On Tuesday February 19, NFL teams can start putting the franchise tag on their players. The San Francisco 49ers are going to be in the market for a pass rusher be it free agency or the draft, and Ian Rapoport gave a list of those top pass rushers that could get the tag.
Per Rapoport, Jadeveon Clowney, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dee Ford, and Frank Clark are all going to be issued the franchise tag at some point. Those are the top pass rushers in free agency and they are all about to be unavailable. The NFL has until March 5 to issue tags, so even if you don’t see the franchise tag come out this week, teams have some time. Rapoport’s quotes on each player are listed below.
“The Houston Texans pass rusher coming off a really solid season and maybe earned enough to ensure that he is in the Texans’ long-term plans. No momentum yet on a deal yet. They will likely tag him and try to work something out.”
Clowney expressed interest in returning to the Houston Texans shortly after the season ended. He’s finished up his rookie deal (where he went No. 1 overall in 2014). Clowney had a rough start to his career getting placed on injured reserve his rookie season, but from there, he got a steady rise in production, becoming a banshee along with J.J. Watt. The only knock on Clowney is his aforementioned health. He’s only played a full season once on his contract.
“Another one firmly in the team’s plans, Demarcus Lawrence. The Dallas Cowboys war-daddy as Jerry Jones likes to describe him. Another big year for this resurgent defense. No momentum on a deal yet, so he’s likely to get tagged.”
The only player that may have had a chance of hitting free agency was DeMarcus Lawrence, since he got the franchise tag last year. It looks like the Dallas Cowboys are going to slap him with the tag again. Doing so means he’s going to get paid. Teams can franchise a player twice, but doing so means the player gets a 20 percent bump in salary. For 2019 he’d get $20.57 million. Teams can still negotiate after issuing the tag. So the Cowboys could put the tag on Lawrence to get an extension to work out a long-term deal.
“The Kansas City Chiefs top pass rusher. A career year this year. Riding time for him likely to be franchised. They’ve been open about not wanting to let him go.”
Recent memories of Dee Ford have been with this. Putting that blunder aside, Ford has disrupted just about everything in 2018. If this was 2017, he may have found his way onto the free agent market (two sacks in a season cut short by injuries), but after that 2018, the Chiefs will find a way to keep him. Like Rapoport says, the Chiefs will look to get something long term out. You don’t let someone like him walk.
“Finally, Frank Clark. The Seahawks stand-out pass-rusher. Someone they have stood behind since they drafted him. Has been extremely productive despite earning a mid-rounder’s salary. Another player likely to be tagged and stick with this team.”
If there anyone that fit on the 49ers defense, it was Clark since the Seattle Seahawks and 49ers run the same scheme. The 49ers may have had a sliver of a chance securing him since the Seahawks have to figure out that Russell Wilson extension (which won’t come cheap and their modest salary cap can get sapped up when the ink dries). If a long-term deal can get made is the question. Clark may be available in 2020 when that Wilson extension really gets ironed out, but for now he’s not hitting the market.
It was somewhat obvious the above names were going to get franchised at the very least, probably extended long-term. That leaves the pass-rusher market thinned out a bit. Who would you look to bring to the 49ers if you wanted a free agent pass rusher? Pro Football Focus projects Shaquil Barrett coming to the 49ers in free agency. Do you see any good free agency signings for the 49ers or do you think it’s the draft (And Nick Bosa/Josh Allen)?