2019 NFL Free Agency: Ranking the likelihood that Le'Veon Bell, Demarcus Lawrence and others will be tagged
A primer on NFL players at least under consideration for a tag
Starting Tuesday, courtesy of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFLPA, teams can begin to systematically constrict the very best potential free-agent talent in the league from hitting the market on their terms.
It's an annual exercise that causes frustration and angst among the NFL's labor force, but that has become a key window in the league's calendar and a primary mechanism for owners to keep their best players for six years or more and extend the period of time before he can truly negotiate, unencumbered, with all 32 teams as an unrestricted free agent. And this year, unlike many in the past, one could make the case that at least half the teams in the NFL will at least consider applying a franchise or transition tag to a player.
Indeed, by the time the league year opens in mid-March, I would anticipate at least eight teams, and probably more like 10, will apply a tag of some sort on a player to retain a measure of control over his next contract, mechanisms that will render most "Top 20 NFL Free Agent" lists meaningless, as many of those premier players are now actually franchise or transition players, and not unrestricted free agents after all. Of course, as unsettling as that prospect is for the players themselves – who know that they now will likely have to play out one more year without long-term security at a time when they would be getting $40M-plus guaranteed on the open market – it could always be worse …
Imagine a world in which we are a week away from the start of preseason games, and Demarcus Lawrence, Dee Ford, Le'veon Bell and Grady Jarrett were all still without a team. How disconcerting would that be? With the tagging window officially opening Tuesday, most NFL teams will wait until closer to the deadline two weeks from now to formally execute these transactions, but still, we could see several tags applied before baseball superstars like Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Adam Jones have signed contracts. Crazy.
Here is a primer on the players and teams at least under consideration for the tag (excluding specialists), ranked in likelihood of them getting applied. I'm not listing every prominent free agent for a reason; these are the situations to watch:
Pick Six Newsletter
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
The Bengals and Redskins jump ahead of the Giants to take quarterbacks
Everything you need to know about the Chicago Bears to get ready for the NFL draft
You know what's almost as fun as drafting football players? Drafting breakfast cereals
One first-round lock won't be in Nashville, but there will be three QBs at the draft
With the 2019 NFL Draft set to begin, find out which picks your team owns
You've come to the right place if you're looking for the 2019 NFL Draft order