June 22, 2024

Five NFL players most likely to be franchise-tagged this offseason

The window for NFL teams to use the franchise tag opens Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET and closes two weeks later.

Projected franchise tenders are as follows, per Over the Cap — quarterback $36.29 million,  running back $11.32M, wide receiver $20.67M, tight end $12.02M, offensive line $19.88M, defensive end $20.20M, defensive tackle $20.94M, linebacker $22.74M, cornerback $18.76M, safety $16.22M and special teams $5.67M.

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Below are the five players most likely to be franchise-tagged by their teams this offseason.

1. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Chicago Bears

Bears general manager Ryan Poles was supremely confident after the season ended that Johnson wouldn’t be going anywhere. While signing a long-term deal seems more likely than tagging the star cornerback, it’s nice for Poles to have a backup plan in case one can’t be reached in the allotted time. Johnson has not been shy about chasing a big payday, even if he has to leave Chicago to do it, stating his goal is to reset the cornerback market.

Miami’s Jalen Ramsey is currently the highest-paid CB in the league at $27.26 million per year, and Johnson is likely eyeing the kind of money that falls between what Ramsey is making and the fifth-highest-paid CB, Baltimore’s Marlon Humphrey, who earns $22.87M per season. The $18.76M franchise tag is slightly less than what the Bears would have to pay Johnson in 2024 on a lengthy extension and could serve as a nice bridge option until a long-term deal can be reached.

2. Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

It’s in the Bengals’ best interest to keep Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase together as long as Joe Burrow is their QB, and Burrow himself said he expects the five-year-old wideout to return after logging back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons before an injury-shortened 2023 campaign.

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Making the money work on a long-term deal with Higgins may be difficult given the kind of raise he’s going to command and the number of other issues Cincy has (Higgins would count for a little under half of the team’s projected $59.6M in cap space), but tagging him ensures Burrow gets one more year to make a run at a Super Bowl with his two best playmakers.

3. L’Jarius Snead, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

Snead was one of the top shutdown cornerbacks in the NFL this season, and he presumably wants to be paid like it. The problem is Kansas City has just $23.7M in cap space and also needs to sign star defensive tackle Chris Jones to an extension as well.

Though the Chiefs likely can’t afford to pay Snead like a top-five cornerback (see Johnson above), paying him the $18.76M franchise tag and keeping him around for the 2024 season while they work out a bigger extension for 2025 and beyond is likely more doable.

4. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, Indianapolis Colts

If the Colts want Anthony Richardson to have any kind of success in 2024, they need to make sure they keep his top weapon around. Pittman, 26, wasn’t shy about being tempted by the possibility of being courted by several other teams, but he also didn’t rule out being tagged by the Colts as a solid option to pave the way for a long-term deal as well.

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Pittman has been targeted 129 or more times in three straight seasons and he was just 75 yards shy in 2022 of having three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He’s the most important player to Indy’s offense not named Richardson or Jonathan Taylor, and with $66.3M in cap space, the team can easily afford to tag him if it comes down to it.

5. Brian Burns, Edge-rusher, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers turned down several offers over the last two trade deadlines for Burns, including multiple first-round picks from the Los Angeles Rams two years ago. So they would be foolish to let the 25-year-old pass-rush specialist walk away for nothing next month.

Burns has totaled 46 sacks over the last five seasons with 40 or more pressures in four of the last five years. Carolina can’t afford to lose that kind of pass-rush production if it has any hopes of its defense being remotely formidable in 2024, even if Burns accounts for nearly three-fourths of the team’s projected cap space ($22.7M of $31.05M).

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