Thursday, April 18, 2024
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2024 NFL franchise tag candidates for all 32 teams: Mike Evans, Christian Wilkins likely players to be tagged

The 2024 NFL offseason is set to ramp up over the next several weeks as franchises will be making crucial decisions on setting their rosters for the upcoming season. The franchise tag window opens on Tuesday, Feb. 20. This marks the start for teams to decide whether to place the franchise tag or transition tag on any one of their players for the 2024 season, creating some cap maneuvering around the league.

Some teams will use the franchise tag right away in the hopes of negotiating a long-term extension with that player in the weeks leading up to free agency. Other teams will wait until the very last minute to decide if any unrestricted free agent is worth the franchise tag — or some teams won’t even use the tag at all. 

Six players received the franchise tag last season, meaning 18.75% of the league applied the tag on their pending free agents. Three of those players signed long-term deals with the team that applied the tag on them, while the other three played the year on the tag. Whether a long-term extension will be settled with that player will be processed in due time, yet teams will maneuver to keep their key players on the roster for 2024 and beyond. 

Per CBS Sports contributor and former NFL agent Joel Corry, below is the projected tag salary at each position for every player who will be franchise tagged in 2024 (the 2024 salary cap is projected at $242.5 million):

Position Projected Franchise Tag

Quarterback

$36,367,000

Linebacker

$22,794,000

Defensive tackle $20,986,000

Wide receiver

$20,714,000

Defensive end

$20,247,000

Offensive line

$19,925,000

Cornerback

$18,802,000

Safety 

$16,258,000

Tight end

$12,051,000

Running back

$11,348,000

Kicker/punter

$5,682,000

Which players are franchise tag candidates for every team? Let’s take a look at the unrestricted free agents for each team that could have a franchise tag placed upon them over the next few weeks (if there are any free agents worth tagging). 

Keep in mind salary cap space is considered, but these are free agents who are worth getting the tag placed upon them regardless of the salary cap space available. 

Arizona Cardinals

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Cardinals don’t have any player worth giving a franchise tag to this offseason, even with $41.7 million in salary cap space to play with. Marquise Brown is the most notable free agent, but giving him a raise from $13.4 million to $20.7 million for 1,283 receiving yards and seven touchdowns over two seasons isn’t in the cards. 

Atlanta Falcons

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Falcons don’t have any players in their own free-agent class worthy of tagging, as the roster is set to be retooled under new head coach Raheem Morris. With $25.8 million in available cap space, Atlanta can allocate its resources elsewhere. 

Baltimore Ravens

Potential franchise tag player: Justin Madubuike

Madubuike is set to cash in this spring in free agency, whether that’s from the Ravens or someone else. The Ravens should place the tag on him and pay the $21 million it would cost to keep Madubuike around and give themselves extra time to work out a long-term deal — even with only $7.3 million in salary cap space to work with at this time. 

Madubuike was a game wrecker on the interior of the defensive line last season, accumulating 65 pressures, 13 sacks and 33 quarterback hits and pressure rate of 13.4%. He played a massive role in Baltimore having the No. 1 scoring defense in the regular season. 

Buffalo Bills

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Bills just don’t have enough salary cap space available ($51.3 million over the cap) to use the franchise tag. They’ll pass on this option this offseason and try to get under the cap. Micah Hyde is a good player, but he’s not worth $16.3 million to slap the franchise tag on at 33 years old. 

Carolina Panthers

Potential franchise tag player: Brian Burns

The Panthers need to work out a long-term deal with Burns, so the franchise tag will buy them more time. Burns is worth the $20.2 million, coming off a season which he finished with 40 pressures, eight sacks, 18 quarterback hits and a 11.1% pressure rate. 

Burns could be a significant bargain in a few years. He’s worth using a significant amount of the $28.6 million in cap space the Panthers have available. 

Chicago Bears

Potential franchise tag player: Jaylon Johnson

The Bears have more than enough salary cap space ($67 million) to keep Johnson in-house, giving themselves enough time to work out a long-term deal. He’s 24 years old and his best football is ahead of him. 

Johnson certainly deserves a raise based on a strong 2023 season, which he had a career-high four interceptions in earning Second Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. Opposing quarterbacks targeting Johnson completed 46.3% of the passes and had just one passing touchdown targeting him as the primary defender. Johnson allowed just a 28.5 passer rating in coverage. 

Cincinnati Bengals

Potential franchise tag player: Tee Higgins

The Bengals would be paying Higgins a lot ($20.7 million) to keep him around, but it would be wise to give Joe Burrow one of his top targets for another year and run it back. Higgins had a career low in receptions (42), receiving yards (656) and receiving touchdowns (five), but played just 12 games.

Good bet Higgins will live up to his 2021 and 2022 seasons (both over 1,000 yards) if he’s back with Cincinnati in 2024. 

Cleveland Browns

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Browns just don’t have anyone worth slapping a franchise tag on in their free agency class, nor have the salary cap space ($19.6 million over the cap) to make such a move. They’ll pass on the franchise tag this year. 

