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2017 franchise-tag predictions for all 32 NFL teams

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Bell contract is a 'complicated negotiation' (0:52)

Dan Graziano joins SportsCenter to explain how the Steelers' long-term contract talks with Le'Veon Bell are muddled by his history of injuries and suspensions. (0:52)

On Wednesday, NFL teams can begin placing franchise tags on their most valuable free agents. Each team has until 4 p.m. ET on March 1 to designate a franchise player. To read more about how the franchise tag works, read Kevin Seifert's story.

NFL Nation reporters predict which teams will use the franchise tag and which players are most likely to be tagged.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

The only realistic candidate for the Bills' franchise tag is cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The tag is expected to cost about $15 million, which could be too rich for a defense that already has devoted big money to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and defensive end Jerry Hughes. If the Bills decide to keep quarterback Tyrod Taylor this offseason at a $15.9 million cap number in 2017, they might not have the salary-cap space to assign the franchise tag to Gilmore. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Miami doesn't have any legitimate candidates for the franchise tag. The only player who comes remotely close is wide receiver Kenny Stills, who led the team in touchdown catches (nine) and yards per reception (17.3). Stills will get interest from the Dolphins and elsewhere if he hits the open market, but it won't be anywhere near the top salaries at his position, which is what the franchise tag commands. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

It's a high tag at nearly $15 million, but there would be some level of surprise if the Patriots don't use it on linebacker Dont'a Hightower should the sides be unable to reach a long-term deal. Hightower's second-half performance in Super Bowl LI reflected his value to the team, as he made four impact plays (a tackle for loss, strip sack, a drawn holding penalty, occupying two defenders to free up teammates for a sack) when the game was on the line. With some level of uncertainty at the other linebacker spot, Hightower's presence is that much more important -- not to mention he runs the defensive huddle and is a captain. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

The Jets have 10 pending free agents, none of whom is remotely worthy of the franchise tag. The biggest names are quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith, but neither one factors into the team's plans. The Jets addressed their No. 1 free-agent priority by re-signing right guard Brian Winters last month. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens would like to retain their top three unrestricted free agents, but it would be too expensive to put the franchise tag on either nose tackle Brandon Williams, offensive tackle Rick Wagner or fullback Kyle Juszczyk. It would cost over $12 million to use the tag on any of them, which would take a huge toll on Baltimore's limited cap space. The most viable candidate is Williams, one of the top interior defensive linemen in the league. But the one-year tender of more than $13 million would become the second-biggest cap figure on the team in 2017 behind quarterback Joe Flacco. That's just too much for a defensive tackle. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals have three candidates for the franchise tag, and it's unlikely they'll use it on any of them. The Bengals rarely use the tag, and this year's free agents don't seem like they would get it either. They won't use it on guard Kevin Zeitler because he would have to be tagged and paid as if he were an offensive tackle. Tackle Andrew Whitworth, 35, is a more likely candidate to work out a one- or two-year deal rather than the bigger expense of the tag. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick would be the most likely candidate, but the projected $15 million price probably would scare off the Bengals from using it. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

There is only one possibility: receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. If the Browns don't re-sign him before free agency, they would have $105 million in cap room to decide if they want to keep him with a franchise tag cost expected to be more than $15 million for one year. It's not the preferred way to go, but the Browns would at least have the option. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Le'Veon Bell is the easy call here. Bell was to running backs what Aaron Rodgers was to quarterbacks in 2016, a wizard with the ball who shifted and cut with ease. The Steelers would be willing to let Bell play on the $12.7 million running back tag if necessary, but the tag is a placeholder for a long-term deal if it makes sense. The team won't pay Adrian Peterson money ($14 million per year). The $9 million to $10 million range might be more feasible for both parties. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

An easy candidate for the Texans to use the franchise tag on is cornerback A.J. Bouye. Bouye started the season as Houston's No. 4 cornerback, but injuries to other players as well as his impressive play pushed him into the Texans' best option at that position. But having four cornerbacks is a luxury and Houston already has veterans Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson and 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson under contract, so the Texans probably won't use the tag on anyone. Plus, the Texans don't use the franchise tag often; the last time they used it was in 2008, when they tagged cornerback Dunta Robinson. -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

None of the Colts' key free agents will tempt new general manager Chris Ballard to use the franchise tag. Linebacker Erik Walden, tight end Jack Doyle and cornerback Darius Butler are the team's top free agents. Losing any of those players in free agency will not cause the Colts to take a significant step back next season. Walden had a career-high 11 sacks last season, but he'll also be 32 years old next season and he plays on a defensive unit that needs to get younger. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have 11 pending free agents but none is worthy of the franchise tag. In fact, that's part of the reason the Jaguars have lost 11 or more games for six consecutive seasons: They haven't had a single great player. The Jaguars have drafted in the top five the past five years, and the two players who already would have reached the end of their first contract and been eligible for the franchise tag were Justin Blackmon (suspended indefinitely) and Luke Joeckel, an average tackle who was eventually moved to guard. The Jaguars last used the franchise tag in 2012 on kicker Josh Scobee. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

The Titans' free agents of note won't tempt them one bit to use the franchise tag: Receiver Kendall Wright and guard Chance Warmack were first-rounders, but neither is expected to be approached to negotiate a new contract. Defensive lineman Karl Klug is a versatile, productive guy coming off of Achilles surgery, and they surely would love to keep him; however, he's not close to franchise-tag worthy. Nor are role-playing safeties Rashad Johnson and Daimion Stafford. The Titans last used the tag on safety Michael Griffin in 2012 before striking a long-term deal. -- Paul Kuharsky

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

The Broncos have certainly made use of the franchise player tag with wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and linebacker Von Miller having been tagged in recent years before signing major contract extensions with the team. Miller had the tag placed on him last offseason before the two sides finished a megadeal in July. This time around, however, the Broncos don't have any candidates as their list of unrestricted free agents is not a long one. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware is on the list, but he's also coming off back surgery, while defensive end Vance Walker is also on the list, and he's coming off knee surgery. Nose tackle Sylvester Williams is also scheduled to be a free agent, but the Broncos declined to pick up his fifth-year option last year because they thought the price was too high. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have franchise-tag candidates in nose tackle Dontari Poe and safety Eric Berry. Berry is the more valuable of the two, but he's already publicly threatened that he won't play a second straight season as the franchise player. Still, tagging Berry would give the Chiefs more time to work out a long-term deal with him. The Chiefs can't afford to lose both players. They know the type of hit that would be to their defense. So look for the Chiefs to use the tag on one or the other if they can't reach contract agreements with either player. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

Melvin Ingram has 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons and will be one of the most productive edge rushers available if he hits free agency. However, the Chargers might not be willing to commit financially to the South Carolina product long term, particularly as the team transitions to a different scheme under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. So using the franchise tag here allows the Chargers to hold onto a productive player for another season, keeping the team's pass-rushing tandem of Ingram and Joey Bosa in place for 2017. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders are scheduled to have 13 unrestricted free agents and are expected to carry over $8 million in unused salary-cap money. As such, they are in a unique position where they likely will not have to use the franchise tag on any player they want to keep, as they should have enough money to spread around on the players they see as being part of their long-term future, be it running back Latavius Murray, right tackle Menelik Watson, cornerback D.J. Hayden or even defensive tackle Stacy McGee, let alone quarterback Matt McGloin or linebacker Malcolm Smith. In other words, none of Oakland's free agents are in a position to break the bank, so the tag should not come into play. Handing out big extensions to quarterback Derek Carr and defensive player of the year Khalil Mack, though, may muddy the waters a bit, but general manager Reggie McKenzie has been planning for such an eventuality. -- Paul Gutierrez

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys likely will not use the franchise tag on any of their free agents. There is not a viable candidate among the 18 players set to be unrestricted free agents, but the closest might be left guard Ronald Leary. He is likely to see a big pay raise on the open market, but the Cowboys simply can't afford him and the potential tag of more than $14 million for one season. Safety Barry Church could be another option, but a tag of roughly $11 million is too rich as well. The Cowboys will want to keep some of their free agents, but not with inflated prices. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins are the two semi-reasonable options. Still, both seem unlikely. The Giants already have tagged Pierre-Paul once before and doing so again after his seventh season with the team (and still no long-term deal) wouldn't go over well. Hankins is a quality player and an asset to the defensive line, but he would cost around $14 million with the franchise tag, which is quite a hefty price. Defensive tackle Damon Harrison averages just over $9 million per season in his lucrative deal and is the better player. So putting that kind of monster salary on Hankins is unlikely, unless it's just a placeholder with a more reasonable long-term deal on the horizon. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

Defensive tackle Bennie Logan is the only candidate, but it is unlikely the Eagles decide to go down that road. They have a lot of money already dedicated to the interior defensive line after giving Fletcher Cox a six-year, $102 million contract, and they have to spread their resources to other areas of need. The franchise tag for defensive tackles is expected to come in around $13 million, which is a steep price to pay for Logan's services. -- Tim McManus

Washington Redskins

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is the only legitimate candidate, and if the Redskins want to keep him around in 2017, this might be the route they must go. Cousins holds the leverage, so any long-term deal will require the Redskins giving in rather than vice versa. It would mark the second consecutive year Cousins would have been tagged. And if tagged, there's little incentive for Cousins to strike a long-term deal, knowing the huge payday that would await him in 2018 if he hits unrestricted free agency. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

