The NFL's franchise tag is one of the most divisive rules in the league today. It is a powerful tool for teams to be able to hold onto their own players. It is a way, though, for those players to not be allowed to reach free agency and put their name on the open market. It's an expensive holding pattern that makes neither side happy. It is very pricey but offers no long-term stability or safety.
That said, it is occasionally a necessary evil. Here are the five teams and players most likely to utilize the franchise tag this offseason.
Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers
Kawann Short is one the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera knows that and knows Short will garner a huge contract on the open market. That is why Rivera said, during Super Bowl week, that the team would probably tag Short. That isn't a great sign for possible negotiations between the two sides. Short is going to be franchised.
Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals
Arizona team president Michael Bidwell said Chandler Jones was not going to leave the organization. That means he has no reservations in using the franchise tag and plans to do so. The Cardinals spent a second-round pick (and an offensive guard) to acquire Jones just last season from the New England Patriots. Allowing him to walk away after one year would be incredibly foolish.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Washington still isn't sure whether or not Kirk Cousins is a franchise quarterback. The team tagged him last year in the hopes that it would know whether it wanted to commit to him long-term or not by this time. It seems like the two sides won't be able to come to terms on a multi-year deal, meaning the Redskins will once again tag Cousins. This time, it will cost them $24 million. It is a steep price to pay to bide time for another season.
Likely But Not Certain
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't indicated yet whether they want to bring Le'Veon Bell back on a long-term deal. He has had issues in the past with injuries and numerous suspensions. He also plays a volatile position where players lose their value almost immediately when it happens. The franchise tag is the easiest way for Pittsburgh to prolong their decision another year.
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
The New York Giants have made it clear that they want Jason Pierre-Paul back to help anchor one of the best defenses in the NFL. The problem is JPP has already said he is targeting a large contract, one similar to the caliber his teammate Oliver Vernon received in 2016. It will be hard for NY to scrounge up that type of room, and since the franchise tag would be a similar monetary allotment for just one season, that seems like the way the team will go.
If franchise tagging was able to be wagered on, online sports betting sites would certainly favor these five guys to receive the tag. Each is far more likely to happen than not.
Teams don't have too much longer to utilize this tool before unrestricted free agency opens. After these players are franchised, they and their team have much of the offseason to come to terms on a long-term deal if they wish. The two sides can negotiate through July before either the player or the team is required to accept the tag or move on. Last year, Carolina rescinded its tag on Josh Norman, making him a free agent. More likely than that happening again, though, is one of these teams finding a long-term solution for one of its better players.