The Atlanta Falcons have been judicious with their use of the franchise tag, and for good reason. They just haven’t had any potential free agents who were worth the cap hit that comes with slapping the tag on someone.
This season is much the same. The Falcons have a few players that might get signed by other teams in free agency this offseason, but they don’t have anyone who would be considered elite at their position.
The only player leaving the roster that made anywhere close to his franchise tag number last season was Jonathan Babineaux, who cost $5.2 million against the cap last year and the 2013 franchise tag number for defensive tackles was $8.45 million. Babineaux was actually probably overpaid, and he’s likely to get much less on the open market this offseason.
The Falcons have been good about not overusing the tag under GM Thomas Dimitroff. He’s used the tag once, on corner Brent Grimes in 2012. That didn’t turn out how they would have liked, as Grimes was injured in the first week of the season and left for the Miami Dolphins after the year. Not exactly what you want to get out of a $10 million investment.
In some ways the lack of good franchise tag options can be seen as a bad thing. It means that the Falcons have failed to draft well enough to be left with young players on expiring rookie contracts who are among the best at their position. On the other hand, it can mean that the Falcons have done a good job of locking up their best players to long-term deals before they are on the brink of becoming unrestricted free agents.
So far it’s really more of the former, the Falcons haven’t had many good tag candidates. They gave Matt Ryan his big contract before he got to that point, and that was smart so they could avoid tagging their franchise quarterback. The tag will again become an issue if they get to the end of Julio Jones’ rookie deal without re-signing him.
Atlanta has been smart to not overuse the tag in the past, and they don’t have any good candidates to use it on this year either.