Top 2024 NFL franchise tag candidates: Barkley, Jacobs, Burns

ByNFL Nation reporters ESPN logo
Monday, February 19, 2024

The two-week NFL franchise tag window opens Tuesday and runs until 4 p.m. ET on March 5. During that time frame, each team is allowed to tag one player who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Doing so would keep the player with the franchise for the 2024 season.

Franchise tag figures are based on the top five annual salaries at each position, and the price goes up each time a player gets tagged. Teams must determine whether it's in their best interest to pay the franchise tag price, extend the player or possibly tag him and continue negotiating a long-term deal.

Last year, six players were tagged, includingBaltimore RavensquarterbackLamar Jackson, who eventually signed a five-year, $260 million contract and went on to win NFL MVP in 2023.

Here is a look at each NFL team and which players are franchise tag candidates:

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NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF



Buffalo Bills

No candidate

In the past six offseasons under general manager Brandon Beane, the Bills have never used the franchise tag. There is little reason to believe that trend is going to change. While there are a number of free agents set to depart Buffalo, the team has a tight cap situation. While bringing back the likes of defensive tackle DaQuan Jones and defensive ends A.J. Epenesa and Leonard Floyd would make sense for the Bills, doing so with the franchise tag numbers wouldn't and doesn't fit what the team needs to do this offseason.-- Alaina Getzenberg

Miami Dolphins

Christian Wilkins, defensive tackle

The Dolphins' first-round pick from 2019 turned in a career season in 2023 with 9.5 sacks despite not being able to come to an agreement on a contract extension last offseason. Miami is strapped for cash currently ($51 million over the cap), but applying the tag to its best homegrown player makes more sense than letting him walk in free agency. Both sides want him in South Florida long term, so an extension this offseason seems likely.-- Marcel Louis-Jacques

New England Patriots

Kyle Dugger, safety

The Patriots' top draft pick from 2020 -- 37th overall -- Dugger played more snaps than any Patriots defender in 2023 and has steadily grown as a player in the team's system. Run support and tackling are his primary assets, and while he has been part of coverage breakdowns at times, he's a four-down safety entering his prime years. OL Mike Onwenu is another prime candidate for the tag, but the higher cost of doing so makes Dugger the choice.-- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Bryce Huff, defensive end

Huff worked his way up from an undrafted free agent to one of the most effective edge rushers in the league, but he's unlikely to receive the tag for three reasons: The tag is projected at $23 million for defensive ends, which is steep; he played only 42% of the snaps last season as a rotational end; andWill McDonald IV(the Jets' 2023 first-round pick) is the same type of player. They will try to re-sign Huff before he hits the open market -- a risky game to play. Huff (10 sacks) was their best speed rusher, a key piece in their third-ranked defense. McDonald is unproven. They scouted and developed Huff, and it would be a shame to lose him for nothing more than a 2025 compensatory pick.-- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

Justin Madubuike, defensive tackle

Madubuike is considered one of the top-five free agents in the league after producing a career season in his contract year. He recorded 13 sacks in 2023, the most by a Baltimore player in nine years. If he hit free agency, he would likely receive a contract that would average over $20 million per season. Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta declined to reveal whether the team would use the tag on Madubuike, saying he didn't want to show his hand. "We'll know what's best for us to do," DeCosta said at the end of the season.-- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Tee Higgins, wide receiver

In his end-of-season news conference, quarterbackJoe Burrow made it clear he expects Higgins to be back for 2024. With a long-term deal a big question mark, the franchise tag is the most logical solution for the Bengals if they want to keep Higgins for at least another season. The Bengals have the cap flexibility to keep Higgins,Ja'Marr Chaseand Burrow together for another run.-- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

No candidate

It's hard to see Cleveland using the franchise tag on any of its free agents this offseason. Looming free agents DE Za'Darius Smith, DT Shelby Harris, LB Sione Takitaki and RB Kareem Hunt, among others, played key roles for the Browns last season. But Cleveland is far more likely to re-sign any of those players -- or replace them in the draft, via trade or free agency.-- Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

