One Player Each NFL Team Should Consider Franchise Tagging

With NFL free agency on the horizon, teams are trying to strike a deal with their own free agents. Here is a list of one player each team should consider franchise tagging, instead of getting into a bidding war. While some cap situations may make these tricky, these NFL cap specialists and GM’s always manage to find a way to have money available to spend *cough cough* Saints.

1. Arizona Cardinals Haason Reddick

Reddick broke out last year, with 12.5 sacks. This was with Chandler Jones injured most of the season. The Cardinals have a lot of needs, but one of them is getting after the QBs of the NFC West, and Reddick will command a lot of money on the open market.

2. Atlanta Falcons Keanu Neal

Whether Atlanta tries to rebuild with a new QB, or give it another go with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, Neal is a big part of that defense. After battling injuries for the previous 2 seasons, Neal played 15 games and had nearly 100 tackles. The Falcons have some talent on the defensive side of the ball, and Neal provides a hard hitting presence over the middle. And he is only 26 years old.

3. Baltimore Ravens Yannick Ngakoue

The Ravens have 3 pass rushers set to hit the market with Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee and Yannick Ngakoue. While Judon had the best statistical season, Ngakoue is the youngest and arguably most talented. He had 8+ sacks each season until last year, when he was traded multiple times. He’s only 26, and his history of terrorizing QBs will demand a big contract in free agency, and the Ravens need the horses to get after the Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield and Ben Roethlisberger's of the division.

4. Buffalo Bills Matt Milano

The Bills are coming off a magical run to the AFC championship game, that had many people believing they could be a Super Bowl team this year. With multiple key positions on the O-line also set to hit the market, few players are key to that defense like Matt Milano. His last stats don’t jump off the board, but he has shown to be a difference maker for the defense as a whole. His versatility allows the Bills to lineup in multiple different fronts and have success.

5. Carolina Panthers Taylor Moton

The Panthers are reportedly all in on trying to acquire Deshaun Watson. Trading for Watson will likely cost Carolina all of its major draft capital and many of their key players, meaning they need to do whatever they can to keep Deshaun upright and healthy. Even if they don’t get Watson, and go the route of a young QB, keeping him protected is the top of the priority list. Moton played 100% of the offensive snaps last year.

6. Cincinnati Bengals Carl Lawson

The Bengals top priority is getting protection for Joe Burrow, then getting more protection. On the defensive side, Lawson has been one of the brighter spots for the Bengals, and at just 26 years old, he will be a hot commodity on the market. His 5.5 sacks and 4 tackles for loss aren’t jaw dropping, but factoring in the 2 forced fumbles and 32 QB hits, on a defense with limited talent around him, the Bengals need to keep this man. Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield aren’t going anywhere, so the Bengals need to be able to get after them.

7. Cleveland Browns Larry Ogunjobi

Ogunjobi didn’t have his best season last year with only 2.5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and 6 QB hits, but in his young career he has shown an ability to cause chaos from the interior of the d-line. The Browns don’t have a lot of big, key free agents this off season, and they might be able to resign Ogunjobi for cheap after the last season. If not, interior rushers don’t just grow on trees, so they might want to consider keeping the 27-year-old for at least one more season.

8. Chicago Bears Allen Robinson

Robinson was by many accounts one of the best receivers in the league last season, with some of the worst QB play. He still managed 102 catches for 1,250 yards and 6 TDs. He also went 15 games without dropping a single pass. The Bears are at a crossroads at QB, letting Mitch walk but probably picking too late to draft one. Whoever is taking the snaps next year will need a true #1 WR like Robinson, who is also only 28-years-old. It’s his second time hitting free agency, so it won’t be cheap to get into a bidding war for his services.

9. Dallas Cowboys Dak Prescott

This shouldn’t be the question for yet another off season, but here we are with the “Will Dak get a long term extension next season?” This was the story all of last off season, and sounds like it will be this off season too. Ideally, Dallas won’t have to tag Dak again, but they can’t let their 28-year-old star QB hit the market either. The question is, how does the ankle injury affect the negotiations?

10. Denver Broncos Justin Simmons

Last season was one to forget for Broncos fans. With seemingly half the roster injured throughout the season, even having to play a WR at QB one week, and erratic QB play, Denver struggled to meet some of the preseason hype they had coming into the season. One of the bright spots was superstar safety Justin Simmons. He has played 100% of the snaps for 3 consecutive seasons. He’s already been slapped with the franchise tag once before, but he is too valuable of a commodity to risk hitting free agency. In a division with Patty Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, his services will be needed if Denver is to bounce back.

11. Detroit Lions Romeo Okwara

Detroit is pretty clearly in rebuilding stages right now. New coach, new QB, new GM, and loads of draft picks for the future. Romeo Okwara is one of the players they should want to keep through the rebuild process, and could be a key piece to the turnaround. He had a strong 2020 campaign with 10 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, 18 QB hits and 3 forced fumbles. The 26-year-old pass rusher will be the apple of many teams eyes if he is allowed to test the waters.

