Today is the first day that NFL teams can use the franchise tag to secure the services of one of their pending free agents for the 2017 season.
The Vikings, per usual, aren’t expected to use their tag this offseason.
Over the past decade, the Vikings have only used the franchise tag once. That was in 2011, when they kept outside linebacker Chad Greenway from hitting the market. They then hammered out a new deal, of course.
The main reason why in recent years the Vikings, with Rick Spielman running the front office and Rob Brzezinski leading the negotiations with player agents, have not had to use the franchise tag is that they are so proactive about getting new deals done with ascending players early.
In July of 2014, they inked tight end Kyle Rudolph to a lucrative extension, ensuring that he did not play out the final year of his rookie deal. Last year, they got their big deal with safety Harrison Smith done during OTAs or we would be talking about him potentially getting tagged today.
This offseason, the Vikings will discuss a new deal with cornerback Xavier Rhodes, the 2013 first-round pick who made his first Pro Bowl this past season. He is entering the fifth and final season of his rookie deal.
The team’s top unrestricted free agents this year are cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, wideout Cordarrelle Patterson and left tackle Matt Kalil.
Munnerlyn, the slot specialist, will likely get the most attention in free agency after a solid three-year run here. Their second-round selection of young cornerback Mackensie Alexander last spring and their current interest in free agent K’Waun Williams suggests his time is up here.
I don’t think the Vikings have yet closed the door on Patterson and Kalil, two former first-rounders who have been disappointments but did have some bright spots. But neither player is a candidate to get tagged.
Their long list of free agents includes punter Jeff Locke and fullback Zach Line, both unrestricted. The Vikings would not break the bank if they tagged one of those players given that their positions are among the NFL’s least valued. But they are not standouts and are seemingly replaceable.
So it will be a surprise if the Vikings use their franchise tag between now and March 1. But they will be watching to see if other teams use the tag and keep one or more of their FA targets from becoming available.
Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short, Packers guard T.J. Lang and Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff are among the potential free-agent fits for the Vikings who could get tagged in the next couple of weeks.