By: Rob Bishop
Back again, and the first quarterback domino of the NFL off-season to fall was a curious one, as the Tennessee Titans locked up Ryan Tannehill to a four-year deal worth $118 million. The deal includes $62 million fully guaranteed. It’s a massive sum for Tannehill, who prior to the 2019 season was viewed as a fringe starting quarterback. However, after taking over for Marcus Mariota early in the season, Tannehill emerged as a star-level quarterback thanks to superior pieces around him within Tennessee’s offense.
Up next for on the ‘to-do list’ for the Titans this spring will be keeping the pieces around Tannehill in place. With the quarterback situation settled, the Titans will likely now move to use the franchise tag on running back Derrick Henry, keeping the reigning rushing leader in Tennessee. Using the tag to retain Henry is a far smarter move than committing long-term money to a running back, and it has the secondary benefit of freeing up capital to retain free agent tackle Jack Conklin, provided the Titans wish to go that route. As with Tannehill, Henry’s success is largely attributable to Tennessee’s talented offensive line, of which Conklin is a major piece.
Indianapolis made sure to keep its prized blocking free agent away from any potential suitors, signing veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo to a two-year deal. Castonzo has been a rock for the Colts, ranking among the best offensive linemen in football each of the last eight seasons. Indianapolis boasts a talent-laden roster, and with Castonzo back in tow, the Colts will likely turn its attention to the crowded free agent quarterback market. Despite the team’s public claims otherwise, Indianapolis has to be a serious bidder on an upgrade over incumbent starter Jacoby Brissett.
Tight end Hunter Henry was franchise tagged by the Los Angeles Chargers. Injuries have kept Henry from joining the NFL’s elite tight ends, but when he’s healthy, Henry has been as good as any tight end not named George Kittle or Travis Kelce. Retaining Henry via the franchise tag, along with a recent move to re-sign pass-catching back Austn Ekeler, is a clear indicator the Chargers are going to join the Colts in going all-in on a pursuit of a win-now quarterback. With Tannehill off the board, Drew Brees likely staying in New Orleans, and Tom Brady rumored to be deciding between Tampa Bay and New England, there will be a lot of competition for the next tier of signal-caller.
Offensive guard Brandon Scherff was also kept from the open market as the Washington Redskins placed the franchise tag on the talented guard. Among the best interior offensive lineman in football, with only a rash of injuries marring his contributions. Scherff stood as the best available guard on the open market, and his removal puts a dampen on team’s looking to upgrade at the position.
Yannick Ngakoue has been extremely vocal about his desire to be anywhere other than Jacksonville next season, making it a foregone conclusion the franchise would franchise tag the pass rusher. Given Ngakoue’s adamant stance regarding donning a Jaguars uniform, however, it appears the move will likely be the first step in a potential trade. It is also worth noting that the Jaguars are not likely to receive a sizable bounty in the deal. The franchise tag will ensure Ngakoue will be paid approximately $19.5 million, a hefty sum considering he’s below average against the run and far from elite as a pass rusher.
Baltimore continues to rack up masterful moves, acquiring veteran interior defensive lineman Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars, sending a mere fifth round pick in return. The Ravens immediately locked Campbell up to a two-year pact. Campbell is one of the best in football at run defense, and he will join a defensive line that already boasts a talented interior lineman, Brandon Williams. Baltimore also opted to franchise tag pass rusher Matthew Judon. The Ravens are once again going to be a force on defense in 2020.