NFL Free Agency 2017: Ranking the 7 Franchised Players

Seven players received the franchise tag in 2017 NFL free agency, but not all are on equal ground. We rank every player and their long-term deal.

The deadline for NFL teams to tag a franchise player was 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday afternoon. After a rolling start to the process, we saw seven teams use their franchise tag to start 2017 NFL free agency: the Arizona Cardinals on Chandler Jones, the Carolina Panthers on Kawann Short, the Pittsburgh Steelers on Le’Veon Bell, the New York Giants on Jason Pierre-Paul, the Washington Redskins on Kirk Cousins, the San Diego Chargers on Melvin Ingram, and the Los Angeles Rams on Trumaine Johnson.

Which player would you sign first, and how do you rank all seven men? Every franchise tag is unique and no two positions are created equal. We rank them all, laying the ground work for free agency.

Two brothers from New York, Dan Salem and Todd Salem, discuss NFL Free Agency 2017 in today’s NFL Sports Debate.

Todd Salem:

None of the seven moves were surprises; in fact, they were all expected. What happens now is more interesting. How many (if any) of these guys will be able to sign long-term with their team? The deadline to agree to a new contract is much further down the line. The two sides have until July to have the player avoid playing under the franchise tag.

But not every tagged player is created equal and not every team wants their guy on a long-term deal. The franchise tag is a tool—some teams use it to bide time, while others use it to trap an unwilling participant. If you had to rank the seven franchised players in terms of who you would want long-term, what is the order? Here’s mine:

7. Jason Pierre-Paul
To me, he is easily last. Even beyond his fireworks accident that cost him much of a season, he missed a quarter of last season after requiring muscle surgery. He isn’t a bad player by any means, but this is a loaded list, and JPP is the guy I feel most uncertain about moving forward.

6. Trumaine Johnson
Johnson was one of the best corners in the NFL in 2015, playing alongside Janoris Jenkins. Not playing alongside Jenkins in 2016, he was still good, but no longer spectacular. I don’t know exactly what to make of that quite yet. I’d want to give him another year, as the Rams have, but would be concerned about paying him as my No. 1 corner for extended years beyond.

5. Kirk Cousins
There is no injury or production concern with Cousins. The problem is, are we sure his level of production is worthy of a long-term deal as a franchise quarterback? That would feel like a sideways move if it happened.

4. Le’Veon Bell
This is where things get tricky. Bell has had a history of injuries and suspensions that have sapped him of games repeatedly. When he’s on the field, he is the best running back in the NFL. He isn’t always on the field, though. And besides, I hate to pay running backs long-term.

3. Chandler Jones
There probably isn’t anything here, but there were lingering character concerns about Jones that caused New England to trade him, even besides his expiring contract. Maybe this is silly, but the fact that the Patriots wanted to trade him makes me warier than if another team had made the same move. Otherwise, Jones would be No. 1 on this list.

2. Kawann Short
Both Short and Ingram are tremendous talents at their respective positions. However, Short is a year older and plays inside, while Ingram is an edge rusher. The former is slightly less valuable in that regard. He also wasn’t as good last year as he was the year before, which opens the door for a continuous decline, though I don’t believe that is a legitimate worry.

1. Melvin Ingram
Maybe you would want to see a larger sample of elite production, but a versatile edge rusher in his prime is enough to make me want to negotiate a long-term contract.

Dan Salem:

I fully believe that all seven teams want to keep their players for next season, but in terms of what will and won’t happen, nothing is for certain. Its unlikely all sign long-term and plausible that a few get traded. Ranking who I’d want to give a multi-year deal to is more complex than you made it seem. I must consider both the level of player, as well as the other available options at his position. As usual, this helps our quarterback immensely.

7. Jason Pierre-Paul
His more advanced age and injury history are scary. I’m comfortable paying him for next season, but locking him up for anything longer than two years is a commitment I’m afraid to make. The odds of JPP getting hurt again vastly outweigh the likelihood of him playing at a Pro Bowl level for all 16 games.

6. Chandler Jones
Being traded by the Patriots is a red flag. They usually jettison players a year early, meaning the Cardinals are safe giving Jones a two to three year deal with options. Edge rushers are certainly a hot commodity, but we also find another on this very list. That makes Jones less valuable in my mind.

5. Trumaine Johnson
The cornerback position no longer feels particularly deep, making Johnson’s value that much higher. But I too am concerned about his ability to dominate on a consistent basis. Was he a product of the defense around him? We don’t yet know.

4. Kawann Short
His decline last season is hard to quantify, because the Panthers were bad overall. I don’t put a ton of stock in it, making Short well worth a long-term deal. His position is less of a hot commodity, pushing him back in my list.

3. Kirk Cousins
I really like Cousins and his value has never been higher. There just aren’t other quarterbacks that combine his youth and play into an available package. He is easily the missing piece for defensive minded teams or those with under-utilized offensive weapons. I’d rank Cousins higher, but his playmaking ability is not up to the level of my top two.

2. Le’Veon Bell
When Bell is on the field he is a game changing talent. Having him for 12 or 14 games is better than not having him at all. A team will easily get two to four more great seasons out of him, considering Bell hasn’t played a full year in quite some time. His position is just slightly less valuable than Ingram’s, hence the No. 2 spot.

1. Melvin Ingram
Nothing beats an edge rusher and Ingram has been outstanding. Lock him up now before other teams start throwing money at him in free agency. It always happens, so you can’t let Ingram get away.

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