The expected salary for quarterbacks with the franchise designation in 2019 is $25 million. The Eagles’ trade options hinge on the franchise designation — they can’t carry Foles on the books at that number as a backup to Carson Wentz. But if there is competition among quarterback-needy teams who wish to sign Foles, the Eagles can put the tag on him and then make a trade. Pro Bowl defenders Jadeveon Clowney and C.J. Mosley are among the other players who are candidates to be tagged this offseason. NFL Nation reporters predict whether teams will use the tag and, if so, on which players (in alphabetical order by team):
Atlanta Falcons: Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. The Falcons keep saying that signing Jarrett to a long-term extension is a top priority, but it hasn’t happened just yet. Talks were tabled during the season but should be in full swing now after the team cleared more than $15 million in cap space following the releases of CB Robert Alford, K Matt Bryant and DE Brooks Reed. If the sides don’t come to an agreement, tagging Jarrett at a price of around $15.5 million for 2019 could be an option, although the Falcons haven’t used the tag freely over the years.
Dallas Cowboys: Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys want to avoid putting the tag on Lawrence for a second year. He made $17.1 million in 2018 on the tag and would make $20.5 million in 2019. The Cowboys wanted to see if Lawrence could repeat his production from 2017 and he did, putting up 10.5 sacks with 39 quarterback pressures and earning a second Pro Bowl nod. A year ago, there seemed to be little hope a long-term deal could be done. This year, there seems be a little more optimism, even with a tight window to negotiate. If the Cowboys use the tag on Lawrence again, they run the risk of him not showing for the offseason program, minicamp, training camp and potentially regular-season games.
Minnesota Vikings: Linebacker Anthony Barr. The Vikings knew they’d face a tough decision with Barr when they opted not to extend the former first-rounder last offseason, which then put him in the position to play out his fifth-year option. Minnesota has to decide whether it wants to spend the estimated $15 million on a franchise tag to keep Barr around — or possibly plan to trade him soon after. Barr smoothed out an up-and-down season toward the end of 2018, recording the first multiple sack game of his NFL career and generating 23 total quarterback pressures on 94 rushes, according to Pro Football Focus. While he has said he wanted to return to Minnesota, Barr expressed a desire to keep all of his options open if he hits free agency. “I know my worth and I know what I got to do I’ve got to do it for me,” Barr said at the Pro Bowl. Though Barr has been an integral part of Mike Zimmer’s defense since he was drafted in 2014, for a team up against the salary cap, spending that amount to retain Barr doesn’t seem realistic when there are other more pressing needs as well as the likelihood that the Vikings will be able to find his replacement in the draft or elsewhere.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Running back Le’Veon Bell. Designating Bell the franchise player for the third straight year is unlikely. Bell’s yearlong holdout broke goodwill with the team, and with many around the league believing his third tag is worth $20-plus million, Bell’s holdout notwithstanding, the Steelers either wouldn’t want to pay that or wouldn’t allocate the cap space to keep the tag in place. The transition tag is more tenable, especially if the Steelers can prove it’s worth around $9.5 million instead of $14.5 million because of Bell’s absence in 2018. But Bell can’t be traded unless he signs the tag or the Steelers utilize an offer sheet for a convoluted sign-and-trade plan, which is risky if other teams aren’t interested in the offer sheet’s numbers. Plus, the NFLPA would argue such a move violates the spirit of the tag and the collective bargaining agreement.
Seattle Seahawks: Defensive end Frank Clark. The franchise tag has seemed likely since Clark’s agent told ESPN.com in October that his client is willing to wait for a deal that makes him one of the NFL’s highest-paid pass-rushers, even if it means playing on a tag first. “We plan on Frank being with us,” coach Pete Carroll said at the end of the season, seemingly an indication that the Seahawks will tag Clark if they have to. Clark turns 26 in June. He’s coming off his best season and his 32 sacks since 2016 are ninth most in that span, so it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Seahawks letting him get to free agency. With well over $50 million in projected 2019 cap space, the Seahawks can easily absorb the $17 million to $18 million cap charge that would come with the tag.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Offensive tackle Donovan Smith. Smith will be back with the Bucs in 2019. The question is whether it’s under the franchise tag or a long-term deal. He has started 64 consecutive games, tied for second most of any left tackle in the league behind Jake Matthews. That would make Smith the top left tackle in the free-agent market. Yes, he has shined at times, but he has also had some issues with consistency. Still, at just 25 years old, the Bucs believe he has not reached his ceiling and his greatest asset is his durability.