The first period of the NFL offseason is the franchise tag period. From February 25 to March 10, teams will have a period to designate players for the franchise tag. The franchise tag acts as a one-year extension for the player designated, and the two parties will have an extensive four-month period to negotiate a long-term contract.
If no long-term deal is reached, the player plays under the tag on a one-year deal. A player can only be put under the franchise tag three times by their team, but most never receive the tag twice. All 5 players chosen on this list would be first-time tag players.
5. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas
Prescott varies from the other names on this list due to his consistency. All four other players mentioned had standout seasons in 2019, whereas Prescott has always put up solid numbers. He is a two-time Pro-Bowler and nearly threw for 5,000 yards this past season.
However, one question still lingers: Is Prescott elite? Jerry Jones has been hesitant to commit long-term to Prescott, partly due to the fact that he’s never led the Cowboys past the Divisional Round. Jones will likely wait another year to reevaluate Prescott to see if he can thrive without Jason Garrett.
4. Bud Dupree, LB, Pittsburgh
In 2015, the Pittsburgh Steelers took Dupree with the 22nd pick in the draft. Over his first four seasons, Dupree wasn’t panning out to be the player the Steelers had spent a first round pick on. Despite failing to post more than 6 sacks in a single season, the Steelers picked up Dupree’s option.
They were grateful when he posted 11.5 sacks in 2019 and joined T.J. Watt to form one of the NFL’s most dominant pass rush duos. The Steelers will have very little cap room, but they’ll certainly want to bring back Dupree.
3. Justin Simmons, S, Denver
After 3 relatively insignificant years to start his career in Denver, Simmons had his best year as a pro in 2019. Simmons earned second-team All-Pro honors with 4 interceptions and 15 passes defended, both career highs.
Simmons was also graded as Pro Football Focus’s best safety of 2019. Broncos GM John Elway has expressed that he wants Simmons back, so he won’t be hesitant to use the tag on the All-Pro.
2. Shaquil Barrett, LB, Tampa Bay
After his rookie contract with the Denver Broncos expired, Barrett bet on himself by signing a 1 year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for $4 million. After posting just 14 sacks in 5 years at Denver, Barrett exploded with a monster year to lead the league in sacks with 19.5. Barrett’s excellent play may be an anomaly due to his lack of past success, but the Bucs will likely want the Shaq Attack back on their defense in 2020.
1. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee
Tannehill is undoubtedly the most obvious choice for the franchise tag. Like lots of tagged players, Tannehill had a mediocre career before breaking out in a contract year. The Titans will likely be hesitant to give Tannehill a massive extension due to injuries and career inconsistency.
Tannehill made the Pro Bowl this year and posted career highs in numerous categories while posting a 7-3 record. The Titans will likely take another year to evaluate Tannehill and see if his early career struggles were due to the Dolphins.