This past offseason, 14 different players ended up getting franchise tagged across the NFL. Twelve of them ultimately played the 2020 campaign under the tender and Washington right guard Brandon Scherff was one of them.
This year, we could see a similar number of players tagged, especially considering many team's reluctance to shell out long-term deals to players with the salary cap situation still in flux.
Stars like Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Justin Simmons and several others all could be franchise tagged before the March 9 deadline. Some teams, like Tampa Bay with Chris Godwin and Shaq Barrett, could have to choose between a number of different players as to whom to tag.
Washington is not one of those teams, though. Here's why...
Let's begin with Scherff, who played the 2020 season under the franchise tag and has yet to sign a long-term deal. Washington won't just let him walk, right?
Well, consider this. Should Scherff play under the tag for a second consecutive season, his salary would be around $18 million. That figure would make Scherff the league's highest-paid guard in 2021, something he's likely seeking with a new deal, anyway.
That $18 million is a number Washington would like to avoid, especially with the salary cap shrinking by nearly 10 percent this season due to financial losses from the pandemic.
By signing Scherff to a long-term deal, one that gives the guard more guaranteed money and job security moving forward, Washington likely would only have to pay Scherff around $15 million on an annual basis. For reference, Pro Football Focus predicts Scherff will re-sign with Washington on a four-year, $60 million ($15 million APY) with $37.5 million guaranteed and $25 million at signing.
That contract would benefit both parties a lot more than having him return on the franchise tag, which is why Washington is reportedly motivated to come to terms on an extension prior to the franchise tag deadline.
Let's say Washington does sign Scherff to a long-term extension. Is there another player Ron Rivera and his staff would consider tagging?
While it's not known for sure, the answer likely is -- and should be -- a resounding no.
The truth of the matter is that besides Scherff, Washington does not have a single-player entering free agency that will likely sign a long-term, big-money deal elsewhere, one that would warrant Washington using the tag to keep otherwise.
Earlier this month, NBC Sports Washington's Pete Hailey wrote this piece that listed all of Washington's pending free agents. Outside of cornerback Ronald Darby, who impressed on a one-year deal in 2020, none of Washington's free-agents-to-be seems that imperative to re-sign. And, while Darby was solid in 2020, he certainly doesn't warrant -- nor will he receive -- top cornerback money that he would earn under the franchise tag.
In most cases around the league, the franchise tag is placed on a player who is coming off their respective rookie contract. Of course, there are exceptions, with Allen Robinson in Chicago or Shaq Barrett in Tampa Bay as two potential examples. But for the most part, players that are tagged are the ones seeking their first major big-money deal.
Washington simply does not have any of those players on its current roster. While much has been made about Washington's recent first-round draft pick success along the defensive line, the team whiffed on many second- and third-round picks in 2016 and 2017, players who would be in consideration for the tag had they performed well.
Linebacker/edge rusher Ryan Anderson was a 2017 second-round pick by Washington in 2017. Four years later, he barely cracked the rotation. And 2017 third-rounder Fabian Moreau has played limited snaps throughout his entire time in Washington. Both will hit the open market and likely play football in 2020 elsewhere.
Its 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson flamed out after three disappointing years in Washington and is currently out of the league. Washington's second-round pick that year, safety Su'a Cravens, is out of the NFL, too.
In 2016, Washington drafted two gems in the middle rounds, Kendall Fuller and Matt Ioannidis. Both are already on their second contracts. Fuller was traded to Kansas City after two seasons but re-signed with Washington last March for four years. Ioannidis inked a three-year extension in May of 2019 and is entering the final year of that deal.
For 2017's draft hits, late-rounder Chase Roullier signed a second contract, a four-year extension, with the team in December. And, first-rounder Jonathan Allen had his fifth-year option picked up last May so he's also under contract for next season, too.
Outside of Scherff, Washington doesn't have a pending free agent on its roster that's shown enough to be franchise tagged. Tagging a player is an expensive investment, even if it's only for one season, and almost every single free agent Washington has will ultimately sign a deal for less money than the tag would have paid them.
So, unless Washington shifts gears with Scherff and tags him again, the organization won't be using the franchise tag on any player this offseason.