No candidate

There isn't a legit candidate among a pretty small Steelers free agent class. Of the looming free agents, quarterback Mason Rudolph, outside linebacker Markus Golden, safety/special teamer Miles Killebrew and inside linebacker Kwon Alexander are likely the most desirable to bring back, but all have market values well below the franchise tag, plus Alexander is working his way back from a torn left Achilles and might not be available until midseason.-- Brooke Pryor


Houston Texans

Jonathan Greenard, defensive end

The only Texans free agent who would even make sense to tag is Greenard. He had 12.5 sacks, and the tag would cost $20,247,000. That's roughly the going rate for defensive ends who get double-digit sacks and are effective against the run. The Chicago Bears gave Montez Sweat a four-year, $98 million deal after acquiring him midseason from Washington, and he had yet to reach double-digit sacks in his career until the end of 2023. Tagging Greenard would give the Texans time to figure out how much they want to pay the former third-rounder, or if they should trade him and receive draft compensation.-- DJ Bien-Aime

Indianapolis Colts

Michael Pittman Jr., wide receiver

The Colts haven't used the franchise tag since punter Pat McAfee got it in 2013. But they've rarely gone down to the wire with one of their big-money core players in this fashion, either. The franchise tag is a realistic possibility for two reasons. First, Pittman has said he's intrigued by the idea of testing the open market, but the Colts might have other ideas. Secondly, Pittman has acknowledged that the franchise tag is possible and accepts it might provide a path to reaching an agreement, so it wouldn't be seen as a deal-breaker.-- Stephen Holder

Jacksonville Jaguars

Josh Allen, outside linebacker

Allen is coming off the best season of his career (franchise-record 17.5 sacks), and he ranks sixth in pressures (228) and is tied for 10th in sacks (32) in the NFL over the past three seasons. It's almost certain the Jaguars will use the tag on Allen before the window closes on March 5 to allow them more time to get an extension done. The team doesn't want him hitting the open market, because he'll be one of the most sought-after free agents, which likely means he'd be able to secure a contract much larger than what the Jaguars would be willing to spend.-- Michael DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

No candidate

Derrick Henry comes to mind, but the projected $12.4 million tag seems a little expensive for the Titans to use on Henry. Denico Autry's 11.5 sacks led the Titans last season. He likely falls under the defensive end category, which holds a $23 million cost. Henry and Autry are Tennessee's top pending free agents on offense and defense. At 30 and 33 years old, respectively, large one-year deals don't fit the Titans' plan if they are looking to rebuild. However, it's a win if general manager Ran Carthon can get the pair to sign two-year deals with a reasonable guarantee over the duration.-- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

No candidate

This team already has plenty of work ahead to get under the salary cap, even before any decision on quarterback Russell Wilson. The Broncos project to be about $24 million over the projected salary cap -- and that's before the historic dead money hit of $85 million over the next two years if they release Wilson, as most expect. Add Wilson's release to the $9.7 million worth of dead money charges on the books for 2024, and the Broncos don't profile as a team with the luxury to use the tag, even for free agent kicker Wil Lutzat a reasonable figure of around $5.5 million.-- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

L'Jarius Sneed, cornerback

The cost of tagging Sneed, likely more than $18 million, would be difficult for the Chiefs to manage, so this move is hardly a given if the sides can't agree on a long-term deal. The Chiefs drafted four cornerbacks in 2022 and one more last year, so they've been preparing to lose Sneed for some time. The cost of putting the franchise tag on Chris Jones would be more than $32 million, making that move prohibitive.-- Adam Teicher

Las Vegas Raiders

Josh Jacobs, running back

The Raiders went down this road last season by tagging the reigning All-Pro, and he responded by not signing his tag and sitting out Las Vegas' entire offseason program, training camp and the preseason before agreeing to a one-year deal worth $11.791 million, $1.7 million more than the original tender. Jacobs had the worst season of his career (805 rushing yards, 3.5 yards per carry, 6 TDs, 13 games), so the Raiders might not have to use the estimated $12.4 million tag on him and could probably get him back on a cheaper deal. Especially since he said he would be all-in if the Raiders made Antonio Pierce the head coach, which they did.-- Paul Gutierrez

