The period for teams to place a franchise tag on any impending free agent opened in the middle of February and ends tomorrow.
This eight-part series will go division by division looking at the possibility that a team will place a franchise tag on their most worthy player.
Without further ado, here goes the NFC South.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Top Candidate: Donovan Smith
Chance of Being Tagged: 95%
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are placing a franchise tag on offensive lineman Donovan Smith, according to Tampa Bay Times’s Rick Stroud. The only reason this isn’t a 100% chance is that the team hasn’t formally announced the news.
Smith has played in started in all 64 of the games he has been on the roster for over the course of the last four seasons, which shows the tremendous amount of faith the team has in the 25-year old. Not only did he start every single game, but in 2018, he appeared in 1,116 offensive snaps. The Buccaneers took a total of 1,116 offensive snaps.
That’s right: Smith played in every single possible offensive snap for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season.
As the team looks to sign Smith to an extension, they hit him with the $14,067,000 franchise tag in hopes of agreeing to terms on a larger deal that would nullify the franchise tag. Smith’s market value is around $10.2 million per year, assuming he signs a multi-year contract, according to the contract experts at Spotrac.
Top Candidate: Grady Jarrett
Chance of Being Tagged: 70%
Grady Jarrett is an interesting case this offseason. The latest reports indicate that the two sides are not close to a long-term agreement, but does that mean they won’t franchise tag him? Well, it’s hard to tell.
On the final year of his contract in 2018, Jarrett started all 14 games that he played in, recording 52 tackles, six sacks, and three forced fumbles while appearing in 710 (74 percent) of Atlanta’s defensive snaps.
Spotrac projects that Jarrett could be on the receiving end of a massive six-year, $93,175,313 contract if he hits free agency, which comes out to about $15.5 million. Meanwhile, keeping him in Atlanta under a franchise tag would only cost the Falcons $15,209,000.
Chance of Being Tagged: 10%
Mark Ingram has certainly been a valuable playmaker with the Saints, so there is no reason they should rule out bringing him back quite yet. But using the franchise tag would cost the team a pretty penny, and it is just not worth it.
Spotrac links Ingram to a $4.4 million valuation, going further to say he should get a two-year, $8,844,428 deal in free agency. Compare that to the $11,214,000 price that comes with a franchise tag, and it’s just not worth it.
After being suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season, Ingram returned and appeared in all 12 games, starting half of them. However, given that he split time with young star Alvin Kamara, starts is not a useful statistic: it is the snap count that really matters. Ingram appeared in less than half of his team’s snaps, being on the field for 350.
Don’t expect the Saints to use the franchise tag on anybody this year.
Top Candidate: Ryan Kalil
Chance of Being Tagged: 15%
The Panthers seemed like they were going to franchise tag on safety Eric Reid, but the possibility of that disappeared when they signed him to a new contract. Now, Ryan Kalil is the leading candidate to get tagged, but there isn’t much of a chance that any tagging comes to fruition.
Kalil has spent all 12 of his professional seasons with the Panthers, and spent all games in 2018 as a starter, appearing in 1,028 snaps while earning $9.75 million.
Kalil is a valuable lineman and should receive lots of interest this offseason, but he is not worth the $14,067,000 franchise tag; he is worth a bit less than $10 million.