The only franchise-tag candidate is wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. The Bears used the tag on Jeffery last season, and barring the completion of a long-term deal, they could apply the tag again to prevent Jeffery from testing free agency. However, Jeffery's 2017 salary-cap number would be in excess of $17 million. Still, Jeffery is in the prime of his career. He has endured some well-documented setbacks (injuries and suspension) the past two seasons, but Jeffery is an upper-echelon player at his position. If the Bears aren't ready to commit to a lavish multiyear agreement, then the franchise tag may be their only hope of keeping Jeffery in town for one more year. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Theoretically the Lions could use the franchise tag on right guard Larry Warford or right tackle Riley Reiff. But it wouldn't make much sense for Detroit to do that for either one. If the Lions want to keep either player, they could work out long-term deals with both of them, and if they want to move on, it would be best for Detroit to do that. Figure the next time the franchise tag comes into play for Detroit is next offseason, if Matthew Stafford or Ezekiel Ansah are still not locked up long term by this point next year. But this year? It would be shocking to see the Lions go down that road. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Packers general manager Ted Thompson has used the franchise tag only twice and not at all since 2010 (Ryan Pickett), and there's not an obvious candidate this season. Perhaps guard T.J. Lang could get tagged if the Packers wanted him back but didn't want to commit long term to a soon-to-be 30-year-old who has battled injuries. Thompson wouldn't use it on running back Eddie Lacy, who's coming off an injury-filled season and probably could be had at a much, much lower price. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have used their franchise tag just twice in their 25-year history, and it's difficult to see them using it this year, when their players about to hit unrestricted free agency probably aren't going to command anything near the franchise-tag figure at their positions. They could take a long look at re-signing players such as cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but they wouldn't need a franchise tag to do so. -- Ben Goessling

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons haven't used the franchise tag since 2012 with cornerback Brent Grimes, so don't expect them to use it this year either. The list of unrestricted free agents includes players such as veteran defensive end Dwight Freeney, offensive guard Chris Chester, tight end Jacob Tamme, and fullback Patrick DiMarco, so there's really no reason to use the tag. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Coach Ron Rivera recently said the team is prepared to use the tag on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kawann Short, so expect that to happen. The Panthers still will attempt to sign Short to a long-term deal before the season, but the tag guarantees an important piece of the defense remains intact. Short has made it clear he wants to remain with the Panthers even if that means accepting the tag. Of course, cornerback Josh Norman said that last year, then didn't sign the tag or show up for the start of organized team activities, and had it rescinded. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

The Saints likely won't be using the franchise tag on anyone, but they will have a big decision to make on free-agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who could command a sizable long-term deal on the open market after rehabbing his career over the past two years. Fairley, who struggled with injuries, inconsistency and weight issues early in his career with the Lions, had to settle for one-year "prove it" deals as a free agent in both 2015 (with the Rams) and 2016 (with New Orleans). But the 29-year-old delivered with a career-high 6.5 sacks for the Saints, who could earn a slight hometown discount because Fairley liked playing close to his family in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs have not used the franchise tag since Jason Licht became general manager in 2014. The Bucs do have 17 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents this year, but no one jumps out as a realistic candidate. Defensive end William Gholston is probably the best among them on defense, but it's unlikely things get to that point. Their most realistic candidate for the tag, punter Bryan Anger, already was signed to a five-year extension worth $17 million in December, which means the Bucs locked him in below the $4.9 million figure he'd play in under the tag. -- Jenna Laine

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals will tag outside linebacker Chandler Jones unless a long-term deal can be reached, coach Bruce Arians said during his end-of-season news conference in early January. "Chandler's not going anywhere because, if we have to, we will franchise him," Arians said. The Cardinals want to keep the 26-year-old as the foundation of their pass rush. He has produced double-digit sacks in each of his past two seasons, including 12.5 sacks in 2015 with New England and 11 in 2016 with Arizona. The projected franchise tag for linebackers is $15.287 million. If he can convince the Cardinals to call him a defensive end, he could be tagged for $16.988 million, a difference of about $1.7 million more. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Trumaine Johnson could be a candidate for yet another franchise tag if the Rams can't figure out a way to retain him with a long-term extension. The Rams lost their prior No. 1 corner, Janoris Jenkins, through free agency last offseason and can't afford another major loss at the position. Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense with the Broncos was highly successful largely because of the talent he had on the outside. Johnson is by far the Rams' best corner. Aside from him, there's E.J. Gaines, who has dealt with an assortment of injuries the past two years; Lamarcus Joyner, who's better as a slot corner; and Troy Hill and Mike Jordan, both undrafted free agents. But franchising Johnson, which could cost about $16.8 million, may be a little too steep. The Rams have about $40 million in cap space, but they also have a lot of other needs. -- Alden Gonzalez

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers don't lack for free agents, but it's hard to see any of them being worth using the tag to keep. They re-signed tight end Vance McDonald and linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong before the end of the season, but after that, the best free agent on the list is probably Glenn Dorsey. The defensive lineman is a good player when healthy, but Dorsey hasn't been healthy consistently in a while. There are players worth keeping but none at the price that would come with the tag. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle doesn't have any franchise-tag candidates this offseason. The Seahawks have 14 pending unrestricted free agents, but the only starter from that group is strongside linebacker Mike Morgan, and he is a part-time player. Kicker Steven Hauschka is probably Seattle's most notable free agent, but the Seahawks signed Blair Walsh last week, indicating that they could be expecting to lose Hauschka. Either way, using the franchise tag on Hauschka wouldn't make sense. -- Sheil Kapadia