Franchise Tag Could Be a Problem for Vikings

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The franchise tag is an undesired roster move organizations can make to keep players under their control they would otherwise lose. Players don’t like it as they give up their freedom to choose their next team and contract.

Franchise Tag Could Be a Problem for Vikings

There’s nothing they can do about it if the team insists on the deal. The last time Minnesota used the franchise tag was in 2020 when they prevented safety, Anthony Harris, from hitting the open market.

Franchise Tag Could Be a Problem for Vikings
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) is sacked hard by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) in the second quarter of the NFL Week 15 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at PayCor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Two of the league’s most prolific pending free agents played for the Vikings in 2023. Danielle Hunter and Kirk Cousins are without contracts for another season, and they can pick their new teams. Also notable is that they both made sure general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can’t use the franchise tag to keep them for another season, so they are guaranteed to become free agents in March if they can’t reach a deal with their old team.

To replace them, the Vikings can either sign a different free agent or they can roll the dice on rookies in the draft, although they are unlikely to hit the ground running and likely need a year or two to develop into proper replacements, even if the team selects talented successors.

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For that reason, the free agent market is the place to look for a new edge-rusher, with Hunter and his teammates D.J. Wonnum and Marcus Davenport scheduled to exit TCO Performance Center one final time.

And this year’s class is great, with multiple fantastic edge defenders available besides Hunter. The two most intriguing guys are Brian Burns, previously with the Panthers, and Josh Allen (not the quarterback), who has started his career with the Jaguars.

Allen will travel to his second Pro Bowl after recording a career-altering 16.5 sacks in 2023. He flashed early in his career, producing 45 sacks through five seasons. Burns, meanwhile, logged 46 in five seasons, including 8 in 2023.

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) wipes his face as he walks off the field after Sunday night’s loss to the Ravens. The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida Sunday Night, December 17, 2023. The Jaguars trailed 10 to 0 at the half and lost 23 to 7.

Both players are excellent edge defenders and can ruin offensive game plans in run and pass. They are even more intriguing after one look at their age: Burns is 25, and Allen is 26. They have also been fairly healthy in their professional careers, as only Allen missed an extended period in 2020. Other than that, they have played at least 15 games in each of their seasons.

They are the ideal replacements for Hunter and surely deserve a massive payday. However, their old teams would be foolish to let them enter free agency. The Jaguars and the Panthers will try to find a solution and a long-term deal, but if that doesn’t happen, they will use the franchise tag.

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That forces the defenders into re-evaluating their contract negotiations, and in case they want out and request a trade, well, they wouldn’t be cheap. Acquiring them via trade for a costly top draft pick and then paying them a bunch of money suddenly doesn’t sound that intriguing anymore, leaving the second wave of pass-rushers for the Vikings. Guys like Bryce Huff, Chase Young, or Jonathon Greenard are also solid players, but they can’t fully replace the departing Hunter.

Agreeing to an extension with the unreplaceable four-time Pro Bowler is a paramount take for Adofo-Mensah. Hunter will turn 30 in October, and after two productive and injury-free seasons, he will be one of the best free agents on the market.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt