Monday represents the first day NFL teams can place the franchise tag on one of their pending free agents to prevent them from being lured away. And for the New York Giants, who have in excess of 20 pending free agents, there are any number of potential options for the tag. However, it seems highly unlikely that any of them will be designated a franchise player.
First and foremost, it's become clear in recent years that the Giants tend to use the franchise tag as a placeholder. As Giants 101 noted several weeks ago, it's exactly what they did with punter Steve Weatherford in 2012 to prevent him from reaching free agency. Shortly thereafter, the team signed him to a five-year, $12.75 million deal.
Then, of course, there is the transition tag which allows the original team of an unrestricted free agent to have the right of first refusal/to match a contract offer. This can be used in place of the franchise tag, but is not something NFL teams typically use anymore.
As such, the Giants have few options and a lot of free agents. In the event they opt to use the franchise tag, the following are some of the more likely candidates:
Linebacker, Jon Beason
Widely believed to be a high offseason priority, Beason could be considered for the franchise tag as a placeholder. With a franchise tag salary of an anticipated $10.8M+, it's unlikely the Giants would tag him and then fail to negotiate a longer, more cap-friendly deal. And even despite what he brought to the table a season ago, Beason is not enough of an all-around impact player to warrant $10.8M+ on a one-year deal.
Wide Receiver, Hakeem Nicks
Although Nicks leaving New York seems like a foregone conclusion, it's unlikely the Giants will let him walk without at least a little effort. And his fines/missed meetings aside, Nicks still has the ability — when healthy and motivated — to be one of the best receivers in the league. However, at an anticipated tag salary of $11.5m+ for one year, chances of him being designated a franchise player are slim to none at the very best.
Defensive Tackle, Linval Joseph
Perhaps the No. 1 offseason priority of the New York Giants, Joseph could, potentially, be the most likely option for the franchise tag. Because the tag salary for defensive tackles is expected to land somewhere around $9.1M, the Giants may view that as an acceptable one-year carry. And while a long-term deal isn't likely to net him that type of salary annually, it could be just enough to keep Joseph around as they work on a long-term deal.
Kicker, Josh Brown
Similar to the Weatherford situation of a few years ago, the Giants could, theoretically, franchise Brown as they continue negotiations on a multi-year deal. And with a tag salary anticipated to be around $3.3M, it wouldn't be a tremendously crippling number to bear for a few weeks.
Defensive End, Justin Tuck
Perhaps the most unlikely of the likely franchise tag candidates, tagging Tuck would cost the Giants around $12.47M — the highest number for any position other than quarterback. As such, tagging Tuck would only occur if the team was absolutely, 100% sure a more beneficial deal could get done quickly.
Ultimately, it's unlikely the Giants will use the tag at all. As such, at least one or two of the players listed above will not be wearing blue in 2014.
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