Away from the global pandemic chaos we are experiencing, the NFL is gearing up for chaos of its own in the QB landscape. With half the league’s Quarterback’s futures up in the air, the first step in the murkiness clearing centres around the franchise tag window. Barring Washington’s mismanagement of Kirk Cousin’s contract, it is rare to see QB’s franchised. This offseason sees three clear candidates. However, there are other factors in play that complicate matters further. Let’s start in Dallas.
Under the radar this negotiation has been going on for quite a while. Remember, it was expected that Prescott would be signed ahead of the 2019 season. Now he is days from becoming a free agent. Dallas has the cap space to tag Prescott, and they’re aware that they need to make room for Prescott’s long term deal anyway. Plus the Cowboys’ front office hasn’t done the best job of negotiating, saying that Prescott isn’t going anywhere and putting a dollar amount on his worth.
However, while the Cowboys clearly want to keep him long term, and there are other people to sign but Prescott is still not signed. There’s also the prospect of needing the franchise tag for Amari Cooper to keep their star Wide Receiver. Luckily, with the end of the current CBA this year, Dallas are allowed to use both franchise and transitional tags. However, that leaves the Cowboys risking another team negotiating one of Prescott or Cooper’s contracts, with the threat of a poison pill that Dallas can’t meet. It’s likely that Cooper would get the transitional tag and the ability to negotiate with other teams. However, having given up so much to get Cooper, this is far from ideal too.
Either way, if Jerry Jones is a man of his word, Prescott will be tagged by Monday’s deadline.
The Titans built a team that allowed Tannehill to have a career year. Now they have to pay for it. While Tannehill’s 2019 numbers were great, not to mention leading the team to the AFC Championship Game. However, it is understandable that Titans want to see the former receiver perform in his second season with them before signing Tannehill to big money long term. Especially given that the Titans only paid $2Million of his salary last season, with the Dolphins footing the majority of the bill.
That’s one factor. However the other one is bigger and definitely more powerful. Derrick Henry. The best back in the league is also a free agent and clearly more valuable to the Titans’ gameplan. And while that would make him an obvious candidate to sign a long term deal, one: he hasn’t already and two: no one in the league is having success signing running backs to big contracts.
The Titans could pull a similar move to the Cowboys but in this case it is Henry who isn’t leaving, partly because the tag for Running Backs is far lower. That leaves the Titans one weekend to knock out a deal with Tannehill or risk losing the Comeback Player of the Year in free agency.
The wackiest of cases is Jameis Winston. He’s clearly productive but equally mistake prone, creating the 30:30 club last year. The question is whether Bruce Arians saw enough last year that he can make Winston work long term. I think that Winston will get tagged but the likelihood is that we will be in exactly the same place in a year’s time, where he is too talented not to sign but too turnover-happy to commit to. Plus, that allows Shaq Barrett to leave in free agency, bar the transitional tag coming into play (this would surely leave the Bucs priced out on one of their stars).
Ultimately, do the Bucs see a better option longer term in free agency or will they end up with a less productive QB under centre? Plus, will Winston be any more accurate having had laser eye surgery? Despite the Arians/Winston relationship being a year old, and the Licht/Winston marriage lasting half a decade, there are still so many questions around Winston’s future.
It seems unlikely that Brady will be tagged though there is equally less chatter around Brady being resigned. If the Pats don’t see a better option, and Jarrett Stidham isn’t ready to lead a playoff team, is it that crazy to see New England franchising Brady? That said, they always let go of players a year before their decline and Brady was already the exception in 2019. Now is the true acid test of the Patriot Way.
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