Before NFL free agency begins, teams are allowed to apply franchise tags to players from Feb. 21 through March 7 to give them a sense of what to do before the league year begins on March 15.
The franchise tag is a designation that teams can apply to a player who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and commits the player to the team for one season. Franchise tag figures are based on the top five salaries at each position. The NFL told its 32 teams that the salary cap for 2023 will be a record $224.8 million, up from $208.2 million last year.
Last season, eight players were franchise tagged. Among them was wide receiver Davante Adams, whom the Green Bay Packers tagged before eventually trading him to the Las Vegas Raiders after he told Green Bay he wouldn’t play under the tag. Here’s a look at the players tagged, the reasons, and the tag image:
The Raiders plan to use the franchise tag on Jacobs for the 2023 season, sources confirmed to ESPN on Friday.
Franchise Tag Salary: $10.091 million
Memorable moments of the career path: The 2019 first-rounder responded to the Raiders’ new fifth-year opt-out regime by leading the NFL in rushing (1,653 yards) and yards from scrimmage (2,053). He was named first team All-Pro and selected to his second Pro Bowl. Jacobs has rushed for 4,740 yards and 40 touchdowns in his four-year career while catching 160 passes for 1,152 yards.
Why it was flagged: It appears the Raiders are still taking a wait-and-see approach with Jacobs, wondering if his career season in 2022 was more of an exception than the rule. Jacobs said he wanted a long-term deal, but it had to “make sense” to him, so the tag could potentially have less than the desired effect.
What it brings: Raiders coach Josh McDaniels had to change his running back-by-committee philosophy thanks to Jacobs’ production, as he became the first Raider since Marcus Allen in 1985 to lead the league in rushing. Off the court, Jacobs is a leader in the locker room and one of the most outspoken players in the media.
The Jaguars are expected to place the franchise tag on Evan Engram, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Thursday.
Franchise Tag Salary: $11.345 million
Memorable moments of the career path: Engram set career highs in catches (73) and 766 yards (766) in 2022, his first season with the Jaguars after five years with the New York Giants. He has 335 career catches for 3,594 yards and 20 touchdowns after being taken by the Giants at No. 23 overall in 2017.
Why it was flagged: Both Engram and the Jaguars want to work out a deal that will keep him in Jacksonville for many years. Using the tag gives the Jaguars more time to do so and avoid Engram entering the free agent market.
What it brings: Engram is almost a wide receiver in terms of his skill set, which is how the Jaguars used him in 2022. He lined up in multiple spots and had great success in crossing patterns, especially from the slot. Coach Doug Pederson admitted during the season that Engram is also a better blocker than expected.
Franchise Tag Salary: $18.937 million
Memorable moments of the career path: Payne recorded 11.5 sacks in 2022, third among defensive tackles. He was second in all tackles with 21 tackles for loss. Payne was named a Pro Bowl alternate this season, and was eventually added to the game. Payne, who has started 75 games, has 26 career sacks.
Why it was flagged: Washington doesn’t want to dismantle arguably the NFL’s best defensive tackle. Jonathan Allen has made two straight Pro Bowls. Washington signed Allen to an extension through 2021 and, before this season, was reluctant to give Payne a similar deal based on past performance. But then Payne stepped up. Washington will continue to negotiate with him.
What it brings: Power and speed off the ball. Washington uses a one-gap scheme, so Payne’s ability to quickly fire the gaps makes him dangerous. Before last season, though, he was considered a run. He can also play over center when they go single front. He’s also durable: Payne hasn’t missed a game in the past three seasons.