NFC North: Franchise Tags

Matt Claassen has a look at each of the NFC North teams and their franchise tag options.

| 2 years ago
2015-FT-NFCN

NFC North: Franchise Tags


2015-FT-NFCNThe Franchise Tag option hasn’t been used by teams nearly as often in recent seasons as it was in 2011 and 2012, but it remains as a method of retaining top talent — even if it’s just buying time to work out a long-term deal. In many cases the numbers don’t add up or it just doesn’t make sense for one reason or another, but until you’ve had a look through a team’s cap situation and needs, it often not so easy to guess where the tags will be applied. To help with that, we’ll be giving our take in this division-by-division series.

Today’s focus is on the NFC North and their potential tag targets.

Chicago Bears

Big-name veterans Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are unsigned, but both will be 34-years-old at the start of next season and neither is worth using the franchise tag. Stephen Paea is the best young player set to hit the market after greatly improving during his fourth year in the league, specifically when rushing the passer. The former second-round pick had a 8.7 Pass Rushing Productivity rating, fourth-best among defensive tackles. Paea will likely be the most important re-signing, assuming the Bears feel he will fit well in new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s scheme.

Another player to keep an eye on is center Brian De La Puente. Bears’ general manager Ryan Pace was the director of pro personnel for New Orleans when De La Puente was brought in and eventually took over the starting job for two and a half years. However, Pace was also there last offseason when the Saints let De La Puente walk. Despite playing only 320 snaps at center, De La Puente finished with the seventh-highest overall grade in 2014 and his 98.2 Pass Blocking Efficiency ranked fourth.

Decision: No Tag

Detroit Lions

There is no question when it comes to Ndamukong Suh’s talent and ability. He has always been a great pass rusher, but his play against the run has greatly improved over his career. Suh has finished among the top four defensive tackles in overall grade each of the last three years. He was also one of two players to rank in the Top 10 defensive tackles in Run Stop Percentage (sixth) and Pass Rushing Productivity (fifth) in 2014. Detroit would like to retain Suh and have said that they would be financially capable to tag him. They know he is set for a monster deal if he hits free agency, but an estimated $26.8 million franchise tag is too steep to realistically use with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford already combining for a $38.2 million cap hit in 2015.

Decision: No Tag

Green Bay Packers

The Packers have a few starters set to hit the open market, with Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga as the marquee players. Healthy for the full season, Cobb excelled as the No. 2 wide receiver. His 1,067 receiving yards from the slot led all receivers, and was one of only three to eclipse 700 yards. Cobb’s value to the offense might have shown most with his ability to find open space after plays break down, becoming Aaron Rodgers’ go-to target in those situations.

As for Bulaga, he had his best season since 2011 after suffering season-ending injuries in 2012 and 2013. He finished with the fourth-highest overall grade among right tackles last season and near the top of the league in Pass Blocking Efficiency.

Decision: We’d tag Randall Cobb. Cobb is likely see more demand on the open market and Green Bay stands to lose more without Cobb over Bulaga. In addition, Bulaga’s health remains a bit of a question mark and the Packers have been high on 2013 draft pick JC Tretter who could potentially replace Bulaga. With Green Bay’s cap space, it is not out of the question for them to retain both players.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have a small group set to be free agents and most look replaceable, much less worthy of a franchise tag. Veterans Tom Johnson and Joe Berger might be the only players worth pursuing as role players or backups. Johnson performed well in his first season under Mike Zimmer as he consistently generated inside pressure in his limited playing time. Berger played well enough after being thrown into the starting lineup midway through the season. With much of the offensive line returning from injury or otherwise up in the air, Berger’s return in case of another emergency would be a welcome one.

Decision: No Tag

 

Follow Matt on Twitter: @PFF_MattC

 

 

| Analyst

Matt has been an analyst for PFF since 2013. He is also a contributor to 120 Sports and a former NCAA Division-III football player.

  • Jason Williams

    I feel like the Bears are still paying Henry Melton. Worst tag ever.

  • AJ

    If it comes down to it for GB as a fan I would make sure to sign Cobb and if it comes to it tag Bulaga. Cobb is to young and explosive to let go. Bulaga is a great RT and if he can stay healthy another full yr it proves a long term contract is worth it

    • mutzki

      The problem with tagging Bulaga is that all tagged Offensive Linemen receive the money of a left tackle. So you would pay a guy much more than his position requires and it would be for only a year. It would be way cheaper to sign him long term. I feel like the Packers value Bulaga more than Cobb.

      • Phillip

        I doubt it, and it’s mainly because the odds of Bulaga actually playing up to his contract is far lower than Cobb, and it’s because odds are Bulaga will miss quite a bit of games. He did only miss 1 game, but he was injured a few times, and players tend to push through injuries a lot more in contract years. The smart money is Randall Cobb, and there’s no way Thompson isn’t Thinking that. The best ability is availability, and that’s not Bulagas strong suite. He’s missed 28 of a possible 80 games in 5 years. If you’re gonna put money into a player, you want that player playing. If they can’t get both and they have to decide, Cobb has to be the guy, but as long as neither is greedy, they should both get done. Cobb 5 years 45-50 mil, Bulaga 5 years 32-35 mil.

        • mutzki

          I’m more and more getting the feeling the Packers will lose Cobb. Don’t know why. Call it a hunch if you will.

  • Tim Edell

    Unfortunately Paea wont fit into the new 3-4 and some team will get a very underrated pass-rushing DT.

    • Phillip

      6’1 300 lbs, that’s solid for a 3-4 DE. Chicago should keep him around.