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2016 NFL Free Agency: Will The LA Rams Use The Franchise Tag?

The Rams have 12 players headed toward unrestricted free agency. Could they use the franchise tag to ensure they keep one around for 2016?

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we looked at all of the Rams headed toward free agency including the dozen who would be unrestricted free agents. Those dozen make up the potential candidates for the Rams' targets for the franchise tag with today being the first day they can do so.

NFL teams can use the franchise tag on one player headed to unrestricted free agency to keep around on a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract. The salary is either the average of the top five salaries for that player's position from around the league or a 20% salary increase, whichever is higher.

Similarly, teams can apply a transition tag to a player in lieu of a franchise tag to ensure the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may make with another team.

Here are the expected salaries by position for the franchise tag with last year's salaries in parentheses (dependent on the increase of the salary cap for 2016):

Quarterback: $19.748m ($17.5m)
Running back: $11.871m ($9.5m)
Wide receiver: $14.527m ($12.0m)
Tight end: $9.053m ($7.6m)
Offensive line: $13.678m ($11.7m)
Defensive end: $15.494m ($12.5m)
Defensive tackle: $13.368m ($10.7m)
Linebacker: $14.131m ($11.7m)
Cornerback: $13.838m ($11.7m)
Safety: $10.717m ($9.0m)
Punter/kicker: $4.534m ($4.0m)

Here are the 12 players headed to UFA status:

Name POS Exp (w/ Rams) Age 2015 Salary
Tim Barnes C 4 (4) 27 $660,000
Mark Barron SS 4 (2) 26 $2,362,704
Nick Fairley DT 5 (1) 27 $2,500,000
Cory Harkey* FB/TE 4 (4) 25 $1,542,000
William Hayes DE 8 (4) 30 $3,105,000
Janoris Jenkins CB 4 (4) 27 $660,000
Trumaine Johnson CB 4 (4) 25 $1,542,000
Rodney McLeod FS 4 (4) 25 $2,356,000
Brian Quick WR 4 (4) 26 $1,124,536
Eugene Sims DE 6 (6) 29 $1,900,000
Wes Welker WR 12 (1) 34 $456,470
Greg Zuerlein K 4 (4) 28 $691,102

* - There is some question as to whether 2012 counts as an "accrued season" for Harkey. Still looking into this. If it's not, he'd be a Restricted Free Agent this offseason.

And here's my guess as to who might get tagged:

Tim Barnes: 0/10


Mark Barron: 5/10

Barron's actually a solid candidate here. He had far and away his best year with the Rams, though that was certainly related to the loss of OLB Alec Ogletree in Week 4 due to an ankle injury. That's really the decision point here. If the Rams are comfortable with Tree's rehab and return to 100% in 2016, Barron's value is much lower. Still, with Rodney McLeod headed to UFA status as well, the safety position would be pretty thin on March 9 with neither locked up.

Nick Fairley: 0/10


Corey Harkey: 0/10


William Hayes: 0/10


Janoris Jenkins: 6/10

Trumaine Johnson: 6/10

Of course, this is the tough call. The Rams are certainly going to look to re-sign whichever of the two they prioritize higher to a long-term deal. And I wouldn't be surprised if they make a dedicated effort to signing both. If, though, the lower priority of the two looks to be seriously intent on testing the market and the Rams are not willing to deal with that kind of personnel loss, I could see that CB getting tagged. If we get it early, it'll tell us that the Rams are confident in signing the other for a few more years...or, potentially, letting him go entirely.

Rodney McLeod: 2/10

I just have no clue how the front office views McLeod's value. I'd lean toward a 0/10 here, but if they're really committed to him and he doesn't return that commitment, they might use a tag to keep him.

Brian Quick: 0/10


Eugene Sims: 0/10

Same as Hayes. Not happening.

Wes Welker: 0/10

No chance.

Greg Zuerlein: 7/10

GZ's my favorite candidate for a tag this year. Kickers (and punters) are popular tag targets as they're at the low end of the salary scale and you get to test run them for another year if you're uncomfortable signing them long-term. I'd suspect that's the situation with Zuerlein coming off of his worst year in his career. A tag would ensure the Rams keep him for another season to see if he can bounce back from the accuracy issues he had in 2015. Without one, I don't know that they'll be able to re-sign one of the biggest legs in the NFL and what that would command on the market.

Other targets around the NFL

Von Miller (OLB, Denver Broncos)

This one's already been pre-announced.

Kirk Cousins (QB, Washington)

Hard to believe prior to 2015, but it's possible.

Josh Norman (CB, Carolina Panthers)

Another legit candidate.

Alshon Jeffery (WR, Chicago Bears)

This one would piss off a contingent of TSTers, to be sure. It's a real possibility though. Of course, the Rams could have just drafted him in the first place instead of Brian Quick...

Muhammad Wilkerson (DE, New York Jets)

Not a Rams target, but a probable franchise tagee nonetheless.

Cordy Glenn (OT, Buffalo Bills)

Another likely tagee.

Doug Martin (RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Possible. Expensive, but possible.

Eric Berry (S, Kansas City Chiefs)

A great story with his 2015 season, but he's in line to get a big deal. The Chiefs might not get it done in time to make sure they keep him.