NFL franchise tag deadline: A look at 6 winners and losers

The NFL franchise tag deadline passed Tuesday afternoon with several notable names being handed the dreaded tag.

This list includes three running backs in that of Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs. Meanwhile, former NFL MVP Lamar Jackson was handed the non-exclusive franchise tag by the Baltimore Ravens. That sets up a pretty interesting situation heading into free agency.

With a total of six players having had the NFL franchise tag placed on them during this cycle, there’s a number of winners and losers. Some are direct. Others are indirect. Let’s look at them all here.

Related: Top 2023 NFL free agents

Winner: NFL running backs

nfl franchise tag deadline: josh jacobs, las vegas raiders

For pretty much the past decade-plus, there’s been a train of thought that teams devalue the running back position. Sure, the NFL franchise tag value for this position being set at $10.09 million for 2023 helped matters. But having three top end running backs hit with the tag changes the dynamics in a big way moving forward.

This should help others when negotiations come up for long-term contract talks. It’s also going to be interesting to see if the likes of Bijan Robinson and other top 2023 NFL Draft prospects at this position see an increase in value leading up to the annual event later in the spring. This week’s deadline changed the dynamics in a big way. That’s for sure.

Related: 2023 NFL salary cap tracker

Loser: Baltimore Ravens

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Baltimore Ravens

General manager Eric DeCosta and Co. did everything possible to sign Lamar Jackson to a long-term contract ahead of the NFL franchise tag deadline. We can’t blame them for going all in. That’s been the case over the past calendar year. Unfortunately, Jackson’s unwillingness to engage the Ravens puts them in a less-than-stellar position.

By handing Jackson the non-exclusive tag, Baltimore will allow other teams to enter into contract negotiations with the former MVP starting Monday when the NFL free agency tampering period opens. At the very least, this should give Baltimore an understanding of his true market value.

But that’s part of the larger issue. If a team offers up Jackson more than what the Ravens believe he’s worth, they could very well lose him for two future first-round picks. If Baltimore panics, it’s forced into a situation in which Jackson gets paid by the team after another organization set the market. This is never a good thing.

Equally as important, the $40 million Daniel Jones received annually on his contract extension with the New York Giants is going to make Jackson an unhappy man if things are not clarified in the coming days and weeks. It’s just going to get uglier on this front.

Related: Highest-paid NFL players of 2023

Winner: Orlando Brown Jr.

nfl franchise tag winners and losers: orlando brown jr.

After playing under the $16.6 million franchise tag in 2022, Brown would’ve seen a mere 25% increase in that if the defending champs had opted to go in the same route. In what has to be considered stunning news, the Kansas City Chiefs went in another direction.

Short of Brown and the Chiefs coming to terms on an extension ahead of Monday, the four-time Pro Bowler will be able to enter into negotiations with other teams. To say that this could end up being a financial boon for Brown Jr. would be an understatement.

Let’s look at the left tackle market around the NFL for a minute. Trent Williams leads all players at that position with an average annual salary of $23.01 million. A total of nine players are earning more than what Brown did last season with the top five easily being his going rate.

PlayerTeamAverage salary
Trent Williams 49ers$23.01 million
David BakhtiariPackers$23 million
Laremy TunsilTexans$22 million
Ronnie StanleyRavens$19.75 million
Jake MatthewsFalcons$18.33 million
NFL left tackle contracts (via Spotrac.com)

Set to turn 27 in May, Brown Jr. has earned four consecutive Pro Bowl trips. He’s among the best blindside protectors in the game. He’s looking at north of $20 million annually on what will likely be a five-year contract. Yeah, he’s one of the huge winners from the NFL franchise tag deadline. It’s not close.

Read more: Highest-paid NFL quarterbacks of 2023

Loser: Second-tier quarterbacks

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers

Including Daniel Jones’ somewhat misleading four-year, $160 million contract, quarterbacks were not met with a great pre-free agent market. Jones’ deal called for $94 million guaranteed at signing. There’s also an out after two seasons at $82 million. These aren’t the guarantees indicative of a robust market.

Derek Carr’s four-year, $150 million contract with the New Orleans Saints called for just $60 million guaranteed. Meanwhile, Geno Smith’s deal to remain with the Seattle Seahawks includes just $40 million guaranteed. None of this takes into account Lamar Jackson playing under a well below market franchise tag.

What does this all mean? Second-tier options set to hit NFL free agency are not going to receive the big bucks. Jimmy Garoppolo might get $30-plus million annually as the only real viable starting option. But we’re not liking the markets the likes of Baker Mayfield, Jacoby Brissett, Sam Darnold, Gardner Minshew and Teddy Bridgewater are going to be met with.

Winner: Quarterback-needy teams

NFL: Houston Texans Head Coach DeMeco Ryans Introductory Press Conference

On the other end of the spectrum, teams who need to find stopgap starters or viable backups have to love how the market has played out. The guarantees Jones, Smith and Carr received has to be seen as good news on this front.

By our estimation, the New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, Las Vegas Raiders and Atlanta Falcons are the only teams looking for a veteran starter. It’s all about supply and demand. With so many veterans thinking they are capable of starting and so few open positions, a soft market is expected. This doesn’t even take into account a robust quarterback position in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Related: 2023 NFL mock draft

Loser: Lamar Jackson

lamar jackson

Jackson is the clearest loser of the NFL franchise tag deadline. He might have overextended himself in flawed negotiating tactics with Baltimore over the course of the past calendar year or so. This is when actually having an agent would have come in handy.

The former NFL MVP will be able to negotiate with other teams starting on Monday. But we’ve already noticed that multiple reports have come out indicating that said market might not be robust. It’s the nature of the beast when organizations have to weigh a huge contract offer and the loss of two future first-round picks with future cap stability and draft relevance. It’s also why very few players have left in free agency after being handed the franchise tag.

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At this point, Jackson might simply have to sit back and let everything play out while preparing to suit up under the franchise tag in 2023. For a quarterback who dealt with numerous injuries last season and might be viewed as a long-term risk, this is what we’d call betting on yourself. Another season like we saw in 2022, and Jackson’s value next March would be impacted big time. It’s that simple.

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