The NFL’s franchise tag guarantees the player who receives it is due a sizable sum on a one-year deal. But the player and team have until the middle of July to negotiate a long-term contract extension.
This year that deadline came at 4 p.m. ET on July 16, and it affected four players. None got a new deal, though.
Who received the franchise tag in 2018? In total, five players got the franchise tag. One was receiver Jarvis Landry, who got the tag from the Dolphins and soon after was traded to the Browns. Landry later received a five-year extension worth more than $75 million from Cleveland.
That left four players affected by the July 16 deadline: Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner, and Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence.
Did any get a long-term deal? Nope, but that wasn’t unexpected.
There were hints, most likely some last-minute public negotiating strategy, that Bell could end up sitting out half the season if he doesn’t get a deal. If that comes to fruition remains to be seen.
Ansah, Joyner, and Lawrence all wasted no time signing their franchise tenders and getting back into offseason workouts. That’s typically a sign that a player is content with the one-year salary of the franchise tag and not too interested in holding out for an extension.
Ansah and Lawrence will each make $17.143 million in 2018, and Joyner will make $11.287 million. The Lions, Cowboys, and Rams likely aimed to lower those numbers if they tried to broker long-term deals, making negotiations difficult.
Le’Veon Bell is the most interesting situation. The Steelers’ running back has been talking about his desire for a huge contract for two years now, and this was probably Pittsburgh’s last chance to keep Bell.
A third consecutive franchise tag would pay $17.45 million — which likely leaves the Steelers no choice but to let Bell hit the market next offseason. So this was pretty much it, despite the fact that Bell was optimistic a deal would happen.
“I’ve got confidence we’ll get it done,” Bell told NFL Network earlier this offseason. “I want to do it.”
The two sides spent the weekend negotiating, and those talks were expected to go down to the wire on Monday. But considering the Steelers weren’t been able to sign Bell before, a last-minute contract before the deadline looked like a long shot.
It didn’t come to be, and that means 2018 will almost definitely be his last in Pittsburgh.
What happens next? Franchise-tagged players are locked into their one-year deals and cannot begin negotiations with their teams until after the last regular-season game of the year.
Week 17 of the 2018 season is on Dec. 30 and free agency begins March 13. That leaves less than three months for teams to figure out a way to keep these franchise-tagged players or lose them on the open market.
Until then, players under contract are required to show up to training camp or face fines. Ansah, Joyner, and Lawrence all signed their franchise tenders, meaning they are under contract, but Bell is still unsigned.
Last year, the running back waited until Sept. 1 — nine days before the Steelers’ 2017 opener — to report to the team facility and sign his tender. Don’t expect to see him at training camp this year either.