NFL free agency 2022: Possible franchise tag players for every team as window opens to retain key players

NFL free agency doesn’t start for a few weeks, yet teams are about to get a head start on their salary cap situation for 2022 and building their roster this offseason. Tuesday was the start for teams to decide whether to place the franchise tag or transition tag on any one of their players for the 2022 season, creating some cap maneuvering around the league. 

Some teams will use the franchise tag right away in the hopes of negotiating a long-term extension with that player in the weeks leading up to free agency. Other teams will wait to the very last minute to decide if any unrestricted free agent is worth the franchise tag, or some teams won’t even use the tag at all. 

Ten players received the franchise tag last season, meaning 31.3% of the league applied the tag on their pending free agents. Whether a long-term extension will be settled with that player will be processed in due time, yet teams will maneuver to keep their key players on the roster for 2022 and beyond. 

Per CBS Sports contributor and former NFL agent Joel Corry, here’s the projected salary for each position for each player that is franchise tagged in 2022 (projections assume salary cap is $208.2 million):







Wide receiver


Defensive end


Defensive tackle




Offensive line




Tight end


Running back




Which players are franchise tag candidates for every team over the next few weeks? Let’s take a look at the unrestricted free agent for each team that could have a franchise tag placed upon them over the next few weeks (no matter the team’s salary cap situation). 

Note: Cap space listed is from our CBS Sports free agent primer

Potential franchise tag player: Zach Ertz (TE)

The Cardinals have a few candidates they could use the franchise tag on, but Ertz is the player they should prioritize based on his position. Since the Cardinals moved to Phoenix in 1988, no tight end who played for the franchise had more catches (56) and yards (573) than Ertz did in a season — and Ertz only played 11 games with the team (was acquired in a midseason trade).

Ertz enjoyed his short stint in Arizona and would actually get a raise if the Cardinals kept the franchise tag salary on him for 2022 (made $8.5 million last season). The Cardinals need to give Kyler Murray all the weapons they can with A.J. Green and Christian Kirk scheduled to hit free agency (and keep him happy). Franchise-tagging Ertz appears to be an easy decision, especially since Arizona is only $813,256 over the cap. 

Potential franchise tag player: Cordarrelle Patterson (RB/WR)

Patterson is the no-brainer franchise tag candidate for the Falcons, if they can designate the Swiss Army knife as a running back. A wide receiver for the first eight years of his career, the four-time All-Pro returner was used primarily as a running back in Atlanta — recording a career-high 153 carries in 2021 (had just 167 career carries prior to last season). 

Patterson rushed for 618 yards and six touchdowns and caught 52 passes for 548 yards and and five touchdowns. His 1,166 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns make that $9.57 million franchise tag salary for a running back a major bargain — if Atlanta can designate the 30-year-old Patterson as one. 

Atlanta is currently $6,611,883 over the cap, but it would be wise to keep Patterson around. 

Potential franchise tag player: DeShon Elliott (S)

The Ravens don’t have too many candidates who deserve the franchise tag, but Elliott would be the player to use it on if necessary. Elliott played just six games this past season before going on injured reserve with a biceps and pectoral injury, recording 23 tackles, a sack and two passes defended with an interception in just six games. 

Baltimore can get Elliott for cheaper, but he’s an impact player when healthy (placed on injured reserve in three of his four seasons). In his healthy season (2020), Elliott started all 16 games and recorded 80 tackles with 2.5 sacks and four passes defensed — and allowed just 58.1% of passes thrown his way to be completed as the primary defender (73.7 rating). 

The Ravens may pass on using the tag this year, even if they are $8,768,345 under the cap. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

There’s no reason for the Bills to tag any of their free agents this offseason. None of their free agents are worth the money placed on a franchise tag, especially since the Bills have to be smart with their money as they are currently $4,758,197 over the cap. 

Isaiah McKenzie is the player worth retaining that’s a free agent, but not at the franchise tag amount. 

