Published On: Wed, Mar 7th, 2018

Payday or mayday: How this year's 6 franchise-tagged players fared

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As the franchise tag doesn’t permit players to search the open market for the best deal available, nor give any long-term security, it has often been seen as a flawed and unfair part of the NFL’s free-agent process.

However, while those elements exist, the tag pays a handsome one-year, fully-guaranteed salary that may outweigh the risks for some players.

Related: 3 ways we would change the NFL’s franchise tag

The deadline for teams to place tags on players has now passed, and of the six players chosen (five with the franchise tag and one with the transaction tag), we look at who should be grateful about their situation and who has reason to be upset.

Winners

Ezekiel Ansah, Lions


Position: Defensive end | Tag price: $17.143 million

Ansah’s inconsistency over his five seasons with the Lions shouldn’t see him anywhere close to being tied for the top-paid defensive end in the league in terms of annual average value. However, the Lions’ lack of depth behind Ansah coupled with essentially no attractive edge rushers hitting the free-agent market forced them to use their tag on the 28-year-old who hasn’t been to a Pro Bowl since 2015.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Cowboys


Position: Defensive end | Tag price: $17.143 million

Lawrence entered the 2017 season with nine career sacks over three seasons and a four-game suspension for PEDs under his belt. Sixteen games later, the 25-year-old has a Pro Bowl appearance, second-team All-Pro accolade, 23.5 career sacks, and $17.143 million guaranteed. For the same reasons the Lions were forced to pay Ansah, the Cowboys had little option but to put the highly-priced tag on Lawrence, though he likely would have commanded more money on the open market than the older pass rusher.

Kyle Fuller, Bears


Position: Cornerback | Tag price: $12.971 million

Unless Fuller really just wanted to leave Chicago, he got off with a pretty good deal. The former first-round pick shone as a rookie, stumbled in his second year, and completely missed his third with injury, before putting forth a more respectable performance in 2017. He didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up, which worked out even better for him – he’s set to be the eighth highest-paid corner under the transition tag. The 26-year-old will be allowed to negotiate with other teams for a new deal, but the Bears have a chance to match any offer he receives. He won’t get a proposal with an AAV close to his 2018 salary on the tag, so as long as he isn’t dead set on a multi-year contract, he’ll be earning far above his weight class this season.

Losers

Lamarcus Joyner, Rams


Position: Safety | Tag price: $11.287 million

Joyner may not be a household name, but he might have become one if he had been allowed to hit the open market. Of the franchise-tagged players in 2018, Joyner is the only one not to crack the top three highest-paid players in their position in terms of AAV. Coming off an impressive year, the 27-year-old would have been a highly-valued asset as he can play both safety and slot corner. He may not have gotten $11.3 million per season, but surely would have commanded a higher guaranteed amount with an AAV in the double-digit range.

Jarvis Landry, Dolphins


Position: Wide receiver | Tag price: $15.982 million

Landry is getting far above his market value with the tag, but he’s been openly upset about not having the chance to hit the market and secure a long-term deal with the team of his choosing. Landry has racked up a ton of catches in his first four years – 400, to be exact – but his yards per catch average and touchdown totals have not matched his high number of touches. However, he’s had success despite being in an offense not particularly tailored for his skill set and now he’s being denied the chance to find an ideal landing spot.

Le’Veon Bell, Steelers


Position: Running back | Tag price: $14.5 million

Bell will make over double the salary of all but two running backs in the NFL under a second straight tag, but his complaints are easy to comprehend. The 25-year-old has a strong argument to be the best running back in the league, but injuries can quickly derail a career for a player of his value. Bell knows he only has a finite amount of time to get the most out of the prime of his career and wants to lock down a long-term contract with plenty of guaranteed money.

The three-time Pro Bowler had 406 touches through 15 games in 2017. If he keeps up that pace for another year, his value on the open market in 2019 would likely drop with teams scared of wear and tear.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)



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