Los Angeles Chargers

No candidate

None of the Chargers' top free agents -- RB Austin Ekeler, ILB Kenneth Murray Jr., TE Gerald Everettand CB Michael Davis-- played up to the level the franchise tag will cost. The Chargers are also salary cap-strapped, as they are projected to be $54.2 million over the cap next season and could likely get these players back for less than the league's allocated franchise tag numbers, which are projected to be $12.4 million for RBs, $18.4 million for CBs, $12.3 million for TEs, and $21.9 million for LBs.-- Kris Rhim


Dallas Cowboys

No candidate

The Cowboys have not been shy about using the franchise tag in recent years. They used it on running back Tony Pollard in 2023, tight end Dalton Schultz in 2022 and quarterback Dak Prescott in 2020 and 2021. Only Prescott was able to sign a long-term deal. They don't have a candidate this offseason. A second tag on Pollard would be about $12 million. With a tight salary cap, the Cowboys will need all the room they can get.-- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Saquon Barkley, running back

The Giants used it last year on Barkley at $10.1 million. That was off a career-best season. Now it's $12.1 million off a sub-1,000-yard season, and he's another year older (27). This seems to be headed in a different direction this time around, even if the Giants say they want Barkley to return and he insists finishing his career in New York is his ultimate desire. But in a year when the free agent market will be flooded with running backs, it seems likely that Barkley will get a chance to test his value on the open market.-- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

No candidate

The Eagles typically avoid using the franchise tag -- DeSean Jackson was the last to receive the designation in 2012 -- and there aren't any clear candidates this time around. Center Jason Kelce and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox are the most notable free agents, but the two sides will work out an agreement if either player decides to put off retirement for another season. The Eagles will have to make decisions on running back D'Andre Swift and defensive end Brandon Graham, too, but the tag is not in play.-- Tim McManus

Washington Commanders

No candidate

With new ownership and a new general manager, there's no blueprint for how the current regime will handle the franchise tag. The last players to be tagged -- quarterback Kirk Cousins and guard Brandon Scherff -- ended up leaving via free agency after playing two years on the tag. Washington has some key free agents, but none rises to the price point of needing to be tagged. Safety Kamren Curl is probably Washington's best free agent, but he intercepted three passes in four seasons and has yet to make it to the Pro Bowl. He's a good safety, especially in the box, but an estimated tag cost of around $17 million would be too high.-- John Keim


Chicago Bears

Jaylon Johnson, cornerback

Early this offseason, general manager Ryan Poles said the second-team All-Pro cornerback is "not going to go anywhere" and expressed optimism the Bears and Johnson will strike a deal. Johnson told at the Pro Bowl his "heart [is] definitely in Chicago, mind's definitely on the money" after recently stating his desire to reset the cornerback market, which would put him north of $21 million per year. Chicago has the seventh-most cap space (north of $46 million) and the financial flexibility to keep a cornerstone player in the fold long term, but if negotiations fail, the Bears can place the estimated $18.8 million franchise tag on their cornerback.-- Courtney Cronin

Detroit Lions

No candidate

No disrespect to the Lions' notable free agents, who include S C.J. Gardner-Johnson, OL Jonah Jackson, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybinand WR Josh Reynolds, but it doesn't make sense to use the franchise tag on anyone at this moment. The current Detroit front office has built its foundation through the draft and developing talent. Plus, the Lions have rarely used the tag in team history, the last time being defensive end Ezekiel Ansah in 2018.-- Eric Woodyard

Green Bay Packers

No candidate

The Packers already took care of their big free agent for this class when they signed LBRashan Gary to a massive extension during the season. None of the other key free agents -- RBAJ Dillon, CB/KRKeisean Nixon, GJon Runyan and SDarnell Savage -- would come close to warranting the tag.-- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

