Football season is so close you can smell it. But before opening their training camps, some teams have to handle some unfinished business.
The deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to a multi-year contract is coming up on Monday, July 15 at 4 p.m. ET. After that point, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his club for the 2019 season, and the deal cannot be extended until after the team’s last regular-season game.
Players may sign the tender at any point after officially being tagged. Until the tender is inked, the team can rescind the franchise or transition tag. Once the sheet is signed, the player’s salary is guaranteed for that season. If a player does not sign the tender, they remain without a contract, and therefore are not subject to fine schedules for skipping offseason workouts (as we saw with Bell last year). A player who has not signed the tender can also not be traded.
This offseason, six players were handed the franchise tag. Of those six, two were traded and signed to extensions by their new teams (Chiefs DE Frank Clark, 49ers LB Dee Ford); one signed his franchise tag (Falcons DT Grady Jarrett); and one got the long-term deal he was looking for (Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence).
That leaves just two footballers who were offered the franchise tag but whose futures remain unknown (Texans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and 49ers kicker Robbie Gould) and one who signed the tag and could still sign a long pact (Jarrett).
Jadeveon Clowney, DE/LB, Texans: Clowney was offered the $15.967 million tag on March 4, but has yet to sign it. Houston’s former first-overall pick has been angling for a long-term extension the whole offseason, and his future has been a point of contention in the Texans‘ front office. How Clowney’s situation was being handled was reportedly a reason why Brian Gaine was fired as Texans general manager last month. Houston is proceeding as if it won’t hire a GM for the 2019 season, as it waits out Nick Caserio’s expiring contract in New England. That could affect the Texans‘ negotiations with Clowney.
Also affecting Clowney’s status with Houston is his history with injuries; over his first five seasons, Clowney played 62 of a possible 80 games, recording 29 sacks and 67 QB hits and logging three Pro Bowl campaigns. He’s been well above average, but perhaps not as consistently dominant as a Demarcus Lawrence or Khalil Mack.
As of this week, reports out of Houston indicated talks were not active. Meanwhile, Clowney has not attended any of Houston’s offseason activities and likely won’t be a major participant in training camp, especially if he chooses not to sign the tag until right before the season.
If he signs the franchise tag, Clowney would carry the fourth-highest cap hit in 2019 among edge rushers behind Von Miller ($25.1M), Melvin Ingram ($19.6M) and Chandler Jones ($19.5M). That seems unlikely until we get closer to the start of the season.
Robbie Gould, K, 49ers: This is a weird one. Rare is it that a kicker gets franchise-tagged, and even rarer that the kicker says, Uhh, no thanks. But that’s the situation in San Francisco.
The 49ers offered Gould, last season’s most accurate field-goal kicker, the $4.971 million franchise tag on Feb. 26 and he has yet to sign it. If Gould were to agree to the tag, he would the highest-paid kicker in football in 2019. But he has other things on his mind.
Gould, 37, has said repeatedly this offseason that he is unsure that playing for the 49ers in 2019 is best for him and his family. The kicker reportedly requested a trade in April, fueling speculation that the former Bears booter was seeking a return to the franchise, which recently has had its fair share of placekicking problems. Gould said this week that while he never explicitly said he wanted to return to Chicago, “I just said I want to be closer to my family.”
The veteran kicker also said he was not going to commit to a decision before Monday’s deadline, meaning he’s unlikely to sign the tag before then.
This standoff could continue deep into August and perhaps the season.
Grady Jarrett, DT, Falcons: Jarrett signed his $15.209 million franchise tag on April 22. If he stays on the tag, Jarrett will carry the third-highest cap hit in 2019 among defensive tackles, behind Aaron Donald ($17.1M) and Kawann Short ($17M), both of whom signed major extensions in the last two years.
The 26-year-old attended Atlanta’s mandatory minicamp in June, along with receiver Julio Jones, after not participating in any previous offseason activities. As the only player left to have signed the tag and not received a long-term deal, Jarrett could still ink a long-term extension by Monday’s deadline.
If Jarrett does not secure an extension on Monday, then Atlanta will not be able to sign him to a long-term contract until the season is over.