Starting Tuesday, NFL teams are allowed to assign the franchise tag to free agents. This is a way for teams to retain would-be free agents for one additional year, with the player’s guaranteed salary averaging out to the top-five salaries at their position, or 120 percent of his salary from 2018.
The Buffalo Bills have turned to the franchise tag only five times since the concept was adopted in 1993, and with a less-than-inspiring pool of candidates this offseason, I don’t expect the Bills to assign the franchise tag this year.
With the retirement of Kyle Williams and the release Friday of Charles Clay, the Bills are left with ten free agents according to Spotrac.
Perusing that list, role players are most prominent. From my viewpoint, there doesn’t appear to be any star players listed, certainly no one who would warrant and justify the high cost associated with the franchise tag.
Of the remaining free agents, Eddie Yarbrough is an exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA), which means he would only hit free agency if Buffalo opts to non-tender him at a salary equivalent to the league-minimum for the player’s age. For that reason, and it’s rare that teams don’t tender their own ERFAs anyway, Yarbrough isn’t a candidate for the franchise tag.
Matt Darr and Logan Thomas are restricted free agents (RFA)—players with exactly three years of NFL service time who can be tendered contracts by their teams, and if they choose to sign a deal with another team, their former club has the right to match the deal or let them go.
That leaves John Miller, Jordan Phillips, Jordan Mills, and Ryan Groy as the best remaining franchise-tag options, but none of those players have done enough with their time in Western New York to deserve the franchise-tag designation. Miller, Mills, and Groy have each had ample opportunities to prove their worth. Outside of a good sophomore year season, Miller has been a disappointment while Mills and Groy have never been any better than average during their time with Buffalo.
That leaves Phillips, who has been a nice depth piece along the interior of the defensive line, but while Phillips’s play was okay in limited time in 2018—19 tackles (two for a loss) with three passes defended. He’s just not worthy of the tag, projected to be a $15.5 million salary.
For the record, here are the players who have received the franchise tag designation in franchise history: OL John Fina, WR Peerless Price, CB Nate Clements, S Jairus Byrd, and OT Cordy Glenn.