No candidate

The Vikings' two most obvious candidates are both ineligible for a tag. Quarterback Kirk Cousins' contract doesn't void until March 13, which is (intentionally) after the deadline. Meanwhile, the Vikings agreed to a no-tag clause to coax outside linebacker Danielle Hunter back to training camp last summer after a short absence. In both cases, the Vikings would need to get a traditional contract done before March 14 in order to prevent an entrance into the free agent market.-- Kevin Seifert


Atlanta Falcons

No candidate

None of Atlanta's pending free agents would rise to the tag level considering their 2023 salaries and projected salaries for 2024. Of Atlanta's free agents, defensive end Calais Campbell, edge rusher Bud Dupree and cornerback Jeff Okudah are among the top names, but none should be considered for the designation. If the Falcons wanted to bring any of them back, they would be able to do so at a salary below those tag numbers.-- Michael Rothstein

Carolina Panthers

Brian Burns, outside linebacker

Burns wants to be among the NFL's highest-paid edge rushers despite a down season. He says he established his value the previous few seasons. The team couldn't reach a long-term deal last year, so with Burns set to become a free agent, they'll likely tag him and continue negotiating. He's a key player for Carolina's 3-4 defense and is entering his prime at age 25. The estimated $23 million tag number Burns would get will be lower than what he's seeking annually on a long-term deal.-- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

No candidate

Guard/tackle Andrus Peat is the biggest name on a small list of unrestricted free agents this year, and Peat, who took a pay cut to return last year, isn't a candidate for the tag. This is one of the years when the Saints don't have a "must keep" free agent, and considering they're projected to be significantly over the cap again, they'll likely be looking for more team-friendly deals for any returning free agents.-- Katherine Terrell

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antoine Winfield Jr., safety

The Bucs have several high-profile free agents, including wide receiver Mike Evans, quarterback Baker Mayfield, safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and inside linebacker Lavonte David. But Winfield makes the most sense, as they can franchise tag him at $17.22 million for 2024. Would it be more ideal to sign him to an extension to spread his cap charges out over time? Sure. But this amount isn't going to break the bank the way tagging Mayfield at $36.37 million would eat up almost all of their cap space. Tagging Evans likely wouldn't be good for his morale after he tied for the league lead with 13 touchdown catches. Plus, it would cost the Bucs $28.4 million. -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

No candidate

There aren't any players whom Arizona would either want or need to use the franchise tag on. The Cardinals have 17 free agents and, as they continue to revamp the roster, they'll go through another rebuild this offseason. But of those 17, there isn't a player for whom the franchise tag would be needed.-- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

No candidate

The Rams' list of pending free agents is short, and there aren't any players on whom using the franchise tag makes sense. Guard Kevin Dotson played well after the Rams acquired him in a trade during training camp, but the projected salary ($18,244,000 in 2023) for an offensive lineman is much higher than the Rams would spend. No one else on the list has played to the level of requiring a franchise tag.-- Sarah Barshop

San Francisco 49ers

No candidate

None of the 49ers' pending free agents fits the description of a franchise tag candidate. Defensive end Chase Young is probably the biggest name on the list, but he isn't coming off the type of breakthrough season that would make him a must-keep. That doesn't mean he won't be back. It just won't happen with any sort of tag for him or any other Niners.-- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

No candidate

Defensive tackle Leonard Williams and linebacker Jordyn Brooks are the Seahawks' top two free agents and both are in line for big paydays, but neither could realistically be franchised. Because Williams was tagged twice earlier in his career, a third tag would cost Seattle more than $35 million. Over The Cap projects the linebacker tag at around $22 million. The Seahawks have used the tag only twice in 14 seasons under general manager John Schneider, including once on a kicker. Their history alone suggests it's not likely, and the cost of the tag for either Williams or Brooks makes it a non-starter.-- Brady Henderson

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