Tuesday represents the first opportunity for the Green Bay Packers to use the franchise or transition tag on players with expiring contracts. General manager Brian Gutekunst has until March 9 to determine if either tag makes sense for the Packers, a team that hasn’t worn a tag since 2010.
Running back Aaron Jones seems like the only viable candidate for either tag.
According to Over the Cap, the franchise tag for running backs will likely cost about $ 8 million in salary cap in 2021, opening up the possibility for the Packers to stick with Jones for another year at a reasonable cost, given his production. and value.
The transition tag would cost even less, although it would provide less protection. While the franchise tag takes the player out of free agency with a guaranteed one-year contract based on the top five salaries at the player’s position, the transition tag allows the player to sign offer sheets with other teams and is only worth the average of the top 10 salaries in the position.
The Packers are tied by the cap, but could get enough cap room to make any tag for Jones, a dynamic playmaker who is fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (3,017) and tied for second in total touchdowns (30) the past two seasons.
The Packers have reportedly offered Jones competitive contract extensions, but have not guaranteed the money needed to complete the deal. If the team is highly motivated to keep Jones without the long-term guaranteed money involved, using the franchise or transition tag could be attractive. Both would limit financial risk for many years, while the franchise tag would ensure that you are in Green Bay in 2021.
The Packers would have to clear cap space first. There are many avenues for Gutekunst to find more space, including the removal of Preston Smith, restructuring contracts for players like Aaron Rodgers and Za’Darius Smith, and a contract extension for Davante Adams. But adding another $ 8 million or so to the bill would complicate the process for the Packers, especially if they want to offer JJ Watt a deal or be competitive with veteran free agents next month.
As of Tuesday, the Packers still need to pay about $ 12 million in salary to get under the $ 180 million minimum limit. That number would rise to $ 20 million with Jones’ franchise label.
The assumption here is that the Packers don’t wear any labels. While it’s a reasonable cost for a dynamic player, $ 8 million is also a big chunk of salary space for a team already struggling to the limit before the start of the new league year. The transition tag might make sense, but it could be a waste of time if the Packers know that Jones will receive competitive multi-year offers in free agency in March.
Additionally, the Packers selected AJ Dillon in the second round last year, providing a cheap starting option as a running back, and if Jones leaves Green Bay in big trouble, they would receive a decent compensatory pick in the 2022 draft.
The Packers simply don’t have the financial wiggle room to put millions in cap space into the running back position.