Potential franchise tag player: Haason Reddick (OLB)

It’s clear Reddick isn’t a one-year wonder in Arizona, signing a one-year deal with Carolina worth $6 million. Reddick finished with 68 tackles, 11 sacks, two forced fumbles, and 18 quarterbacks hits in 2021 — proving he was worth more than what he was paid. He did have 42 pressures in 2021 (eight fewer than in 2020) and 10 missed tackles, but Reddick showed he was a good pass rusher at 27.

Paying Reddick top dollar in hopes of getting him signed to a long-term extension is worth it for Carolina, especially since he’ll be highly sought after on the open market. The Panthers currently have $16,810,793 in available salary cap space. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The natural move for the Bears would be to tag Allen Robinson again, but last season was a disaster for him and the franchise. Robinson had a career-low 38 catches for 410 yards and one touchdown after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons — needing a fresh start to revitalize his career. 

Chicago would be wise to do the same, even though the Bears are currently $28,649,726 under the cap. 

Potential franchise tag player: Jessie Bates (S) 

Bates is the obvious choice here for Cincinnati — and the player most likely to be tagged during the franchise tag window. One of the top playmakers on Cincinnati’s defense, Bates has emerged as one of the best safeties in the game. A second team All-Pro in 2020, Bates has recorded 408 tackles, 10 interceptions, 35 passes defended, two forced fumbles over his four years in the NFL. As the primary defender in coverage, Bates has allowed just a 58.0 passer rating in his career. 

While Bates didn’t have a 100-tackle season like he did in his first three years, he finished with 88 tackles, one interception, and four passes defensed — all career-lows. He also allowed 30 catches on 38 attempts and three touchdowns, allowing a 94.5 passer rating as the primary defender in coverage. 

Only turning 25 this year, Bates is in line for a huge payday from the Bengals. Placing Bates on the tag prolongs those contract talks to get a long-term deal done — and it helps the Bengals who are currently $57,307,379 under the cap. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Browns have the cap space ($25,008,053) to franchise tag a player, but none of their free agents are worth giving a franchise tag price this offseason. Jadeveon Clowney had nine sacks and 50 pressures opposite Myles Garrett, but the Browns can bring him back for cheaper than $17,859,000. 

Ronnie Harrison is another player worth bringing back, yet isn’t one the Browns don’t necessarily have to tag. Harrison could get $12,911,000 per year if a team overpays for him in free agency, so perhaps Cleveland takes a risk by franchise tagging him. The Browns would be wise to test the open market with Harrison.

Potential franchise tag player: Connor Williams (G)

Paying $16,662,000 for a guard is a risk for the Cowboys, who are currently $21,449,885 over the salary cap. Williams would be worth the investment in order to keep franchise quarterback Dak Prescott intact. Williams is coming off his best season in the NFL, allowing just 10 pressures, 16 hurries, and a sack in 526 pass-blocking snaps this season. 

Given Prescott’s contract, Williams is likely to move on in free agency and get a huge deal. The Cowboys franchise tagging Williams and trying to reach a long-term deal with him wouldn’t be a bad idea. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Broncos could tag Melvin Gordon and pay him $9,570,000 in 2022, slightly higher than his cap number of $8,941,176 this past year. Gordon wouldn’t even be the featured back in 2022 as Javonte Williams is clearly the No. 1 back in Denver. If the Broncos wanted to bring Gordon back, they can do so at a much cheaper rate. 

Kareem Jackson would be another free agent worth considering here, but there’s no reason for the Broncos to pay a safety $12,911,000 heading into his mid-30s. They can get Jackson back at a discounted rate. Denver can use that $38,877,012 in available cap space on a quarterback. 

Potential franchise tag player: Tracy Walker (S)

Walker is a player the Lions have to make sure sticks around in Detroit. Why not franchise him so he avoids the open market and the Lions have a few months to work out a long-term deal?

Capable of playing both safety positions, Walker finished with a career-high 108 tackles with an interception and a sack last season. Walker also had his best season in coverage in 2021, allowing just 60% of his passes to be caught as the primary defender, allowing a 72.9 passer rating to opposing cornerbacks that targeted him with just two touchdowns.

Walker is just 27 years old and improving by the year. He’s a key component of the Lions’ defense going forward. The Lions can afford to keep him around (Detroit is currently $22,738,118 under the cap). 

