The window for the Atlanta Falcons and the rest of the league to use the franchise tag has opened. This is especially interesting for Atlanta considering the consistent connection to Lamar Jackson who is likely to be tagged and signed long-term by Baltimore and Atlanta’s pending free agent Kaleb McGary
McGary was thought to be easily replaceable a season ago after struggling to protect Matt Ryan and often getting beaten in pass protection. The Falcons passed on McGary’s fifth-year option expecting the struggles to continue.
Kaleb defied expectations in year two with Arthur Smith taking a huge leap forward as both a run blocker and in pass protection. McGary deserves so much credit for how valuable he proved to be in the run scheme and how much improvement the right tackle showed in the final year of his rookie deal.
The options now for Atlanta are to either tag McGary and work out a long-term deal or allow the tackle to hit free agency and risk losing one of their starting linemen. Atlanta either needs to tag McGary or attempt to replace him in the draft.
Tagging McGary would tie up around $18 million as Atlanta heads into free agency. The Falcons could almost match this number by cutting Casey Hayward and Marcus Mariota keeping both McGary and their cap space.
If the Falcons tag McGary the team could view the franchise tag as a prove-it deal forcing McGary to show consistency after three years of struggles followed by one good year. Tagging McGary doesn’t require a long-term deal, however, it would be the best-case scenario for both McGary and Atlanta’s cap space. Atlanta will have until March 7th to exercise the tag or attempt to find another long-term answer in either the draft or free agency.