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49ers in Five: Will the Niners use the franchise tag?

We take a look at some of the potential candidates

While once considered an honor, nowadays players hate the franchise tag. Logically, it makes very little sense. Why, when a player’s contract is up, can the team still block him from unrestricted free agency? Nonetheless, the tag is still a thing and it’s likely not going anywhere. So, with this tool at their disposal, will the 49ers be using it this year? Let’s take a look.

For the unfamiliar, the franchise tag is a one year contract with a salary that is the larger of either 120% of a player’s current salary, or an average of the top players at the position (five or ten depending on which type of franchise tag is used).

Given the big dollars involved, teams aren’t likely to put the tag on a player unless they play a significant role on the team. In the case of the 49ers, they have four starters set to hit free agency that are the only truly realistic candidates: Laken Tomlinson, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, and DJ Jones.

Laken Tomlinson (Tag cost: $16,662,000)

Tomlinson is the most realistic candidate to be tagged, and also the most deserving. He allowed just two sacks and 23 pressures in 565 pass-blocking snaps. He’s also been a veritable iron man for the team, missing just one game in his five years with the team.

Tomlinson is a top priority for San Francisco this offseason, and unless his agent is a complete moron, the first year of any deal reached is going to begin with this number anyway.

DJ Jones (Tag cost: $17,396,000)

Jones is the second most deserving franchise tag candidate. The man is one of the best in the league against the run, and he’s also able to make freakishly athletic plays - like this tackle on a fake field goal against the Rams.

Jones finally stayed healthy, and notched career-highs in tackles, tackles for loss, and, average depth of tackle. If anyone not named Laken Tomlinson is getting tagged, even just as a placeholder until a long term deal can be reached, it’s him.

Jaquiski Tartt (Tag cost: $12,911,000)

Don’t let the dropped interception in the NFC Championship Game fool you - Jaquiski Tartt is a damn good safety. Unfortunately for him, I don’t think the 49ers think he’s worth 13 million dollars.

Tartt’s starting spot wasn’t even set in stone this season, so it’s unlikely the team would pay this much money to keep him around. This is a classic example of management really liking a player, but knowing they can get a similar level of production for far less money elsewhere.

K’Waun Williams (Tag cost: $17,287,000)

Simply put, Williams just isn’t worth this much money. Teams can get a very good outside cover corner for this amount of money, which is more valuable to them than a slot corner - even one as talented as Williams has shown himself to be.

The biggest issue for him is that while he’s excellent in zone coverage, he struggled man-to-man, and teams seem to have figured that out recently. In the playoffs, Williams was specifically targeted in man coverage in all three games the 49ers played, and it didn’t end well for him most of the time.

The franchise tag window will remain open until March 8th, 2022, so we’ll get our answer soon enough. One other thing to note: Teams can also rescind the franchise tag at any team before a player signs it, which would immediately make that player a free agent. This actually happened to a player who wore the scarlet and gold last season, Josh Norman in 2016. He eventually signed a 75 million dollar contract with Washington.

You can catch up on everything happening with the 49ers in five minutes every weekday with the 49ers in Five podcast. Download it everywhere podcasts are found.