The franchise tag deadline hits tomorrow, and while the Falcons certainly aren’t going to use theirs, other teams will. When they do so, it’s going to take some of the brightest lights in free agency out of the picture. That process has actually already begun.
The impact here is significant for teams who were hoping to land a megstar in free agency, as three of the best pass rushers, the best safety, and arguably the best defensive tackle out there have all been tagged to this point.
Here’s a look at who has been franchised, who is likely to be franchised, and what that will do to the market.
Eric Berry: Likely
Chiefs making strong push to wrap up deal with S Eric Berry by Wednesday's tag deadline, per sources. Team determined to keep him in KC.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2017
It’s impossible to overstate how much a Berry franchise tag diminishes the safety market, which the Falcons thankfully shouldn’t need to dip into for more than a reserve. Berry was on many wish lists as a stellar safety with deep ties to Atlanta, but he was always unlikely to leave Kansas City, and now teams will be left mulling the likes of 28-year-old Chris Conte and 25-year-old Tony Jefferson if they want upgrades.
Atlanta, of course, has Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, and Sharrod Neasman. They’ll need to at least add reserves, even if that just means re-signing Kemal Ishmael, but the most they’d likely do would be to draft or sign competition for incumbent starter Allen. I have my doubts they’ll even do that, though Jefferson is an intriguing option.
Kawann Short: Tagged
And now, Panthers officially have tagged Kawann Short, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2017
There are quality options out there—Dontari Poe and Nick Fairley spring to mind, with Calais Campbell topping my personal list—but Short was going to be the most enticing defensive tackle available if he made it to the market. With Earl Mitchell heading to San Francisco, teams are going to probably overpay and get in quickly, which means Atlanta may need to decide early whether they’re content to sit back and let the market settle or if they need to be aggressive.
Right now, Atlanta does have Grady Jarrett, Ra’Shede Hageman, Tyson Jackson and part-time, passing down defensive tackles Derrick Shelby and Adrian Clayborn on the roster, but they could really use another top-shelf player at the position.
Of course, Atlanta could sign Glenn Dorsey, which would finally bring the veteran defensive tackle to his rightful home.
Chandler Jones: Tagged
Melvin Ingram: Tagged
Jason Pierre-Paul: Tagged
Cardinals became first team to use franchise tag this off-season, placing it on Chandler Jones.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2017
Chargers have tagged Melvin Ingram according to a league source. Made the move official tonite— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) February 28, 2017
Jones was a no-brainer for Arizona, which gave up a decent haul to acquire him last year. He had 11 sacks for them in 2016, is one of the league’s most feared pass rushers, and is just 27 years old. They’ll hope for a long-term accord.
Ingram is also a gifted pass rusher, and someone a lot of Falcons fans were fervently hoping for. San Diego doesn’t have enough talent on the team to let someone as good as Ingram go. Meanwhile, the Giants gave JPP the tag, as well, which takes him out of the running unless a team wants to swap for him. That’s the three best edge rushers on the market, now off the market.
The Falcons will probably want to skip out on this market for free agent pass rushers. With Jason Pierre-Paul reportedly else who is available has flaws that would make me hesitant about spending big bucks. As is the case at defensive tackle, the Falcons have plenty of bodies at end, but still do need an upgrade.
Who else got the tag?
RB Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
That’s it for the moment, but keep an eye on cornerback Trumaine Johnson with the Rams (and obviously Berry). Atlanta will, as usual, be looking at mid-tier free agents in this marketplace, with an outside shot at someone very good like Calais Campbell. Considering they’re not that far away from being great again in 2017, that’s okay.