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NFL Free Agency: 8 top candidates for franchise tag in 2021

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NFL franchise play has restarted for 2021. Tuesday marked the opening of the two-week window for all 32 teams to designate a pending unrestricted free agent as the franchise player.

From now until March 9, teams must decide whether they have a good candidate to strike a one-year guaranteed deal in the high-end market, either as a short-term contract or as a substitute for a lucrative long-term deal.

Here are the top eight contenders to score in the entire league compared to early extension or NFL free agency:

AFTER: Top 50 unrestricted free agents for 2021, best players by position

Chris Godwin, WR, buccaneers

Based on their defensive free agency concerns with Shaquil Barrett, linebacker Lavonte David and tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Bucs are expected to prioritize signing Barrett for the long term after tagging him last year. . This leaves the label available for Godwin this year. This will be the smartest use of it, costing around $ 16 million for 2021.

According to, the Buccaneers are about $ 13 million under the cap if it stays around $ 180 million. A few smart cuts and a well-structured deal for Barrett can ensure that their two most essential on-hold free agents when it comes to passing play and passing rushing are going nowhere in free agency.

Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions

Golladay, like Godwin, would be valued at around $ 16 million, being of the same position. The Lions don’t have a very high cap situation, around $ 8 million of $ 180 million. But they can make quick cuts to free up enough room to keep Golladay at this price point, led by the release of cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

Keeping Golladay is a high priority with their other away starting squad, Marvin Jones Jr., and veteran slots catcher Danny Amendola, also unsigned for 2021. They need Golladay as a benchmark player for the field stretch and red zone for new QB Jared Goff to best complement tight winger TJ Hockenson and running back D’Andre Swift.

Hunter Henry, TE, loaders

Henry is a strong candidate to be tagged for a second consecutive offseason. He’s a key blocker and an integral part of their short to intermediate passing game for sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. After playing for $ 10.6 million in 2020, the 20% increase linked to another tag would boost his salary to $ 12.7 million in 2021. The Chargers have $ 24 million under the cap for the moment and this is not a guaranteed additional investment in it.

Justin Simmons, S, Broncos

The Broncos tagged Simmons in 2020 and he responded with another big clean-up season in the back. If they marked him again as expected for a reasonable value relative to the top of the security market, he would see his one-year guaranteed salary increase to $ 13.8 million. With Denver around $ 31 million under the cap, that makes sense before worrying about a long-term deal again.

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

Prescott is expected to be tagged again if the Cowboys still can’t strike an acceptable four-year deal in the next two weeks. Because it was tagged last year, its number would jump to $ 37.7 million in 2021, forcing Dallas, which is around $ 19 million below the projected cap, to take further action. to achieve this.

Allen Robinson, WR, bear

Bears break current cap by over $ 2 million, but have contracts they can take off their books to help fit in with Robinson, starting with defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and tight end Jimmy Graham . Cutting them both now would provide $ 17.5 million in cap relief, almost just enough to fit in Robinson at $ 16 million.

Robinson isn’t thrilled to take a shorter long-term contract to stay in Chicago, so that may be the only way to keep him. It would also mean the Bears would have to find their starting quarterback in the draft versus re-signing Mitchell Trubisky for an average market deal. The Bears are also right to think about tagging and trading Robinson rather than letting him walk for nothing.

Brandon Scherff, G, Washington State

Scherff would also get two consecutive tags if that happened, meaning he would be tagged at $ 15.98 million this time around. It would be harder for Washington to lock him up in the long run, but at least he has over $ 38 million under the salary cap to operate.

Taylor Moton, OT, Panthers

Moton, who just completed a breakout-blocking season as a full straight tackle, can be tagged at just under $ 14 million, depending on the final total number of caps. It’s an easy decision for the rebuilding Panthers, who have over $ 31 million in ceiling space.


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