The deadline for NFL teams to slap the franchise tag on players was Tuesday and these players were given the tag: Bucs receiver Chris Godwin, Jets safety Marcus Maye, Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Bears receiver Allen Robinson, Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson, Washington guard Brandon Scherff, Broncos safety Justin Simmons, Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Saints safety Marcus Williams.
Dolphins, Jets Chasing Ex-Packers Pro Bowl Running Back Aaron Jones | 2021 NFL Expert Analysis
That means none of those players will hit free agency and that teams have until mid-July to work out a long-term extension with the players or they must play the 2021 season on the tag. Prescott actually already agreed to a record-setting contract Monday with Dallas but was given the franchise tag for the second year in a row simply as a procedural move.
Arguably the biggest surprise among players not tagged was Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones by the Packers, but then again Green Bay hasn’t used the franchise tag since 2010 – that’s the longest such streak in the NFL.
The Packers still have exclusive negotiating rights with Jones — and the rest of their free agents to be — until Monday, when unrestricted free agents can enter into negotiations with other teams and the team can still try to sign Jones to a long-term deal, but with free agency opening on March 17 it’s more likely that Jones is a goner because he will get more money on the market. Using the franchise tag on Aaron Jones would have cost the Packers about $8 million.
Green Bay essentially signaled that a breakup was brewing when they selected A.J. Dillon in the second round of the 2020 draft and then opted to not apply the franchise tag.
The 2021 NFL salary cap was set on Wednesday for $182.5 million. The official cap is about $500,000 less than what teams were expecting, and a marked drop off from 2020’s cap of $198.2 million. The pandemic and no fans in the stands last year caused the massive drop, but it should go way back up next year with the pandemic likely over and new TV deals kicking in. Some free agents this year could opt for more one-year contracts in hopes of signing more lucrative long-term deals next offseason.
Last season, Jones rushed for a career-high 1,104 yards and added nine touchdowns. He was fantastic catching the ball out of the backfield as well with 47 receptions for 355 yards and two more scores.
Two teams with a ton of cap space and a major need for a No. 1 running back are the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets and they should be considered favorites to sign Jones, who is one of only two players in league history to post 3,000-plus rushing yards (3,364) and 35-plus rushing TDs (37) with an average of 5.00-plus yards per carry (5.17) in their first four seasons in the NFL, joining Jim Brown (1957-60).
Jones ranks No. 3 in the NFL in rushing TDs (25) and tied for No. 2 in total TDs (30) since 2019 and has rushed for 37 TDs since entering the league in 2017, the most in franchise history by a player in his first four seasons in the NFL. Jones was only a fifth-round pick in 2017 out of UTEP.
There already has been reported mutual interest between the Dolphins and Jones. If the Dolphins were to sign Jones, it would provide the team with some added flexibility in the early portions of the 2021 NFL Draft. Miami’s current two top running backs are Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed. Players love living in south Florida and the Dolphins are a team on the rise so that should appeal to Jones. Miami is a +280 second favorite on the NFL odds to win the AFC East next season.
The Jets have even more cap space than the Dolphins and their top running back right now is likely 2020 fourth-round pick La’Mical Perine. The former Florida Gator was healthy for 10 games as a rookie, rushing for 232 yards (3.6 YPC) and two touchdowns as a change-up to Frank Gore.
New York finished last season averaging 105.2 rushing yards per game, 23rd in the NFL. As a team, New York rushed for more than 131 yards in a single game only one time. “The Jets and Aaron Jones to me is a perfect fit,” Hall of Famer Terrell Davis said recently on NFL Network.
- Jones signs with Miami
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