12. Green Bay Packers Robert Tonyan

All he does is score touchdowns. That was basically the story of the back half of Robert Tonyan’s third year campaign. He became one of Aaron Rodgers most reliable targets in the redzone, scoring 11 TDs. Tonyan and RB Aaron Jones are 2 key contributors to last year’s explosive performance offensively, but Tonyan will be the harder to replace. As Aaron Rodgers career winds down, making sure he has a big, safety blanket tight end, should be a top priority for Green Bay.

13. Houston Texans Will Fuller

This was a tough one to pick. The Texans are a complete mess right now. Their star QB wants out, and they are strapped with limited cap and draft picks. They could probably be better off not franchise tagging anyone. However, Will Fuller has shown to be an explosive, game changing weapon when he is healthy. He has yet to play 16 games in a season. Last year, he still had 8 TDs in 11 games before getting suspended. If there is any chance of convincing Deshaun to stay, it starts with the baby step of keeping his favorite target of last season.

14. Indianapolis Colts Malik Hooker

Malik Hooker has been devastated by injuries throughout his early career. They have been so bad; Indy didn’t pick up his 5th year option before this season. Even with the emergence of Julian Blackmon and Kenny Moore, the Colts secondary still had some holes that were exposed against the elite teams. Hooker is a rangy ball hawk with incredible range from the middle safety spot. With all the injuries, he still has 7 picks in 3 years. If Indy can’t get him at a bargain, it might be worth franchise tagging him for one more season to see what he can do with the other young guys in the secondary. Even more so now that they got an elite set of DTs with Deforest Buckner and Grover Stewart.

15. Jacksonville Jaguars Cam Robinson

The Jaguars lost 15 straight games last season, and are presumed to be taking QB Trevor Lawrence with the first pick in the draft. If you plan to draft one of the best QB prospects in years, the first plan should be to keep that man upright and healthy. Cam Robinson played in every game for the Jaguars last year. At just 26-years-old, he still has plenty of football left, and room to improve. The Jaguars need to put as much investment in the O-line as possible, and it starts with keeping a young starter, who will probably get a nice pay day on the open market.

16. Kansas City Chiefs Andrew Wylie

While Wylie is far from a household name on the offensive line, the Chiefs aren’t in position to let any of the starting 5 potentially leave. Their lack of depth really showed in the SB. After trying to move pieces around to fill the injured voids, the entire unit got torched. Wylie is a pretty decent player, but has some versatility. He is better on the interior by far, and Patty would benefit from having some continuity on the offensive line heading into next year.

17. Los Angeles Chargers Hunter Henry

The Chargers main focus will/should be building an offensive line to keep star QB Justin Herbert from getting sacked. Forrest Lamp was my first thought in this spot, but I imagine he won’t command much on the open market, so L.A. can resign him for a reasonable price. Henry on the other hand, will probably be signed within the first 48 hours of free agency. He is a pro bowl caliber tight end, with clean route running and reliable hands. The Chargers need to try and give Herbert every chance to succeed, which should include keeping a big time safety blanket tight end.

18. Los Angeles Rams Austin Blythe

Ideally, the Rams could just resign Blythe to longer term deal and call in swell. If the center is allowed to test free agency, several teams will be interested in his services. He played 100% of the snaps last season for a playoff team. You just traded the farm for QB Matthew Stafford in the off season So, in a similar vein as the Chargers and the Chiefs, you have your QB, you have to protect him by any means possible.

19. Las Vegas Raiders Nicholas Morrow

By all accounts, the Raiders were bad on defense last season. One of the bright spots was LB Morrow. He managed 3 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, and 9 pass deflections. The Raiders have a lot of work to do on that side of the ball, and they can’t afford to let a player like Morrow walk.

20. Miami Dolphins Ted Karras

This is starting to sound like an offensive lineman hype man article, but the same applies here for the Dolphins and Ted Karras. Karras played 100% of the offensive snaps with two different QBs, who were rotating down the stretch as well. Whether it is Tua, another rookie, Deshaun Watson, or any of the other wild options we are sure to see this off season, the Dolphins need to keep their stalwart at center.

21. Minnesota Vikings Anthony Harris

While playing on the franchise tag last year, Harris didn’t have his best season. In 2019, he had 6 interceptions in 14 games. In 2020, he had 0 in 16 games. This wasn’t all on Harris obviously. Teams were warier of what he is capable of now, and the Vikings defense as a whole was just awful last year. With Danielle Hunter coming back next year, and an off season focused on improving that defense, Harris and Harrison Smith should revert back to being one of the better safety duos in the league in 2021. If not, plenty of other teams will be glad to bring in Harris.

