Five teams chose to use the franchise tag heading into 2015 NFL free agency: The Dallas Cowboys on Dez Bryant, Denver Broncos with Demaryius Thomas, New York Giants on Jason Pierre-Paul, Kansas City Chiefs with Justin Houston and the New England Patriots on kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs, Linebacker: Houston led the NFL in sacks last season with 22 and was bound to fetch a nice contract in the market had he been allowed to test it. Instead, the Chiefs used the franchise tag on the 26 year-old with three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro selection in his past. He has 48.5 career sacks in 59 NFL games after four seasons, and his franchise tag will pay him just over $13 million.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, Wide Receiver: Thomas is one of the two wide receivers getting the franchise tag used on them this spring, following another fantastic season with Peyton Manning throwing the ball to him. Since Manning has become the Broncos’ quarterback, Thomas has finished each season with at least 1400 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, peaking at 111 receptions and 1619 yards in 2014. His franchise tag is worth $12.8 million.
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants, Defensive End: Somewhat of a surprising move by the Giants considering their cap situation, but they couldn’t let Pierre-Paul, a two-time Pro Bowler and one time All-Pro who finished last season with 12.5 sacks but his contribution comes in more than just sack and tackle numbers, walk away for nothing. Keeping him under the franchise tag is quite costly, worth$14.7 million for his position.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, Wide Receiver: Maybe the most obvious of tags used and the one predicted a very long time ago, the Cowboys are holding on to possibly the best wide receiver in the NFL, catching 41 touchdown passes over the last three seasons and named to his first All-Pro team last season. Just like Thomas from the Broncos, keeping him on a franchise tag while trying to work out a long term deal will cost the Cowboys $12.8 million.
Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots, Kicker: Gostkowski continued to be one of the best kickers in the NFL if not the best of them, making a career high 94.6% of his field goals last season, leading the NFL with 35 made on 37 attempts. Giving him the franchise tag means paying him $4.1 million next season.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins, Tight End (Transition Tag): What is the transition tag? It guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may make with another team. If a player signs a contract after receiving the transition tag, his original team can not use the tag again on any player until the contract has expired. If another club offers a contract to a transitioned player, his original club has seven days to decide whether to match that offer or not. If the original club agrees to match, the player is forced to sign with the original club at the terms agreed to in the offer by the other club. If the original club declines to match, the player signs with the other team, and the original team is offered no compensation, unlike the franchise tag situation (two first round draft picks).
Clay will make $7.07 million on his transition tag, but there’s quite a lot of interest in him around the league. However, that might simmer down now that his price has been named.