Potential franchise tag player: Davante Adams (WR)

The Packers are $50,790,970 over the salary cap — and should still franchise tag Adams. This gives Green Bay the option to negotiate a long-term deal with Adams or trade him and receive premium assets for one of the best wide receivers in the game.

If Aaron Rodgers decides to depart and Adams wants to join forces with him, the Packers will receive a nice draft pick or two for the talented wideout. Franchise tagging Adams may be enough to convince Rodgers to stay in Green Bay, so placing the tag on him is a win-win for the Packers. 

Paying Adams $18,419,000 in a year after he caught 123 passes for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns is a no-brainer. Adams doesn’t even turn 30 until December. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

Justin Reid is the only free agent worth paying a premium salary for the Texans (currently $17,926,742 under the cap), but the franchise is still in the midst of a long rebuild. Reid is worth keeping around and would certainly take a $12,911,000 tag. Is that worth it for Houston with so many needs on a roster that is one of the worst in the NFL? 

Until the Texans get the DeShaun Watson situation settled, the franchise tag shouldn’t even be an option. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Colts are $37,377,327 under the salary cap, yet none of their free agents are worth tagging. T.Y. Hilton would have been worth the tag a few years ago, but he had a career-low 23 catches for 331 yards and three touchdowns last season at the age of 32. 

Eric Fisher isn’t worth paying $16,662,000 at left tackle, a position the Colts need to address in free agency. If the Colts settle for another season of Fisher, a $16 million-per-season price tag would be a bad investment. Indianapolis would be wise not to tag any of its free agents. 

Potential franchise tag player: Cam Robinson (T)

The Jaguars tagged Robinson in a surprise move last offseason. Could they do it again? Robinson had his best season as a pro in 2021, allowing just two sacks, 29 pressures, and 24 hurries last year — all career-lows. Robinson played under a $13,754,000 salary as a result of the tag, a number that will only increase to $16,662,000 this year.

Given how hard it is for teams to find a good left tackle, franchise tagging Robinson again isn’t a bad idea — especially since the Jaguars have $59,247,427 in available cap space. 

Potential franchise tag player: Tyrann Mathieu (S)

The Chiefs could easily tag Orlando Brown instead of Mathieu, as both players are equally valuable to this roster. What Mathieu provides to the defense is why Kansas City can’t allow him to hit the open market. 

Mathieu finished with 76 tackles, three interceptions, and three passes defensed last season in earning another Pro Bowl selection. He allowed just a 65.9 passer rating in coverage when targeted as the primary defender, the second-highest for him since 2017. Mathieu is a jack of all trades for the Chiefs secondary, one the defense can’t afford to lose. 

Playing on a cap number of $19,733,334 last year, tagging Mathieu would actually be a pay cut for the Chiefs safety. That’s a win for the franchise is they look to negotiate another deal with the three-time All-Pro safety, even if Kansas City is currently $4,347,359 under the cap. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Raiders have $20,537,443 in available cap space, but none of their free agents are worth placing the tag on. Casey Hayward is the best free agent on the Raiders, a player Las Vegas signed for just $4 million last season. There’s no need to pay a 32-year-old cornerback $17,287,000. 

Las Vegas should sit out the franchise tag deadline. 

Potential franchise tag player: Mike Williams (WR)

Williams will be one of the top free agents on the market, unless the Chargers decide to place the tag on him in hopes of signing him to a long-term deal. Williams had a career year in Los Angeles, catching a career-high 76 passes for 1,146 yards while also finishing with nine touchdowns. 

A favorite of Justin Herbert, the Chargers would be wise to keep Williams in the fold for the next several years. With $56,298,356 available in salary cap space, giving Williams $18,419,000 for 2022 while trying to negotiate a long-term deal would be a wise move. 

Potential franchise tag player: Von Miller (EDGE)

Placing the tag on Miller doesn’t appear to be in the cards for the Rams, as they are currently $14,098,914 over the salary cap. Miller probably isn’t worth $17,859,000 in 2022, but his value to the Rams’ defensive line may be worth the price. 

Miller became his dominant self once again in Los Angeles, recording 31 tackles, five sacks, eight quarterback hits, and 12 tackles for loss in eight regular-season games with the Rams. Including the playoffs, Miller’s 19 tackles for loss since Week 10 led the NFL, and finished with nine sacks in 12 games. 

Turning 33 years old later this year, paying Miller franchise tag money might be worth the investment if the Rams can reach a long-term deal with him. They can get him cheaper on the open market — if Los Angeles wants Miller to get there. 

Potential franchise tag player: Mike Gesicki (TE)

Gesicki getting tagged wouldn’t be too far-fetched, especially since he recorded a career-high in catches (73) and yards (780) in 2021 — despite only having two touchdowns. The Dolphins have $63,806,417 in available cap space, so paying Gesicki $10,931,000 isn’t going to hurt building the roster.

Tua Tagovailoa needs all the pass-catching help he can get — and Gesicki is a reliable target. Gesicki has the fifth-most receiving yards for a tight end over the last three years, and is just 26. The best may be yet to come. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Vikings have some candidates to be tagged, even though Patrick Peterson and Anthony Barr aren’t the Pro Bowl players they once were. For a team that’s currently $15,335,779 over the salary cap, tagging a 31-year-old cornerback or a 29-year-old linebacker (Barr turns 30 in March) wouldn’t be in the best interest of the franchise. 

Peterson allowed a 70.1 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks as the primary defender, but it’s not worth paying him $17,287,000 in 2022 for a player the Vikings could easily move on from this offseason. Barr may not be in the long-term plans either. 

Potential franchise tag player: J.C. Jackson (CB)

Jackson has been a star for the Patriots since arriving in the NFL four years ago. He has 25 interceptions in his first four seasons, tied for the second-most for a defensive player in the Super Bowl era. Jackson had his best season in New England in 2021, recording eight interceptions and a league-high 23 passes defended last year. 

One of the best cover corners in the game, the Patriots need to place the $17,287,000 tag on Jackson and try to work out a long-term deal. Jackson allowed just a 32.6 passer rating when being targeted as the primary defender last year — he’s worth the investment. 

Potential franchise tag player: Marcus Williams (S)

If the Saints could tag Williams, they absolutely would. The problem is the franchise currently sits at $75,993,406 over the salary cap. For New Orleans to franchise tag any player, the Saints would have to clear over $90 million in cap space — a very hard task. 

Williams is worth keeping around on an excellent defense, especially after having 74 tackles, two interceptions, and a forced fumble last season. He allowed just a 37.5 passer rating when targeted as the primary defender, while being targeted just 16 times. 

Williams did play on the franchise tag last season — and the Saints could certainly try it again if they get creative with the salary cap. The safety seems set for a massive payday somewhere. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Giants don’t have any free agents who are worth placing the tag on, nor do they currently have the cap space to make such a commitment. New York is $11,309,020 over the cap, and needs to rebuild the offensive line and reshape the defense in the coming weeks. 

New York should sit franchise tag season out in the first offseason of the Joe Schoen era. They’ll be roster cuts before retaining players. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Jets tagged Marcus Maye last season in the hopes of reaching a long-term deal with the safety. That didn’t happen, as Maye declined an extension offer from the franchise and played on the tag. Maye’s agent wanted a trade from New York — which didn’t happen — and the safety ruptured his Achilles in November which ended his season. 

Maye and the Jets may be too far apart for the organization to tag him again, but it would be wise for New York to mend fences with the 28-year-old safety and bring him back. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Eagles have no unrestricted free agents who should get the franchise tag. Derek Barnett — their first-round pick from 2017 — had a bad year playing with a salary of $10.05 million last year. Philadelphia certainly isn’t paying an edge rusher $17,859,000 that had just two sacks and 11 quarterback hits in 2021. 

The Eagles need to improve the pass rush and have the cap space — along with three first-round picks to do it. There’s no reason to use the tag this offseason. 

Potential franchise tag player: None

The Steelers likely won’t be using the tag on any of their free agents, even with the $31,206,582 in available cap space. Pittsburgh needs to figure out the quarterback situation this offseason, so there’s no reason to give soon-to-be 33-year-old Joe Haden $17,287,000 next season in hopes of reaching a long-term deal. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster will also likely be moving on from the Steelers, so there’s no reason to use the tag on him either. This offseason is a good one to use the reset button for Pittsburgh. 

Potential franchise tag player: Laken Tomlinson (LG)

Do the 49ers decide to pay Tomlinson $16,662,000 in 2022 after a Pro Bowl season? Tomlinson was one of the top guards in the league last year, allowing just two sacks and 23 pressures in 565 pass-blocking snaps. He’s been a mainstay for the 49ers’ offensive line — missing just one game in five seasons with the team. 

Tomlinson is a top priority for San Francisco this offseason, and the 49ers could reach a long-term deal with him. Tagging Tomlinson would prevent him from hitting the open market, one which he certainly would be getting a massive deal in free agency. 

San Francisco is currently $4,478,456 over the cap, but that will clear up once the 49ers decide to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers will have room to keep a talented roster intact. 

Potential franchise tag player: Rashaad Penny (RB)

The Seahawks should seriously consider tagging Penny after his finish to the season in 2021, showcasing how dominant Penny can be when healthy. Penny finished his 2021 season with 119 carries for 749 yards and six touchdowns — leading the NFL with 6.3 yards per carry. In the final five games, Penny had 92 carries for 671 yards and six touchdowns — an incredible 7.3 yards per carry. 

Seattle’s offense averaged 31.2 points per game and went 3-3 in Penny’s six starts, giving Russell Wilson immense help in the backfield down the stretch. With Chris Carson and his injury history, the Seahawks need Penny’s explosiveness to take the pressure off Wilson. 

Paying Penny $9,570,000 and trying to work out a short-term deal is certainly worth the tag, especially when the Seahawks have $36,443,530 in available cap space. 

Potential franchise tag player: Chris Godwin (WR)

While it’s highly unlikely the Buccaneers tag Godwin again given their cap situation (currently $3,075,110 under the cap), the Super Bowl window isn’t necessarily over in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers need another wide receiver to pair with Mike Evans after the Antonio Brown fallout — and Godwin has been more than reliable in Tampa Bay. 

Godwin finished with 98 catches for 1,103 yards and five touchdowns in just 14 games, his second 1,000-yard season in three years. Injuries have caused Godwin to miss games, but he’ll be one of the top wideouts available if he hits the open market. 

Paying $18,419,000 for a soon-to-be 26-year-old wide receiver as accomplished as Godwin seems to be a bargain, even though it’s unlikely Tampa Bay uses the tag this year. 

Potential franchise tag player: Harold Landry (EDGE)

Landry had a career year for the Titans, establishing himself as one of the best pass rushers in football. Finishing with a career-high 75 tackles, 12 sacks, and 22 quarterback hits, Landry earned his first Pro Bowl appearance after four seasons in the league. Landry also recorded a career-high 57 pressures and will be one of the best pass rushers on the open market at 25 years old. 

The Titans are $7,236,578 over the cap, so they may pass on tagging Landry and focus on improving other positions on the roster. Landry would be worth keeping around at a price tag of $17,859,000, given his best years are yet to come and he’s blossoming into an elite pass rusher. Perhaps Tennessee can land a long-term deal with Landry. 

Washington Commanders 

Potential franchise tag player: Brandon Scherff (RG)

Washington has given Scherff the franchise tag two years in a row. Would the Commanders actually place the tag on the five-time Pro Bowl guard for a third consecutive year? The Commanders have the cap space to pay Scherff again ($31,899,739) and he’s their only free agent worth retaining. 

One of Washington’s top priorities should be to keep Scherff and finally reach a long-term deal with him, but the Commanders have been unsuccessful for two years at an extension. The Commanders could try again, but perhaps it’s best for the 30-year-old Scherff to hit the open market. 

Scherff allowed just 18 pressures and two quarterback hits in 2021, with zero sacks. He’s going to get a big contract in free agency. 

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