Dallas Cowboys

Potential franchise tag player: Tony Pollard

Will the Cowboys tag Pollard again? They certainly have a reason to if they choose to do so. Pollard’s numbers were down as a featured back (252 carries, 1,005 yards, six touchdowns, 4.0 yards per carry) compared to 2022 (193 carries, 1,007 yards, nine touchdowns, 5.2 yards per carry), but he didn’t have much help behind him at running back either. 

A raise from $10.091 million to $11.348 million isn’t much, especially if Dallas can reduce that salary with a multi-year deal this time around. The lone issue for the Cowboys is getting under the cap ($19.7 million over the cap). 

If Dallas passes on tagging Pollard, it would make sense as well with the Dak Prescott contract situation lingering. The tag would be a reason to give itself more time to extend Pollard, but that also didn’t work out so well last time around.

Regardless, Pollard is a candidate to be tagged. 

Denver Broncos

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Broncos are rebuilding and begin $24.1 million over the salary cap. They also don’t have any of their free agents worth tagging. They’ll pass on the franchise tag. 

Detroit Lions

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Lions have some key free agents in C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Graham Glasgow, yet neither is worth the significant raise that comes with slapping the franchise tag on. Gardner-Johnson made just $6.5 million in 2023, while Glasgow made $2.75 million. 

The Lions have $44.8 million in available salary cap space. They can get both back at a much cheaper rate. 

Green Bay Packers

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Packers’ key free agents are A.J. Dillon and Jon Runyan, but neither is worth placing the franchise tag on. Green Bay is also $2.9 million over the salary cap, so it doesn’t have to go the franchise-tag route in 2024. 

Houston Texans

Potential franchise tag player: Dalton Schultz

Placing the franchise tag on Schultz would be a significant raise from $6.25 million to $12.1 million, but the Texans have more than enough cap space to accommodate ($57.7 million). Houston can afford to give Schultz more time for an extension, as Schultz is coming off a season with 59 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns.

Schultz is a reliable target for C.J. Stroud, so the Texans would be wise to keep him around. 

Indianapolis Colts

Potential franchise tag player: Michael Pittman Jr.

The Colts just don’t have enough at wide receiver, so they’re in a box regarding a Pittman extension. Not only is Pittman one of the better free agent wideouts available, but there’s a chance he gets that $20.7 million per season it would cost just for the Colts to tag him. 

Pittman had 109 catches for 1,152 yards and four touchdowns last season. The career yards per catch needs to improve (10.9), but Pittman is too valuable in the Colts offense to just let him walk. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Potential franchise tag player: Josh Allen

This is an easy decision for Jacksonville, as the Jaguars have to make sure Allen doesn’t get on the open market. The Jaguars use the franchise tag a lot, too, so there’s a precedent set here. Even with $11.3 million in available cap space, tagging Allen and giving themselves more time to each a long-term deal is paramount.

Allen finished with a franchise-record 17.5 sacks last season, with 66 tackles and 33 quarterback hits. Allen also had 90 pressures and a pressure rate of 18.3%. He one of the best pass rushers in the game. 

Kansas City Chiefs

Potential franchise tag player: L’Jarius Sneed

The Chiefs have Chris Jones who’s also eligible for the tag, but it’s cheaper to tag Sneed at $18.8 million. Sneed is also the player the Chiefs have to pay or risk losing to another team, as Jones appears to have every intent on staying. 

Sneed was one of the best cornerbacks in football all year, as opposing quarterbacks had just a 45.2 passer rating targeting him. Most opposing quarterbacks didn’t even target Sneed, who didn’t allow a passing touchdown in the regular season and had two interceptions.

With $15.2 million in available cap space, Sneed is the free agent the Chiefs have to make sure they can retain. 

Las Vegas Raiders

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Raiders tagged Josh Jacobs last offseason, but that won’t be the case in 2024. They can get Jacobs significantly cheaper than the $11.8 million he made in 2023 and the $11.3 million he would make if tagged.

Jacobs is coming off a season which he had 805 rushing yards and six touchdowns (3.5 yards per carry). Even though Jacobs averaged 76.3 rushing yards per game over his last six games, the Raiders can get him at a price significantly cheaper. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Potential franchise tag player: Austin Ekeler

Should the Chargers slap the $11.3 million tag on Ekeler? He made just $6.25 million in 2023 and churned out a career low in yards per carry (3.5) and yards per touch (4.6) last season. An ankle injury significantly slowed Ekeler down, as he averaged just 3.1 yards per carry after the injury in Week 1. 

Ekeler is one of two players in NFL history with 10 rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns in multiple seasons (Marshall Faulk is the other), reaching those numbers in 2021 and 2022. The Chargers are $45.8 million over the cap, but tagging Ekeler would be worth the gamble if they can get an extension done.                                

Los Angeles Rams

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Rams just don’t have a strong class of free agents (that’s a good thing), even though they have $27.7 million available in salary cap space. They can improve their roster this offseason without using the franchise tag. 

Miami Dolphins

Potential franchise tag player: Christian Wilkins

The Dolphins are $51.9 million over the salary cap and have significant space to clear, but Wilkins is a key piece on that defense. A raise from $10.753 million to $21 million would be worth it for a player who finished with a career high in sacks (nine), quarterback hits (23), pressures (58), and pressure rate (11.0%). 

