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Grotz: It’s that time of year to hang the NFL franchise tags

The NFL’s franchise tag period begins Tuesday, and it should be of utmost interest to the Eagles and others in need of a shutdown cornerback.

If the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs tag defensive lineman Chris Jones and make a few other cost-cutting moves, that would signal they also plan to extend the contract of cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who is scheduled to become a free agent. The franchise number for Jones is at least $19.75 million.

Much more likely is the Chiefs bite the bullet and in the coming weeks hand Jones a contract extension averaging around $30 million annually, making Sneed expendable.

Franchising Sneed would take a one-year $18.8 million contract and with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce sporting massive contracts, put the Chiefs at the mercy of filling holes in their roster with draft picks.

Jones is the most dominant defensive player in the league right now, better than Aaron Donald, the highest paid defensive tackle on the circuit with a pact averaging $32.6 million. Jones’ market value for a three-year deal is around $85.45 million according to Spotrac.com. Jones has expressed optimism a deal will be struck and predicted the Chiefs would make a run at a third straight Super Bowl championship.

Sneed wants to return to the Chiefs but doubts they’ll have the salary cap flexibility to sign both him and Jones. That’s tough to debate, for Sneed’s free agent market value for a four-year contract is $65.32 million, an average salary of $16.3 million per Spotrac.com. That’s also something the Eagles could work through with a bit of salary cap massaging of their own.

An Eagles expenditure for Sneed (6-1, 192) would be worth it because he’s exactly what defensive coordinator Vic Fangio needs to attack the opposition … a shutdown corner who can tackle, create turnovers, and rush the passer. And he’s only 27. Sneed has started 54 of 57 games for the Chiefs, who took him off the board in the fourth round of the 2020 draft.

The Eagles obviously have had trouble finding suitable cornerbacks. We’re covering old ground here, but it’s been 21 years since the Eagles drafted highly productive corners, the club taking Pro Bowl talent Lito Sheppard off the board late in the first round of the 2002 lottery and Sheldon Brown on the second day of the draft. Safety Michael Lewis, who also made the Pro Bowl, was part of that Philly draft along with running back Brian Westbrook.

The Eagles have had success signing ascending top-notch corners in free agency, the list topped by the likes of Troy Vincent and Asante Samuel. Repeat, ascending corners. The addition of unanimous bust Nnamdi Asomugha in 2011 was a reckless and arrogant get by then Birds president Joe Banner.

Sneed clocked 4.37 at the scouting combine, and if you watched the most recent Super Bowl, plays close to that speed. Add him to an Eagles secondary with Eli Ricks and Kelee Ringo, draft a player like Kool-Aid McKinstry, Terrion Arnold (Alabama), Cooper De-Jean (Iowa), Dave Wiggins (Clemson) or Quinyon Mitchell (Toledo) and restructure the contracts of James Bradberry and Darius Slay and you’ve got a solid secondary on paper.

It’s safe to say the Eagles don’t have anybody who warrants a franchise or transition tag. Free agent running back D’Andre Swift, offensive lineman Jack Driscoll and yes, wide receiver Quez Watkins all will find better deals elsewhere. The Eagles likely will re-sign utility guard Sua Opeta, who started three games last season. And we should all know before March 11, the first day of the NFL’s so-called “legal tampering” period, that Eagles center Jason Kelce is hanging up his cleats.

That likely will have a modest impact on the salary cap. We may also know if defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is going to join him. There also could be some news about Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick. His agent received permission to explore a trade for his client, who with 30.5 sacks in two seasons is seeking a raise from a deal paying him $14 million in 2024, the final season of a three-year pact. Reddick’s current cap hit is $21 million.

The Eagles quietly are exploring a contract extension for defensive end Josh Sweat, who has 20.5 sacks the past two seasons, and who Spotrac.com values more highly than Reddick. Sweat is in line for a multiyear deal averaging $21.5 million, per Spotrac. He’s just 26 years old and sets the edge on defense.

Spotrac.com values Reddick, based on comps for similar players at an average salary of $15.831 million. For a three-year deal the total number would be $47.5 million. Reddick turns 30 in September.

Teams can agree to contracts during the tampering period and finalize the deals when the new league year begins at March 13.

With the scouting combine beginning at the end of the month, there will be no shortage of rumors regarding Reddick, Sweat and Sneed as well as the top free agents on the market.

Contact Bob Grotz at rgrotz@delcotimes.com.


Source: Berkshire mont

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