The Falcons are not frequent users of the franchise tag, as Adnan Ikic’s upcoming article will remind you. Suffice to say they’ve used it once in the past decade, so usually this article about the official start of tagging season would be telling you it’s not going to happen.
This is the rare year where there’s a little intrigue. That’s because the Falcons have one big-ticket free agent, Kaleb McGary, who they may want to use the tag on if they:
A) Want him back
B) Feel they can’t come to an accord before he becomes a free agent
The approach here, which as I noted earlier this morning is the one that ESPN’s Bill Barnwell believes the team will take, would be similar to how they handled Grady Jarrett’s impending free agency in 2019. The team tagged him and negotiated well into the summer before coming to an agreement on a mega-deal with the gifted defensive tackle, who has been worth every penny of his deal since then.
The Falcons can tag McGary starting today and can do so through March 7. You’ll note that’s shortly before free agency actually begins, which means the Falcons don’t have all that much time left to get a deal done and avoid using the tag if they want McGary to return. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks they know exactly what the team is going to do with their right tackle spot, but chances are good the Falcons are at least trying to negotiate a favorable deal.
There are no other logical candidates for the tag, and even McGary would be a bit of a stretch given that the Falcons clearly do not want to pay him the going rate of $18.2 million for a tagged right tackle in 2023. That number would represent close to a third of their current total open cap space today, after all, so expect it to happen only if the Falcons aren’t letting McGary walk or can’t get a long-term accord done in early March.
This is a long-winded way of saying there’s a possibility that the Falcons will use the tag in 2023, even if it’s likely to be viewed as an option of last resort. We’ll know within about two weeks what their plans are for McGary and the tag, and whether this will be the rare year the Falcons actually use it.