Two NFL teams still have unfinished business this season (a Super something or another), but most of the league has already turned its attention to 2023. To righting the ship. Getting back to the playoffs. Making a run at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.
One of the first orders of business for teams as they head into the offseason will be deciding whether to place the franchise tag on an impending free agent. Doing so all but guarantees that the player isn't going anywhere; even the non-exclusive tag nets a team two first-round picks if a tagged player signs elsewhere and the tagging team chooses not to match an offer sheet.
However, the tag isn't cheap—a fully guaranteed one-year deal for the average of the top-five salaries at the position over the last five years. In 2023, that means anywhere from $5.4 million for special teams players to $32.4 million for quarterbacks.
There is no shortage of potential candidates for the franchise tag in 2023, including three quarterbacks for teams that made the playoffs last season. Here's a look at some of the biggest names, including a prediction as to who could be tagged, who could be in line for a long-term deal and who might just be due for a change of scenery.
Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson
The 2023 offseason will be dominated by one player—one guy whose name will loom large above all others until a decision is made regarding his future.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the prevailing wisdom at last week's Senior Bowl was that Jackson would receive a franchise tag that would pay him about $32.4 million in 2023. And at least one AFC executive believes that tag could create some hard feelings.
"It could become a standoff, because I wouldn't expect him to sign the tag for a while," the executive told Fowler. "And they will be so far apart in the guaranteed money."
On one hand, a healthy Jackson is arguably the most difficult player in the league to defend. The two-time Pro Bowler and the NFL's MVP in 2019 is the only quarterback in NFL history to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in a season more than once.
But Jackson has spent five games in each of the last two seasons watching from the sidelines with an injury and hasn't thrown 20 touchdown passes since 2020 because of his injury woes.
Furthermore, ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported last fall that Jackson has already turned down a $250 million extension that included $133 million in guarantees.
Jackson reportedly wants a fully guaranteed deal similar to what the Browns gave Deshaun Watson. It's highly unlikely that the Ravens want to make that kind of financial commitment to a player who has missed 10 games in the past two years, but it's even less likely that the Ravens will let Jackson anywhere near the open market.
That leaves the franchise tag—hurt feelings or not.
Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith
There may not be a player in the NFL who made himself more money this past year than Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith. At this point one year ago, Smith was a bridge starter for the Seahawks—a one-year stopgap until the Seahawks could draft a quarterback of the future.
Now, after throwing for a career-high 4,282 yards, pacing the NFL in completion percentage and being named a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year, the 32-year-old Smith is in line to hit the proverbial jackpot.
While at the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas last week, Smith told reporters that he's confident an extension will be worked out in relatively short order.
"We've had talks, and we're in the process of getting all that settled right now," Smith said. "It's looking very good. We think we can get some things done, but obviously those things take time. This is the process that I hate about the NFL because I just want to play football, but it's a business as well, so we've got to take care of business, and then we'll get back to the football."
Frankly, a compelling argument can be made for slapping the franchise tag on Smith. His play in 2022 was great, but it was also an outlier. Prior to last year, Smith had made all of five starts over seven seasons from 2015 to 2021. Tagging Smith would force him to demonstrate that last year wasn't a fluke.
But as Michael-Shawn Dugar wrote for the Athletic, the Seahawks have made extending Smith the team's top offseason priority.
And provided that Smith is at all reasonable about his new salary, that deal will get done.