First of all, I am excited to be back here at Revenge of the Birds and I am pumped to talk Cardinals football with the community once again. You guys can always leave comments for me here on the site (hopefully I catch them) or you can email me or tweet me @TylerASU13 with anything. Now on to the actual article...
We are currently in the doldrums of the NFL offseason meaning that talking points surrounding the Arizona Cardinals are a bit... dry. The team will be gearing up for training camp and playing meaningful football games before we know it, but for now, each player gets to relax and continue enjoying their off time. One man who doesn't hold that same luxury is Cardinals general manager, Steve Keim.
Over these next few months and into the season, Keim has plenty of decisions to make on which players he would like to see remain on the team beyond the 2016-17 season. Just like every year, some guys will be let go and will be free to test the open market. Others are key cogs that have helped build the Cardinals to the team they are now and Keim will inevitably be working with them and their agents to secure them for the long term.
But what if they can't reach a deal? Well, that's where the franchise tag comes into play. It's the only way that you can guarantee that your team keeps one of your key players in the fold. So which players could feasibly be candidates for this great honor? Let's take a brief look.
To my recollection, Campbell was the last player to receive the franchise tag, which was way back in 2012. Since then, the Cardinals have either let key guys walk or re-signed them to long term deals. Don't expect Campbell to get the tag this time around, though. At age 30, Campbell is a guy the team may be looking to replace, not build around. The team will likely discuss an extension with him following the conclusion of the season, but if a deal can't be reach, expect Campbell to test the market.
Mathieu is probably the favorite to land the much maligned (by players, anyhow) franchise tag. Coming off his 2nd ACL tear, the team may want to see how his knee holds up over an extended period of time before throwing big money his way. We already know Mathieu wants to be paid as a top DB, but it remains a mystery what the Cardinals are truly willing to pay him.
If a contract for Mathieu gets done some time before or during the season, Chandler Jones likely becomes the next in line to receive the tag, rendering him unable to leave the desert (or, at the very least, leave without a team surrendering a couple first round picks for him). If Jones has the kind of year that many expect him to, racking up 10 or more sacks, his services will be in high demand come next spring. Will the Cardinals be willing to fork over the kind of cash it requires to secure a top end pass rusher in today's NFL? If not, the franchise tag is an option.
To me, Floyd is a dark horse in this category. Can he stay healthy for the full season? Will he play with the consistency needed for the team to finally decide he is the #1 wideout that they want to keep? What happens with Larry Fitzgerald? There are just so many questions revolving around the wide receiver corps that it is almost impossible to answer this question right now. But let's assume the worst case scenario for a minute. Fitzgerald rides off into the sunset. The team is left with John Brown and JJ Nelson under contract at wide receiver. Will they then pay Floyd the requisite money to keep the Notre Dame alumnus around?
This may seem odd at first, but tagging kickers in the NFL has become more and more popular over the past few years. Most recently, the Baltimore Ravens named Justin Tucker their franchise player by placing the tag on him, which pays him $4.5 million for the upcoming season. If Catanzaro has another solid season, this could very well be a route Keim chooses to take to ensure he's the kicker for the long haul.
Well, there's always this option, too.
So who do you think could wind up receiving the franchise designation? Vote in the poll and let us know. My plan, as of now, is to write another article just like this at the end of the season and see how our opinions change, which names drop off the list due to poor play or extensions reached, and which players might make their way on to the list.