One more step down in the march to free agency! The NFL kicks off free agency next week, but in the meantime, teams have announced franchise and transition tags. Teams had until 1 p.m. PT, and several teams have placed the tag. Here is a complete list of those teams and players, along with thoughts on what each one means. Next to each player name is the tender value for the tag.
Baltimore Ravens - Justin Tucker, Kicker - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $4,572,000
The biggest news to come from this is that it means offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele will hit the market. The versatile lineman is looking for a contract that pays him among the best linemen in the game. It will be interesting to see what Alex Boone is able to find in comparison to Osemele. There is some speculation the 49ers might look into Osemele, but I'm skeptical they would invest so heavily in an interior lineman.
Buffalo Bills - Cordy Glenn, Offensive Lineman - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $13,706,000
The Bills want to figure out a way to keep both Glenn and Richie Incognito. They released Mario Williams and Anthony Dixon, and likely will release more players to clear space to make this happen. The release of Williams is the most interesting fallout from this. It was not a surprising release, but it makes for an interesting option in free agency. He could do solid work in the 49ers nickel, but he might be looking for more significant opportunities than sub work (even with extensive sub work possible in the nickel).
Carolina Panthers - Josh Norman, Cornerback - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $13,952,000
This is not a surprising move as the two sides never seemed close to working out any kind of deal. He would have been incredibly popular on the open market, but I don't see anybody, including the 49ers, offering up two first round picks to get him signed.
Chicago Bears - Alshon Jeffery, Wide Receiver - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $14,599,000
There were rumors he might hit free agency, but it ended up not happening. He would have been the best wide receiver on the market, but that honor likely goes to Marvin Jones now. The 49ers will not be kicking the tires on him for two first round picks.
Denver Broncos - Von Miller, Linebacker - Exclusive franchise - Salary: TBD
The two sides were unable to get a deal done, so it is not surprising the Broncos tagged Miller. The decision to go with the exclusive tag means Miller is not allowed to speak with any other team. It also likely means a higher tender salary. The non-exclusive tag (which can yield two first round picks) is the average of the top five salaries for the position played based on the previous year's salaries. For linebackers this year, that number is $14,129,000. The exclusive tag is the average of the top five salaries for the position played based on the current league year as of the end of the restricted free agent signing period (April 22). If that number is less than the non-exclusive tender, then the Broncos must pay him the higher amount if he signs his franchise tender.
This means nobody else will get Miller. It also means the Broncos cannot use the tag on Brock Osweiler and Malik Jackson. That opens the door to both potentially departing in free agency. I think Jackson would be out of the 49ers price range, while Osweiler could very well be in play if the team is looking for a quarterback. And of course, the Broncos could end up in play for Colin Kaepernick.
Kansas City Chiefs - Eric Berry, Safety - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $10,806,000
The Chiefs have a lot of key free agents, including CB Sean Smith, OLB Tamba Hali, DE Mike DeVito, and ILB Derrick Johnson. Berry came back from cancer to put together an All-Pro season in 2015. If he can build on it in 2016, he'll likely land a huge pay day somewhere next year. If a player is tagged a third year, he has to be paid 120% of his previous year's salary. I don't see him getting tagged two straight years.
The 49ers won't be making a run at Berry, but Sean Smith is a guy some think would be worth adding. I don't know if the dollars will make sense, but Smith will get plenty of attention in free agency.
Los Angeles Rams - Trumaine Johnson, Cornerback - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $13,952,000
The Rams were reportedly deciding between Johnson and Janoris Jenkins. There are reports Jenkins turned down a 5-year, $45 million offer, which would indicate he thinks he can break the bank elsewhere. I don't see the 49ers making a run at either player.
Miami Dolphins - Olivier Vernon, Defensive End - Transition - Salary: $12,734,000
This is a fascinating one because the transition tag does not require compensation if a team does not match an offer sheet. The Dolphins lost Charles Clay due to this last year, and it is entirely possible it happens again with Vernon. The 49ers could very well decide he is worth investing heavily in for their pass rush, but the bidding should be pretty significant on Vernon.
New York Jets - Muhammad Wilkerson, Defensive End - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $15,701,000
He is an intriguing defensive end, but not at the cost of two first round picks. It will be interesting to see if he can find a sign-and-trade option that cuts the two first round pick cost a little bit. The Jets also have QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and NT Damon Harrison set to hit the market. Neither was a candidate for the franchise tag, but the Jets will need to figure out what to do with them. Harrison is a talented nose tackle, but if the 49ers are going to pay a little extra for the position, I'd prefer they re-sign Ian Williams.
Washington - Kirk Cousins, Quarterback - Non-exclusive franchise - Salary: $19,953,000
The two sides could not come to terms on a deal. Coming off a strong season, Washington will look for Cousins to prove he can do it again. For Cousins, this means a nice pay day while he looks to earn even more next year. Some team might decide he's worth giving up two first round picks, but I highly doubt that happens. He'll be back in Washington this fall. It also removes Washington from potentially making a run at Colin Kaepernick. This is not a new development, but this confirms it.