The two-week period when NFL teams can use the franchise tag starts today and runs through Tuesday, March 1.
A season ago, five players—Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul and Stephen Gostkowski—received the franchise tag, while one—Charles Clay—got the transition tag. Thomas, Bryant, Houston and Gostkowski later signed multi-year deals before the July deadline, and Clay eventually signed a deal in Buffalo that the Miami Dolphins did not match.
Here are the top candidates to receive the tag in 2016:
LB Von Miller, Denver Broncos
The Super Bowl MVP isn’t going anywhere. If Miller and general manager John Elway can’t agree on a blockbuster deal before next month, the Broncos won’t hesitate to use the tag and extend the negotiating period with the year’s top free agent into July.
CB Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have no interest in losing Norman, a former fifth-round pick who has developed into an All-Pro cornerback for one of the game’s top defenses. The 28-year-old will likely demand a deal in the range of Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Darrelle Revis, who all signed deals with over $40 million guaranteed.
QB Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
There is mutual interest in a long-term deal between Cousins—who is coming off a breakout season—and the NFC East champion Redskins. However, quarterback contracts are always the most difficult, especially for a player with just one good season. The franchise tag at the position is likely to be around $20 million.
OT Cordy Glenn, Buffalo Bills
Left tackles under the age of 30 are worth their weight in gold. Glenn, 26, had his best season in 2015, when the Bills led the NFL in rushing and quarterback Tyrod Taylor produced a career year. Buffalo knows he’ll command a small fortune if he reaches the open market.
WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
Jeffery is the best skill player available in free agency. He’ll likely look at deals signed by Thomas, Bryant and Julio Jones—all worth over $70 million in total money with $40 million in guarantees—as a jumping off point in negotiations. The Bears, who will lose Matt Forte this spring after trading Brandon Marshall last offseason, can’t afford to let Jeffery get away.
DL Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets
The Jets are in a tough spot with Wilkerson, who produced a team-high 12.0 sacks last season but who also broke his leg in the season finale. A disruptive interior defender, he would still be in line to get a huge deal if he reached free agency. The tag might be New York’s only way to keep the 26-year-old for 2016.
S Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
In the span of one year, Berry beat cancer and produced a Pro Bowl season for the playoff-qualifying Chiefs. He’s an amazing story and one heck of a football player. Whether on the tag or a long-term deal, Berry will be staying in Kansas City.
DE Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins
Young pass-rushers as talented as Vernon rarely make it to free agency. The problem for Miami is money. With so many millions already invested in Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, can the Dolphins afford to give Vernon the tag? He’ll be a hot item if he gets to the open market.
K Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
Tucker is the second most accurate kicker in NFL history. He will likely travel a similar path as Gostkowski, who first received the tag before signing the league’s most lucrative deal for a kicker last offseason.