These are the Franchise Tag Situations the Bears Need to Follow
Today is the first day teams can start giving Franchise and Transition Tags to eligible players. At BN’s NFL wing, Patrick explains the tags and who is likely to get one across the league this offseason. Meanwhile, we discussed the 2023 tag numbers earlier. So while I don’t see the Chicago Bears handing out a tag, there are several situations the team should monitor between now and March 7 — the deadline to place a tag on a player.
Danny Dimes desires dollars
At this time last year, it would’ve been easy to envision the New York Giants parting ways with QB Daniel Jones and letting RB Saquon Barkley walk away in free agency. Instead, Jones quarterbacked the Giants to the postseason and Barkley ran his way to a Pro Bowl season out. In other words, both players are worthy of the Franchise Tag. But here’s the twist: Only one can get it. This leaves the Giants with a tough call to make.
And it gets only more complicated from here with Jones angling for a big payday:
I imagine this one will go down the wire. The Giants will try to extend one (if not both) before the March 7 deadline to declare a Franchise/Transition Tag player. But if push comes to shove, then they’ll have to settle on just one player. If it is Jones, then it will leave Barkley one step closer to free agency. If that is how the cookie crumbles, then Barkley will become one of the NFL’s most highly sought-after free agents. And we’ve already discussed a potential Bears fit and possible offseason pursuit. We’ll take it another step if Barkley actually makes it to free agency.
Will Commanders keep Daron Payne?
The defensive line market is going to be so hot this offseason. So much so that there is an expectation that it’ll explode (perhaps with the boom looking something like how the receiver market took off). With reports that the Bears are planning to be aggressive in addressing that area in free agency, we figure to cast a wide net to reel in potential targets. And with that in mind, the Daron Payne situation in Washington is one to keep tabs on over the next few weeks.
Payne, 25, is coming off a career year with the Commanders. In what was a Pro Bowl season for the Alabama product, Payne set career bests in sacks (11.5), total tackles (64), tackles-for-loss (18), and quarterback hits (20). The ability to stop the run and push the pocket makes him a top-flight defensive option. Washington should look to tag him, but they’re already committing big money to Jonathan Allen and Chase Young is a year away from lining up for a huge contract extension of his own. There is a real chance that Payne gets tagged, but the Commanders are a tough team to peg.
In the end, Payne will be atop every needy team’s wish list this offseason. But he needs to make it to free agency first. Whether he will or not is a mystery that will unfold in the coming weeks.
Don’t forget about the other side of the line
A year ago at this time, we were looking at Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson as a possible Bears target. Instead, the Jaguars gave Robinson the Franchise Tag before signing him to an extension. There is a handful of offensive linemen that could get that treatment this year. And we should be cognizant of them (especially since it is an area of need for the Bears):
- Jawaan Taylor, Jaguars RT
- Mike McGlinchey, 49ers RT
- Kaleb McGary, Falcons RT
McGlinchey and McGary are stout run blockers on the right side. McGary has ties to Bears OL Coach Chris Morgan, who was in Atlanta for the first two seasons of McGary’s pro career. Meanwhile, McGlinchey has regional ties after playing collegiately at Notre Dame. As for Taylor, he might be the best pass blocker of the bunch. However, PFF has Taylor down for the highest rate of negatively graded run blocks among tackles. Pobody’s nerfect, after all.
I predict a bidding war will ensue if any of these players reach free agency. But I can see where these players’ respective teams will angle to hold on to starting-caliber linemen.
Lamar Jackson could muck it up
If the Bears truly plan on dangling the No. 1 pick to the highest bidder in search of a quarterback, then they’ll need Lamar Jackson to stick around in Baltimore to fully explore those options. Jackson played out his rookie deal with the Ravens and is reportedly looking for a long-term contract that comes with fully guaranteed money. Y’know, kinda like what Deshaun Watson got from the Browns. But to this point, the Ravens and Jackson have yet to hash out a deal. And if that continues, Baltimore is likely to give Jackson a tag. I say “a tag” because it could go in a number of different ways.
For instance, the Ravens could give Jackson the non-exclusive Franchise Tag. Under that designation, Jackson could shop around for a deal, sign an offer sheet, and bring it back to Baltimore. From there, the Ravens can match it or get a pair of first-round picks as compensation for letting him walk. The use of the exclusive Franchise Tag would take the shop-around option off the table. Although, it could open the door to a tag-and-trade situation.
In the end, this isn’t a situation the Bears should look past. Jackson’s availability (or lack there of) could be an offseason game-changer throughout the NFL.
Other tag situations to keep tabs on
We’re monitoring these situations from a distance for a variety of reasons.
- Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys TE: Schultz got the tag last year, but I’m unsure if Dallas would double up. We saw Schultz at his best during the postseason. If the Bears can’t lock in a top receiver in the early going of the new league year, then double-dipping with skilled tight ends who are quality blockers is an alternative worth exploring.
- Dre’Mont Jones, Denver Broncos DL: Jones set career bests in starts (13) and defensive snaps played (716) in 2022. And he certainly made the most of his playing time by snagging 6.5 sacks, 9 tackles-for-loss, and 10 QB hits. He still has room to grow in his game, which might be reason enough for the Broncos to tag him. And even though the Broncos were public in sharing their desire to keep Jones, Denver’s cap situation might cause him to hit the market.
- Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders RB: If you’re willing to stretch, then it doesn’t take much to see a fit for the league’s leading rusher in 2022 in Luke Getsy’s offense. Although, when it comes to Jacobs, I’m more concerned about what he could do to the RB market if he hits free agency. Again, it’s a situation worth monitoring (even if it is from afar).
- Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo Bills LB: OK, so the Bears clearly didn’t want to pay Roquan Smith big money. But perhaps a different style of off-the-ball linebacker is their type? The 24-year-old linebacker looks to be coming into his own and was looking like the player who the Bills thought they were drafting in 2018. Buffalo could tag and retain Edmunds. But if they don’t, he might be someone I’d consider for the Bears. Because while I don’t think they’ll splash big at linebacker, I feel as if the Bears’ free agency plans are fluid.