Detroit Lions expected to franchise tag Kenny Golladay in 2021

By Matt Johnson
Dec 22, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) in the second quarter against the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions already parted ways with star Matthew Stafford this offseason, leaving many to wonder if Kenny Golladay will be the next to depart this spring. Unfortunately for NFL teams in need of a No. 1 receiver, Golladay might be staying in Detroit next season.

Coming off a disappointing 2020 campaign, Golladay is still primed to be one of the top NFL free agents this offseason. If the 27-year-old hits the open market, he would likely field a flurry of offers from clubs willing to make him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the NFL. But, despite the Lions seemingly entering a rebuild, things could get interesting this offseason.

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Kenny Golladay expected to stay with Detroit Lions this offseason

According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, multiple people around the league indicated Golladay will receive the franchise tag this offseason. Under a new regime, Detroit wants to keep its star receiver and the tag would ensure he stays under contract for the 2021 season.

While the NFL salary cap hasn’t been set, the franchise tag for a receiver is expected to be around $16 million. The money is fully guaranteed, but the figure would rank 13th among average annual salaries for receivers. Taking up only 8.8% of a potential $180 million cap ceiling, players like Golladay, Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin are all prime candidates to receive the tag.

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Golladay, a third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, erupted in 2019. Coming off a 1,000-yard season, he hauled in 65 catches for 1,190 receiving yards and a league-leading 11 touchdowns two seasons ago. Keep in mind, he accomplished that with Stafford missing half the season.

Injuries derailed Golladay in his contract year. He only played in five games, missing the first two games with a hamstring strain and later the final nine weeks with a hip injury. Golladay snagged 20-of-32 targets for 338 receiving yards and two touchdowns in five contests when he could suit up.

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Detroit engaged in preliminary contract discussions with Golladay last offseason before talks broke off. At the time, he expressed interest in remaining with the organization.

Golladay would certainly prefer to hit the open market, where multiple suitors could drive up his contract demands. It also might be in his best interests to find a situation with a better quarterback, given Jared Goff is a notable downgrade over Stafford.

If the Lions are committed to a rebuild, they could franchise tag Golladay and then trade him. They might net a 2021 second-round pick or a third-round selection in return, coming a year earlier than the 2022 third-round compensatory pick Detroit would receive if he walks in free agency.