The new league year is just around the corner for the NFL, and today teams got into some of their first business of the off-season with a 4:00 PM eastern deadline looming for teams to put tags on one of their own unrestricted free agents.
While there weren’t too many big surprises, there are a few notable players who are going to get a chance to hit the open market.
There also were a lot of talented players that found out they would be sticking around for at least one more season with their current squad.
OLB Justin Houston/Kansas City Chiefs
Fresh off a season that saw Houston lead the NFL with 22 sacks, there was little chance that the 26-year old was going to get away from Kansas City. Houston is an absolute force on defense, and has made three straight pro bowls. The tag will guarantee him a one-year, $13.195 million deal as the two sides are likely working on a long-term extension.
WR Demaryius Thomas/Denver Broncos
Since teaming up with Peyton Manning, Thomas has hauled in 297 receptions for 4,483 yards and 35 touchdowns over the last three seasons. It looks like the Broncos wanted that partnership to continue, as they used the $12.823 million tag on Thomas this afternoon. The two sides are also working on a long-term deal. The move will almost guarantee that tight end Julius Thomas will now reach the open market.
WR Dez Bryant/Dallas Cowboys
Another player with a long-term deal expected to be in the works as Bryant has emerged as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, coming off a year in which he had 88 receptions for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns. The one-year deal will be for the same value as the Bronco’s Thomas ($12.823 million). Free agent running back DeMarco Murray is likely to hit free agency now as well.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul/New York Giants
While a lot of people are sleeping on “JPP”, he quietly turned in an excellent season this past year, as a force in both the pass rush and run stopping aspects. The one-year deal is for $14.813 million, as the two sides get a chance to work on a longer extension. The Giants know what type of player they have in Pierre-Paul, and it would be surprising to see the two sides not work something out.
K Stephen Gostkowski/New England Patriots
Gostkowski has spent his entire career with Patriots since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 draft and has made the Pro Bowl in each of his last two seasons. The 31-year old kicker is coming off a year in which he converted 35-of-37 of his field goal attempts, passing former New England kicker Adam Vinatieri for No. 1 on the teams all-time scoring list in the process. The tag guarantees Gostkowski one year at $4.125 million.
TE Charles Clay/Miami Dolphins
While it is used a lot less used than the franchise tag, the transition tag is still useful for teams as a lower risk option that allows the team to match any offer that Clay receives from another team trying to lure him away. The only thing is that if the Dolphins don’t match the offer, they will receive no compensation in return. The transition tag hit of $7.701 million was also slightly lower than the franchise tag for tight end, which was valued at $8.347 million.
NOTABLE PLAYERS NOT TAGGED
DT Ndamukong Suh/Detroit Lions
In the end, it just looks like a $26.8 million tag number was just too much for the Lions to absorb. They are about $18 million under the cap, and would have had to find a way to clear up space in a hurry. While it isn’t impossible for Suh to remain a Lion, it doesn’t look very likely anymore with a lot of teams with bigger pockets out there trying to obtain his services. Don’t be shocked if Suh becomes the highest paid defensive player in NFL history with his new deal.
RB DeMarco Murray/Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys were never going to let wide receiver Dez Bryant walk, so Murray will be the odd man out in Dallas. It will be interesting to see how much Murray can get on the open-market, as the running back position has been considerably undervalued in terms of contract value in the past few years. He will set the pace for the running back market, and is still just 27 years old.
TE Julius Thomas/Denver Broncos
Just like the Cowboys, the Broncos had two extremely talented players on offense with expiring contracts and could only afford to keep around one. With Demaryius scoring the tag, Julius looks to hit the open market and will be a highly sought after player who is entering the prime of his career. Thomas is in the discussion for top three tight ends in the NFL and will score big money from someone out there.
S Devin McCourty/New England Patriots
Another big time player on defense looks to be hitting the open market, as the Patriots used their tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski instead. The tag would have been $9.6 million if the Patriots used it on McCourty, but it looks like the 27-year old will get a chance to see what he can fetch on the free agent market as New England didn’t feel he was worth that cap hit. He is easily the top available safety.
Other Notables: WR Randall Cobb/Green Bay Packers, DE Jerry Hughes/Buffalo Bills, WR Jeremy Maclin (Eagles), TE Jordan Cameron/ Cleveland Browns
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