Tuesday, March 8th, was the final day for NFL teams to place the franchise tag on pending free agent players before hitting the open market. Although the Detroit Lions did not elect to franchise anyone, the tag might still play a role with who is available when the organization is on the clock with the no. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
First off, if you are not familiar with the franchise tag, it allows a team to retain the rights to one pending free agent at a fixed rate. The rate is determined by taking the average of the top five players at the same position or 120% of said player’s previous salary (whichever is greater). After being tagged, the player and team can still agree to a long-term deal. If no agreement is made, said player can play on the one-year tag deal or hold out as Le’Veon Bell chose to do after the Steelers tagged him a few years ago.
The only two players the Detroit Lions would have considered tagging this offseason would have been Tracy Walker or Charles Harris. The tag figure for a defensive end settled in at a whopping $17.9 million and $12.9 million for safeties; both were far too expensive for each player mentioned.
Ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, eight players were across the league were tagged. The wide receiver market took a massive hit with the Packers tagging Davante Adams, the Bucs tagging Chris Godwin, plus pending free agent Mike Williams agreed to a three-year extension with the Chargers. Also tagged were Orlando Brown Jr, Jesse Bates, and three tight ends (David Njoku, Dalton Schultz, Mike Gesicki).
Although the Browns tagging Njoku somewhat surprised me, the Jacksonville Jaguars tagging left tackle Cam Robinson came as a surprise and may play spoiler to Detroit Lions fans in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Many, including myself, had the Jaguars selecting an offensive tackle, whether it was Alabama’s Evan Neal or NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu. After tagging Robinson, all signs point to the Jaguars deciding between Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux. The dark horse would be edge rusher, Travon Walker, from Georgia, who had a marvelous NFL Combine.
Let’s assume the Jaguars are targeting Hutchinson first overall for hypothetical purposes. That leaves the Detroit Lions with a plethora of options with the no. 2 overall pick but quite possibly without their top target on the board.
Will Kayvon Thibodeaux be the selection for the Detroit Lions’ second overall?
Thibodeaux appears to have the highest ceiling but comes with some motivation concerns. Walker has been rising up mock drafts since this past weekend’s combine; in turn, after running a 4.6 40-yard dash, the Kyle Hamilton hype train is losing steam. One more player to keep an eye on is Jordan Davis.
Davis looks ‘different.’ I don’t want to call him the next Aaron Donald, but the 341-pound interior lineman ran a stellar 4.78 40-time. To give you some clarity on this, Hutchinson, an edge rusher, ran 4.74.
Although it appears the Jaguars will be looking to add one of the top edge rushers to pair with Josh Allen, don’t be deterred; the Detroit Lions will be getting a franchise-altering prospect with the no. 2 overall pick.