22. New England Patriots J.C. Jackson

I almost went Joe Thuney here just to go back to an offensive lineman, but for the Patriots, J.C. Jackson should be the top of the top of the priority list. J.C. has blossomed into a star CB, recording 14 picks in the last 2 season. He is a restricted free agent, but the Patriots can’t allow him to leave. He’s only 26-years-old, and the Patriots need to rebuild quickly after last year’s losing season, the first since 2002. If Jackson is available, he is signed by another team within the first 24 hours guaranteed.

23. New Orleans Saints Marcus Williams

The Saints always somehow find a way to have money to spend. This was tough between Williams and Trey Hendrickson. Hendrickson broke out last season with 13.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. I leaned more towards Williams, because his ability to cover deep and play man against tight ends is harder to replace. Plus, Hendrickson wasn’t an every down player all season. Williams has played 83% or more of the snaps each season in his career. He had 7 pass deflections and 3 interceptions last year, and at just 25-years-old, Williams is a mainstay for this Saints defense.

24. New York Giants Leonard Williams

A change of scenery can do wonders for some players. For Leonard Williams, he was able to do that, without even changing his address. Williams has looked every bit the pro bowler he was drafted to be since joining the Giants. Last year, he was arguably one of the biggest pro bowl snubs. Coming off an 11.5 sack, 14 tackle for loss, and 30 QB hit campaign, Williams will demand a big contract if he is allowed to it free agency. Giants are on the come up, and the 27-year-old can be the building piece for this defense moving forward.

25. New York Jets Marcus Maye

Maye was a true bright spot on a really dark season for the Jets. The young star safety had 11 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, 2 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss. The Jets have a few young, emerging pieces on the defensive side of the ball. With new head coach Robert Saleh taking over, look for the Jets defense to be a stout unit next year, and it starts with keeping the 28-year-old play maker.

26. Philadelphia Eagles Jalen Mills

A season to forget for the Eagles would be an understatement. Injuries plagued this team all year. One of those that managed to stay healthy was DB Jalen Mills. His stats aren’t jaw dropping, with just 1 interception and 1.5 sacks, but he was a consistent presence for the Eagles secondary. A solid tackler who wasn’t found out of position too often. He is only 27- years-old and should be one of the top priorities for the Eagles to keep moving forward.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers Alejandro Villanueva

Villanueva played 100% of the snaps at LT for Big Ben, which was a major reason he was able to get them out to the 11-0 start. The Steelers O-line has been elite the past several years, because the blind side has been a brick wall. The Steelers seem to be sticking with Ben for one more year, so keeping him protected has to be the priority, and Villanueva has proven to be among the best in the league at that.

28. San Francisco 49ers Ahkello Witherspoon

A strong performer for the 49ers down the stretch, Witherspoon made a name at CB with guys like Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett and others battling injuries. He didn’t light up the stat sheet at will with his limited playing time, but the 26-year-old had an 80+ PFF grade and was one of the brighter spots in the 49ers secondary. Injuries hurt them arguably more than any other team last year, so keeping as many players as possible moving forward should be the 49ers priority.

29. Seattle Seahawks K.J. Wright

Wright is in the home stretch of his career, but is still playing like a top notch LB. Him and Bobby Wagner are still among the best LB duos in the NFL. K.J. had 11 tackles for loss and 10 pass deflections. He is still a game changer, and Seattle shouldn’t let him walk. They have limited cap space and very limited draft capital to work with, so keeping one of their leaders is a must.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lavonte David

Shaq Barrett, Chris Godwin, and Lavonte David all make a strong case for the tag. All 3 are pro bowl level superstars. Barrett is going to command a king’s ransom on the open market, and reports say he is looking to get paid. The Bucs are still deep on the D line with JPP, Suh and Vita Vea. Godwin is elite, but Brady has shown a liking to Scottie Miller, and the Bucs could probably bring back Antonio Brown for cheaper to offset the loss. Lavonte David is the leader of that defense, and forms the scariest linebacker duo in the NFL with him and Devin White. Their range and play making is unmatched, and it showed during that playoff run. David is the heart and soul and captain of this defense, and if the Buccaneers want to repeat, they will need him on the field.

31. Tennessee Titans Jonnu Smith The athletic, 26-year-old tight end was a key weapon for Ryan Tannehill in the redzone. He scored 9 total TDs for the highest scoring offense in the NFL last season. His combination of size and speed gave Tannehill a middle of the field safety blanket, and was able to toast linebackers and safeties off of play action. Smith, Derek Henry and AJ Brown give the Titans one of the deepest skill position groups in the NFL.

32. Washington Football Team Brandon Scherff

What better way to end this then by talking more offensive line! Washington was a surprise division winner last year, especially considering their rotating QB carousel. The defense Is growing into one of the league’s elite, they have strong skill position players with Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson. Keeping their best offensive lineman is pertinent for Washington if they want a chance to win this division again next year, regardless of who they have taking the snaps.

Many of these teams won’t even use the franchise tag, and some of them really don’t need to. As we head into what appears to be one of the most active NFL off seasons in years, the first chips will fall with teams using their franchise tags.


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