to apply their 2021 franchise tag is set for Tuesday, March 9, but several teams got into the action early on Monday night.
The New York Jets and Washington Football Team are reported to be the latest teams to use their franchise tag. Per Adam Schefter and Tom Pelissero, the teams have locked up Marcus Maye and Brandon Scherff, respectively, to one-year deals.
New York Jets franchise tag Marcus Maye
Projected 2021 cap hit: $11.2 million
Maye was arguably the Jets’ best player regardless of position in 2020. He took on a different role in the defense following the trade of former running mate Jamal Adams, and Maye responded with a career-high 82.8 PFF grade.
The now fifth-year safety has shown the ability to find success in both single-high and two-high coverages, which bodes well for his fit in Robert Saleh’s new defense in New York.
Saleh comes from the Seattle Cover 3 coaching tree, but his defenses in San Francisco didn’t simply drop back into Cover 3 snap after snap. The 49ers ranked among the top 10 defenses in the league in Cover 3, quarters and Cover 6 usage in 2020.
This is a Jets defense without many building blocks in place. Quinnen Williams projects as one of those kinds of franchise cornerstones along the defensive line, but beyond Williams, there are more holes in the starting lineup than answers. New York dipping into its available cap space and locking down Maye gives them another one of those players to build around on defense — at least for 2021.
Even after franchise tagging Maye, New York still has plenty of cap room to work with, sitting below only the Jacksonville Jaguars ($84.6 million) and New England Patriots ($66.5 million) in projected 2021 cap space, according to Over the Cap.
Washington Football Team franchise tag Brandon Scherff
Projected 2021 cap hit: $18.0 million
This being the second consecutive franchise tag placed on Scherff will cost Washington, but it’s a move that maintains stability on an offensive line that impressed in 2020.
Scherff has battled through injuries over his six years in the NFL since being drafted out of Iowa, but he stayed healthy for the majority of last season and earned a career-high PFF grade in the process. Scherff’s 86.3 grade in 2020 ranked third among all qualifying right guards, behind only Wyatt Teller and Zack Martin. That performance last season was sandwiched between strong play from both Chase Roullier (PFF’s sixth-ranked center) and Morgan Moses (PFF’s sixth-ranked right tackle).
When healthy, Scherff is one of the league’s best at guard. He’s rarely beat in pass protection and is one of the more powerful run-blockers at the point of attack. The $18 million price tag is a tough pill to swallow for a guard, but there is no denying that Scherff would have been difficult to replace.
Questions will remain about who ends up taking the snaps at quarterback in 2021, and we still don't know how the team plans to surround Terry McLaurin at receiver. Now, there is one less question to worry about on this offense, as Washington took a step toward maintaining its strength in the trenches.