Wilkins is set to cash in this offseason. The Dolphins need to make sure it’s with them. 

Minnesota Vikings

Potential franchise tag player: Kirk Cousins

Cousins’ contract essentially was $35 million last season, so what’s a raise of $1.367 million going to hurt to keep him around for one more season? The questions is do the Vikings even want to keep Cousins around or rebuild with a younger quarterback? They are also $24.7 million under the cap, so that is something to consider as well. 

Justin Jefferson certainly likes Cousins, and the Vikings are a better team with Cousins than without. It helps Cousins has been through this before, so the tag is nothing new. 

Do the Vikings want to tag a 35-year-old Cousins for one more season? They certainly are justified for keeping him for 2024 if they choose. 

New England Patriots

Potential franchise tag player: None

Hunter Henry had a $15.5 million cap hit, so his salary would be lower with the tag placed on him ($12.051 million). The Patriots would be wise not to pay Henry that much money after he had 410 yards and six touchdowns. Trent Brown isn’t worth a $19.3 million salary if he’s tagged either. 

What about Kyle Dugger? Is he worth the $16.258 million tag? Dugger allowed a 67.6 passer rating in coverage last season with two interceptions, while also having 107 tackles and 15 pressures at safety. Something for the Patriots to ponder. 

The Patriots have $66 million in available salary cap space. They can improve their roster in free agency instead of scrambling to retain their own players. 

New Orleans Saints

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Saints are going to be clearing cap space, as they are $83.7 million over the salary cap. There aren’t any players in their free agent class worth tagging anyway.

New Orleans doesn’t have to worry about the franchise tag deadline. 

New York Giants

Potential franchise tag player: Saquon Barkley

Would the Giants actually tag Barkley again? Barkley was the best player on a poor offense, rushing for 962 yards and six touchdowns (3.9 yards per carry) behind the worst offensive line in the NFL. Barkley would get a raise from $10.091 million to $11.3 million, which the Giants can afford with $19.5 million in available cap space.

Maybe the Giants and Barkley part ways, or they try to get him at a reduced salary. The tag is still an option. 

New York Jets

Potential franchise tag player: None

Jordan Whitehead had a cap number of $4.93 million and is coming off a career year with 97 tackles, four interceptions and nine passes defensed. Opposing quarterbacks targeting Whitehead had a 63.6 rating covering him (Whitehead gave up seven passing touchdowns). He’s the only one worth considering, but a $16.3 million salary is too much for a team that is just $1.7 million under the cap. 

The Jets can sit the franchise tag deadline out. 

Philadelphia Eagles

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Eagles have to make key decisions on a few of their free agents, but none are worth franchise tagging at this stage of the game. They can bring back Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham at a significantly cheaper rate, and the Eagles won’t tag a running back (so D’Andre Swift is out).

Even with $19.9 million in available salary cap space, don’t bank on the Eagles using the tag. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Potential franchise tag player: None

No free agents on the Steelers are worth tagging. They don’t have to worry about retaining many of their free agents, nor have the cap space to do so ($13.9 million over the cap). 

Don’t expect the Steelers to consider using the tag. 

San Francisco 49ers

Potential franchise tag player: None

Perhaps Chase Young would be a candidate, but is he worth $20.247 million? The 49ers are $12.4 million over the salary cap and don’t have many free agents worth placing the tag on. 

This isn’t the route the 49ers need to take. 

Seattle Seahawks

Potential franchise tag player: Leonard Williams

Seattle certainly has tough free agents to retain in Williams and Jordyn Brooks, deciding how much the Seahawks actually want to pay them. Trading for Williams gives the Seahawks incentive to keep him this offseason, as he did make an average annual salary of $21 million. 

The Seahawks are $5.2 milion over the salary cap, so they could back off tagging Williams — even if the franchise tag salary is essentially the same as his salary over the course of his last contract ($21 million). 

Williams had four sacks, 32 pressures and 11 quarterback hits with a 12.1% pressure rate in 10 games in Seattle. The Seahawks defense was an ideal fit for him last season, but will Mike McDonald and Aden Durde’s defense be a fit?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Potential franchise tag player: Mike Evans

Tampa Bay needs to do whatever it can to keep Evans in a Buccaneers uniform. Evans had 79 catches for 1,255 yards and 13 touchdowns with the Buccaneers last season at age 30, at a cap number of $23.7 million.

Placing the franchise tag ($20.7 million) would actually be cheaper for Evans in 2024, and that would give the Buccaneers more time to work out an extension. Would make sense for Tampa Bay to tag Evans, especially with $36.9 million in available salary cap space. 

Tennessee Titans

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Titans are in rebuild mode and have $67.8 million in salary cap space available, so the franchise tag is in play by those standards. They have no free agents worth tagging, and are moving on from Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry

They’ll pass on using the tag. 

Washington Commanders

Potential franchise tag player: None

Washington is another rebuilding organization in 2024 with $73.6 million in available salary cap space at its disposal. Its own free agent crop isn’t good, so no players are worth placing the tag on. 

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