AFC East: Franchise Tags
The 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 AFC East and their potential tag targets.
We open up our look into the franchise tag with the Buffalo Bills, who have a couple intriguing options. First is Jerry Hughes, an edge rusher drafted by the Colts who failed to make much of a splash until a dominant 2013 during his first year in Buffalo. Also on the radar is C.J. Spiller, an electric back who, at just 27, is young and a low-mileage option, averaging only 134 carries per season over his five-year career. While the team no doubt is in greater need of offensive stars, having a viable replacement in Anthony Dixon under contract through 2016 may make Spiller the more expendable of the two.
Decision: With so much money committed to the defensive line already, it might be unwise to commit to Jerry Hughes long-term. That would make the franchise tag an ideal option should the Bills like to retain his services for another year.
Few options abound in southern Florida. The Dolphins have a number of free agents under the age of 30 about to hit the market. Few will be commanding top dollar however, and it should be easy to retain them should Miami choose to. The most talented of the bunch is probably Knowshon Moreno, but he’s coming off an ACL tear. If the Dolphins had wanted Moreno to be on the team going forward they likely would have offered him more than a one-year deal last offseason. Also at the end of a one-year deal, Louis Delmas is a solid player but not worth the $9 million and change needed to tag him. Likewise Jared Odrick has stepped up his game the last couple years, but with the cap number for defensive tackles in the $11 million range, it’s not a great option.
Decision: No tag
New England Patriots
Had he not structured his contract in such a way as to prevent use of the franchise tag, Darrelle Revis would have been a prime candidate here. Instead, New England is left with only a few options. Both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are at the end of their contracts, and the two are just 25 and 26 respectively, but with the Patriots’ plug-and-play mentality at tailback neither one will be tagged.
Instead, the underrated and versatile Devin McCourty will likely command a hefty price on the free agent market. Head and shoulders above this offseason’s safety class, McCourty has graded positively in each of his five years in the NFL and at just 27-years-old, he’s still got several years of his prime ahead of him.
Decision: Should the Patriots be unwilling or unable to come to terms on a long-term deal with Devin McCourty, he would be an excellent candidate for the franchise tag.
New York Jets
Most of the free agents to be for the Jets fall into one of two categories: aging players past their prime, or young players that lack the talent to really justify the tag. In the former, guys like David Harris, Willie Colon, and Dawan Landry can contribute, but none will be breaking the bank as all are at least 31. On the other end, Kyle Wilson is just 27, but he’s not been in and out of the starting line up during his five years with the Jets. Bilal Powell is another young contributor, but he can be retained at a much lower price should the front office want the 26-year-old running back on the team in 2015 and beyond.
Decision: No tag