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Feb 23, 2021

Friday, Feb 26, 2021 - 04:53:27

Playing tag is no kids game for NFL teams

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NFL teams could begin playing tag on Monday, and it’s no kids’ game for the 32 teams.

Applying franchise and even transition tags to players can have major ramifications on a team’s present and future. That was never more of a consideration than this year, with the salary cap decreasing for now by $18 million.

That’s the first time the cap has gone down, which is due to lost revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It has always gone up,” says Bill Polian, a Pro Football Hall of Fame executive. “So have the expectations of the players and agents. This is the first time this is not happening. That is a sea change.”

While this mini-tidal wave likely is only for the upcoming season — the league’s broadcast deals should be solidified soon and will bolster future caps — it certainly could have a significant impact.

Consider the Super Bowl champs. The Buccaneers don’t relish losing the likes of linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David, wide receiver Chris Godwin, running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski or defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Look for one of them, probably sackmaster Barrett or dynamic pass catcher Godwin, to get tagged for a one-year, guaranteed contract. Barrett was a franchise player in 2020 and would get about $19 million if tagged again. Godwin would get nearly $16 million.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians said after winning the NFL title that the team would find ways to keep key players. It will take some financial imagination.

“I’m very, very confident,” Arians said. “I have all the trust in the world in (GM Jason Licht) and what he will do. There will be dollars involved, but I think this group is so close that sometimes dollars don’t matter. But we’re going to do everything we can to get the dollars right, too.”

The biggest name — if not the best player — who might wind up tagged is Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. His ankle injury early last season muddled the picture in Dallas, but the team insists Prescott is the guy, even if it means a second straight franchise player designation — at nearly $38 million.

Polian, now an analyst for SiriusXM NFL Radio, notes that the higher-end players rarely reach total freedom.

“The ‘A’ players don’t get to free agency,” he says. “So what is out there on the market, even in this untoward year, are going to be ‘B’ players looking for ‘A’ players’ money.”

Others positions and who could wind up tagged:

RUNNING BACK

Aaron Jones, Packers — Tagging runners sometimes seems wise because long-term contracts at such a punishingly physical position aren’t attractive for teams. Jones is a very attractive guy for the Packers because of his versatility, production, age (26) and strong relationship with MVP Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay doesn’t have much cap room, though, and the franchise tag will be approximately $11 million.

WIDE RECEIVER

Kenny Golladay, Lions — The $15.81 million cost as of now isn’t prohibitive for this team. Golladay is a genuine No. 1 wideout and would get plenty of attention on the open market. New QB Jared Goff had a talented group of targets in Los Angeles and sure could benefit from Golladay sticking around.

Allen Robinson, Bears — When healthy, Robinson is a stud. Like Golladay, he would be coveted as a free agent, and he’s in his prime at 27. The uncertain quarterback situation in Chicago makes it likely Robinson leaves if he doesn’t get tagged.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon, Ravens — A pair of solid, sometimes dynamic defenders, and one of them probably will leave. Judon was tagged in 2020, so he would be due at least $20 million for next season.

Leonard Williams, Giants — The 2015 first-round pick by the Jets has found a home and his game with the other New York team. The Giants have professed their strong desire to keep Williams. Coming off his best year, he could get tagged a second straight time.

LINEBACKERS

Haason Reddick, Cardinals — This is a difficult one because Reddick was mediocre in his previous seasons before being moved outside and flourishing. Was it an aberration or is Reddick the real thing for Arizona? Paying him about $14.5 million for one season to find out might be worth it.

Pittsburgh Steelers

LB Bud Dupree, Steelers — Pittsburgh’s tag went to Dupree last year and he would cost $19 million in ’21 for a team so cash strapped it is pondering not bringing back Ben Roethlisberger for one more season. Dupree figures to move on.

___

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Tags: a’ players a second straight franchise player the first time and would get one of them million he would be

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Rangers on having fans back at MSG: Itll be exciting

More On: new york rangers It will be ‘months’ before Henrik Lundqvist decides on his NHL future How Rangers are coping with Artemi Panarin saga Rangers center nearing return in badly needed boost COVID becomes bigger Rangers concern with another added to protocol list

It’s been 326 days since the Rangers last heard the vivacious cheers from their fans at the Garden, but that silent streak will end Friday night.

There will be roughly 2,000 fans allowed inside for the first of three games with tickets available to the public amid the coronavirus pandemic, with priority going to season-ticket holders. Those attending will have to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the game and will be seated in socially distanced “pods.”

“It’ll be exciting,” coach David Quinn said after practice Thursday. “It’s been strange because we’ve actually been getting used to playing in front of nobody, so I don’t care if there’s 15 or 1,500 people in the building, it’s going to be nice to have people there cheering you on. I know our guys are excited about it.

“As excited as these people are to get in the building, we’re more excited to have them in the building. It’s such a historic venue, but when you put people in it, it just makes it that much more enjoyable.”

Rangers coach David QuinnAP

Defenseman Adam Fox said playing in the Toronto bubble during the expanded playoffs last season was more of an adjustment than playing in front of no fans this year. He said he believed the team had started to get used to it, but is excited to welcome fans back into the building.

“It’s great, I’ve got some family coming to the game too, so obviously being from New York, it’s always special to play at the Garden with fans and for the guys to have even some family there I’m sure it’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s been a long time and we miss the fans at the Garden, so definitely excited to have them there.”

Quinn said he doesn’t have a timeline on for the return of Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller from the COVID-19 protocol list, but noted that defenseman Jacob Trouba (broken thumb) has been making progress.

As for Artemi Panarin, who has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the team amid a political scandal in his home country of Russia, Quinn said there is still no timeline on their star winger’s return.

“Bread’s situation is still fluid, so we’re not sure when that’s going to get resolved and when he’s going to get back,” he said. “There’s just a lot of unknowns in those instances.”

Alexandar Georgiev is set to start in goal Friday against the Bruins, which will mark just his second start in the past six games.

Filed under adam fox ,  artemi panarin ,  david quinn ,  kandre miller ,  kaapo kakko ,  new york rangers ,  2/25/21

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