Predictions for NFL’s top franchise tag candidates

As the NFL offseason has arrived, teams have the decision to use the franchise tag or not and who to use it on.

Below are predictions for 10 of the top candidates to be franchise tagged this offseason.

Shaquille Barrett- Outside Linebacker: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Barrett signed a one year deal with the Buccaneers this past season. In return, he played the best season of his career, with 19.5 sacks, leading the NFL. On top of leading the league in sacks, Barrett had 37 QB hits, 19 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, and 1 interception. The Buccaneers want to keep Barrett long term and are willing to pay him big money. However, if the Buccaneers and Barett cannot reach a long-term deal, they should definitely choose Barrett over QB Jameis Winston.

Prediction: Franchise Tag

Jameis Winston- Quarterback: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston has shown flashes of brilliance but set an NFL-record with 30 interceptions this past season. The Buccaneers have a choice to make between Winston and Barrett if no deal is reached for either player. Winston is more likely going to be put on the transition tag, where the Buccaneers can match any offer made to him in free agency.

Prediction: Transition Tag

Amari Cooper- Wide Receiver: Dallas Cowboys

Amari Cooper has resurged his career since being traded by the Las Vegas Raiders to the Cowboys. He is a valuable piece to the offense alongside Dak and Zeke. The Cowboys are in a tough situation this offseason as Cooper, Dak, and Byron Jones are all free agents. On top of that, the Cowboys already paid Zeke and Jaylon Smith, meaning they don’t have much cap left. With Dak set to get paid at least $30 million, the Cowboys are more than likely losing Jones in free agency. If the Cowboys can’t reach a deal with Dak, they will use their franchise tag on him, as he could eclipse $40 million on the open market. The Cowboys can use the transition tag, with the Cowboys having the ability to match any offer made to him in free agency. The only way the franchise tag is used on Cooper is if a deal is reached between Dak and the Cowboys.

Prediction: Transition Tag

Dak PrescottQuarterback: Dallas Cowboys

Dak is set to get paid big time, regardless if its from the Cowboys or another team. The Cowboys and Dak have started up conversations and are nearing negotiations towards a new deal. If the Cowboys were to sign him, it would be cheaper than if he went into free agency. Jerry Jones wants to lock up Dak and keep him in Dallas, but the money and the conversations are stopping it as of right now. Personally, I don’t believe that a deal will be reached between the two sides, and the Cowboys will have to use the franchise tag to keep him.

Prediction: Franchise Tag

Chris Jones- Defensive Tackle: Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Jones is the second-best interior DL in the NFL and he is going to get paid like one this offseason or next. Jones has been an anchor of the Chiefs defense and has proved to be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Jones was a difference-maker in the Super Bowl with three pass deflections alone in the fourth quarter during the Chiefs comeback. Over his four year career, Jones has 33 sacks, 72 QB hits, 37 tackles for loss, 7 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. Jones is an elite defensive lineman and deserves the $20-plus million per year he is set to get. Brett Veach said the team wants to keep Jones and it is the top priority for the team this offseason. The team is also looking to ‘slash salary’ to keep Jones. The team could tag Jones and use it for time to sign him long-term. The team is set to meet with Sammy Watkins and his reps to talk about a pay cut. The Chiefs have plenty of options to shave cap and get the money necessary to sign Jones.

Prediction: Chiefs Tag and Sign Jones to Long-Term Deal

Ryan Tannehill- Quarterback: Tennessee Titans

Tannehill took over at quarterback for the Titans in Week 7 and turned the team around. Tannehill led the Titans to the AFC Championship alongside Derrick Henry. Henry is going to get paid by the Titans for his incredible performance throughout the end of the regular season and playoffs. However, the Titans have to make a decision between signing and tagging Tannehill. The Titans would be smart to tag Tannehill and give him another year to test whether he is the true starter and can lead the team deep into the playoffs once again.

Prediction: Franchise Tag

Justin Simmons- Safety: Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos Owner John Elway said that the last thing the Broncos will allow to happen is Justin Simmons to hit the open market. The Broncos will pay Simmons to keep him long term. He fits well with the defensive scheme set by Vic Fangio and had a terrific season with the Broncos. The Broncos want to lock Simmons up long term, but if an agreement cannot be reached, Elway confirmed that the team will use their franchise tag on him.

Projection: Signs Long-Term with Denver Broncos

Arik Armstead- Defensive Lineman: San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers want to keep Armstead, and the Sacramento native would like to stay. A tag for Armstead, who would be classified as a DE, would cost roughly $18 million to $19 million, with the transition tag at $15 million to $16 million. San Francisco doesn’t project to have much cap space and wants to sign TE George Kittle and DT DeForest Buckner to big-money extensions. However, the 49ers will try to make adjustments, such as restructuring key players, like Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers will make Armstead a priority this offseason and leans towards a new contract, but a tag just in case no deal is in the works.

Prediction: Signs Long Term with the 49ers (backloaded deal)

Dante Fowler Jr.- Outside Linebacker: Los Angeles Rams

Fowler produced a career-high 11.5 sacks this past season and has been a great addition, following trading for him from Jacksonville. However, Corly Littleton has proved to be a key part of the defense and is also a free agent this offseason, so the Rams have a tough decision to make. The Rams have very limited cap space and with Jalen Ramsey as a looming free agent after next season, the team has to be diligent with its spending. If the team decided to use the franchise tag, I think it will be used on Fowler and the transition tag will be out on Littleton.

Prediction: Franchise Tag

Anthony Harris- Safety: Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings have not used the franchise tag since 2012 and have never used the transition tag. The Vikings are $12 million over the cap, and with the franchise tag set at $12.375 million for safeties, it may not be possible to do without making some cuts or trades, as Harrison Smith takes up over $10 million at the safety position. The Vikings will look to get Xavier Rhodes off the books via trade or release while renegotiating and signing Everson Griffin to a cheaper deal. If the Vikings were to use the franchise tag, it would definitely be used on Harris.

Prediction: Franchise Tag