Tuesday’s NFL deadline for placing the franchise or transition tags on pending free agents passed without Philadelphia using either designation despite having a host of marquee free agents like safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, and cornerback James Bradberry.
The Eagles last used the franchise tag as a placeholder in 2012 with DeSean Jackson and did the same thing the year prior with Michael Vick but worked out long-term deals in both instances and haven’t had someone play under the tag since L.J. Smith in 2008.
The issue is the entire one-year deal counts under the salary cap for the upcoming season while longer deals allow the guaranteed money to be spread out over multiple years, something that helps in salary-cap management.
There were some whispers that the Eagles would consider the strategic approach with Gardner-Johnson and place the one-year franchise tag on the emerging safety which is $14.46 million.
Once you place the tag on a player, however, you need to fit that money under the cap by the start of the new league year which begins on March 15. For the Eagles that would also mean subsequent moves because they start the process with a little under $4M in cap space.
The franchise tag for defensive tackles is $18.9M and cornerbacks are at $18.1M so using the tag on Hargrave or Bradberry would have been even more expensive than Gardner-Johnson.
Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman has noted publicly on two occasions that the Eagles expect to lose a number of players in free agency and gain 2024 compensatory picks down the road.
“Are we going to get all the free agents back? We’re just not,” Roseman said most recently at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We’re not capable of getting all those guys back, but we also understand we’re in a good situation in terms of picks that we have going forward. We have a lot of guys under contract, not only for this year, but going forward. We’re not going to make excuses for the position we’re in.”
The Eagles are expected to start creating more cap space by reworking deals for Lane Johnson and Darius Slay and will need it with nearly 20 players set to hit the open market, a list that also includes Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Isaac Seumalo, Miles Sanders, T.J. Edwards, Kyzir White, and Marcus Epps.
As for the Eagles’ NFC East rivals, all three used the franchise tag. After working out a long-term deal with quarterback Daniel Jones, the New York Giants used their tag on running back Saquon Barkley, while the Dallas Cowboys used it on RB Tony Pollard, and the Washington Commanders tagged DT Daron Payne.