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Does the franchise tag make sense for Arizona?

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The Cardinals have limited options yet again this year.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

To tag or not to tag.

That is the question.

Or is it?

With the window to begin utilizing the one year NFL franchise tag opening today (Thursday, February 27), the Arizona Cardinals (along with the rest of the NFL) must decide if the one year option is worth it for any of their impending free agents.

If you need a reminder as to whom the Cardinals are set to (potentially) lose come March, here’s a breakdown of the team’s 19 free agents:

  • Kenyan Drake (RB)
  • Marcus Gilbert (OT)
  • Charles Clay (TE)
  • Max Garcia (OG)
  • A.Q. Shipley (OC)
  • Brett Hundley (QB)
  • Rodney Gunter (DT)
  • Brooks Reed (OLB)
  • Jordan Mills (OT)
  • Clinton McDonald (DT)
  • Cassius Marsh (OLB)
  • Josh Shaw (S)
  • Jonathan Bullard (DT)
  • Chris Banjo (S)
  • Zach Kerr (DT)
  • Damiere Byrd (WR)
  • Pharaoh Cooper (WR)
  • DJ Foster (RB)
  • Brandon Williams (DB)

As you can probably tell from this list, not only are the majority of these players not franchise tag worthy, my guess is that most won’t be offered contracts to return.

That’s what happens when you’re a rebuilding team like the Arizona Cardinals. Back in their more competitive days, the team would routinely utilize the franchise tag on players like standout DE Calais Campbell and Pro Bowl OLB Chandler Jones.

Now, however, the Cardinals don’t have enough quality players to extend much less franchise. Poor drafting and rough free agent signings have made their roster far too top heavy.

Paying players hasn’t been the problem for the Cardinals, rather paying the right players.

Steve Keim and company have money to spend (roughly 40 million as it stands today) but who amongst that list is worthy of being paid at the top of their field?

The only name that has been given any kind of national consideration is Arizona’s midseason trade acquisition, running back Kenyan Drake.

Drake was terrific in eight games played with the Cardinals, sporting a sparkling 5.2 yards per carry en route to 643 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

The Cardinals have made it known that they’d like to have him back.

But at what price?

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Cardinals could very well use the franchise tag on Drake for the upcoming 2020 season. That would likely cost Arizona roughly 12.2 million for a lone season of Drake’s work, this according to OverTheCap.com.

Combine that with the incumbent David Johnson’s 2020 salary of just north of 14 million, and you’re look at a position group total of just shy of 30 million.

Barf.

Sure, the Cardinals could offset that concern by moving David Johnson and his contract via a trade but who is taking on the majority of that dollar amount for a diminishing player?

The more this begins to take shape, the more this feels like a hard pass for Arizona on tagging Kenyan Drake.

D.J. Humphries was the only logical candidate on the roster to be tagged but the sixth year man out of Florida is currently enjoying his new two year deal that will pay him 29 million in guarantees.

That means that, at least for another season, the Cardinals will likely avoid using the franchise tag.