On Monday, the New York Giants will gain the ability to use the franchise tag in order to prevent one of their impending free agents from hitting the open market when the new league year begins on March 11. Don't expect the G-Men to slap the tag down early in the 15-day tag window, because that's not their style.
The Giants haven't used the tag on a position player since they hit Brandon Jacobs with it in 2009, and they'd obviously prefer to iron out long-term—or at least smarter—deals with the free agents they wish to retain.
But if negotiations don't bear fruit before the franchise tag deadline on March 3, the Giants would be best off placing the tag on Linval Joseph rather than Hakeem Nicks or nobody at all.
|New York Giants: Notable impending free agents|
|Linval Joseph||Defensive tackle||25|
|Hakeem Nicks||Wide receiver||26|
|Justin Tuck||Defensive end||30|
|Andre Brown||Running back||27|
This year, they actually have the cap space to do so. They enter the offseason with more than $12 million to spare, according to Spotrac, and will likely save more cash when some expected cuts are made in the coming weeks and months.
Nicks is the bigger name of the two impending free agents, and Jon Beason and Justin Tuck are also slated to hit the open market. But Beason has to be more affordable at this stage, and Tuck is beyond his prime. Nicks hasn't been able to stay healthy and is coming off his worst season. I'm not sure he merits a long-term deal, but the price for tagging a wide receiver is expected to be about $11.5 million.
The Giants have Rueben Randle. They drafted him in Round 2 two years ago for a reason. Nicks was the only skill position player in football to be held without a touchdown despite playing more than 800 snaps in 2013. Time to move on, unless a discount can be had. And with free-agent receivers, that's rarely possible.
Joseph is only 25 years old and is as solid as they come. He's missed only one game in three years as a starter, and he was graded by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) as the 15th-best run-stopping defensive tackle in football last season.
He's not a star (yet), but he'd be a hell of a lot harder to replace than Nicks. And at an anticipated tag price of about $9 million, he'd be a lot more affordable.
This should, of course, be a worst-case scenario. But if the Giants don't have a deal in place with Joseph by the time we've reached the beginning of March, they have to buy themselves more time by tagging him.