Atlanta has already created a decent amount of space by releasing Allen Bailey and Ricardo Allen, and plenty of cuts are sure to follow. With the salary cap higher than expected and restructures on the horizon, Atlanta will have some money for high-profile free agents. Teams are allowed to set franchise tag designations starting tomorrow, so some targets the Falcons could be interested in might be locked up before Terry Fontenot even has the chance to negotiate.
TE Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Henry is one of the more likely candidates on this list, and Alex wrote about the possibility of pairing Henry with Matt Ryan. While Henry would be an amazing pickup, injury troubles may prevent him from hitting the market if the Chargers want to get one last look at him. PFF projects his contract at four years and $48 million, so it would make sense for LA to tag him for roughly $9.5 million.
TE Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans
Smith probably isn’t worth the same $9.5 million that Henry would receive, but I could see the Titans trying to reign him back in to keep the band together for one more season. If not, Atlanta should be very interested in reuniting the Smiths. Jonnu averaged over 10 YPC in 2020 and found the endzone eight times.
G Brandon Scherff, Washington Football Team
Guards typically aren’t at a premium, but Scherff is one of the most dependable and talented in the entire NFL. It would be a massive loss for WFT to lose him in free agency.
C Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers
One of my top targets in free agency, Linsley would be well worth $11 million of Atlanta’s cap space if his PFF projection is correct. Green Bay is undoubtedly trying to win another championship with Rodgers, but this doesn’t feel like their MO to tag Linsley. He’s still undoubtedly one of the best centers in the entire NFL and would immediately fill the void left by Alex Mack.
IDL Shelby Harris, Denver Broncos
Shelby Harris is in my top-five desired acquisitions in free agency, and I wrote about how he could be the perfect target for Dean Pees’ defense here. Harris is incredibly disruptive up the middle in a 3-4, and it would be a massive blow to the Broncos if he left town. Not only is Harris fantastic against the run, but he’s one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL. Allowing him to gobble up double teams would make Grady Jarrett very happy as well.
IDL Dalvin Tomlinson / IDL Leonard Williams, New York Giants
I don’t think Tomlinson is worth the franchise tag, as New York will undoubtedly try to keep Leonard Williams on a long-term deal. Tomlinson offers a lot of what Harris offers, just not at the same level. Williams has been a revelation since his trade from the Jets, and I think the Giants will pony up to keep him.
EDGE Carl Lawson, Cincinnati Bengals
Lawson is the big one here. He has been heavily linked to the Falcons multiple times and would be fantastic off of the edge. However, Lawson may command too much money from Atlanta with Dante Fowler Jr. still on the books. The Bengals would have to cough up $15.9 million on a franchise tag, and I think they will to see if 2020 was a fluke.
EDGE/LB Haason Reddick, Arizona Cardinals
Reddick is in the same boat as Lawson. After a slow start to his career, he moved to a more natural EDGE role and rewarded Vance Joseph with 12.5 sacks. The former first-round pick had 7.5 total in his previous three seasons, so the Cardinals may want to pay him for one more season before deciding on an extension.
CB Shaq Griffin, Seattle Seahawks
2020 was undoubtedly the best season of Griffin’s career, and he’ll be handsomely rewarded for his performance in a contract year. With so much uncertainty surrounding Russell Wilson in Seattle, franchise tagging Griffin to save themselves a headache on defense could easily be in the cards.
S Marcus Maye, New York Jets
When Jamal Adams was shipped to Seattle, Maye immediately took over his role and shined for the Jets. With interim defensive coordinator Frank Bush now on Atlanta’s staff, I could see there being some mutual interest. Maye will surely try to cash after a career year, but with as much space and as many holes as the Jets have, I could see him getting tagged.
S John Johnson III, Los Angeles Rams
Cap-strapped teams often use the franchise tag to keep the band together, and I think the Rams would be wise to tag Johnson. He’s one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL, and with Matthew Stafford in town and little to no picks, I’d bet Sean McVay writes the $10.5 million check to keep Johnson in Tinsel Town for at least one more year.
S Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos
Simmons had a down-ish 2020, but he was one of the three best safeties in the NFL in 2019 against the run and the pass. I could see Denver tagging him for one season to see what they have, especially with their cap sheet being fat.