The Bengals are fortunate enough to not have had to deal with franchise tag drama this offseason, like a few other NFL teams.
Today marked the deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to long-terms extensions. If an extension didn't come by 4 p.m. the players must resort to playing the 2015 season under a one-year deal.
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas, Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, and Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul all were given the franchise tag this offseason. However, prior to today none of them had signed long-term deals, which lead to lots of unnecessary drama surrounding several of them as negotiations raged on.
As it turned out, Bryant, Gostkowski, Thomas and Houston all signed extensions right before the deadline came. Pierre-Paul was the only player who did not reach a long term deal and will enter the 2015 season with the franchise tag applied.
Bryant agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract, including $45 million guaranteed. Thomas also got a five-year, $70 million deal. Gostkowski secured a four-year, $17.2 million contract and Houston was signed to a six-year, $101 million contract.
Cincinnati may not be dealing with the drama these teams faced this year, but they may not be so fortunate in 2016. Next offseason, A.J. Green will become a free agent, and unless an extension is reached between now and next March, he'll likely be getting the tag. The franchise tag will pay him around $13 million next year, which is about what he'll seek annually in a long term deal with the Bengals. Though Thomas and Bryants' deals may push him to seek more.
But, how bad will the situation between Green and the Bengals get if they're forced to use the tag?
Look no further than to this year's tagged players for a variety of examples as to how negotiations could go. Houston, Bryant, Thomas and Pierre-Paul all skipped OTAs. Bryant, Pierre-Paul and Thomas threatened holdouts and skipping training camp. Bryant went as far as to threaten sitting out Week 1 if Dallas didn't give him a long-term deal.
There's even a possible collusion case against Denver and Dallas for having contacted each other about their respective players’ contracts, when the collective bargaining agreement prohibits such contact.
Will the Bengals be dealing with this kind of drama next year with Green?
Probably not, at least based on what Green is saying. He maintains a long-term deal isn't worrying him and that he'll play under the tag if that's what it comes to. The Bengals and Green probably won't have much drama around them if and when they do end up dealing with the franchise tag.
Then again, a year ago, no one thought it would get this bad with the players who were tagged this year and their respective teams.
If somehow the Bengals and Green reach an agreement on an extension before the tag is used, there aren't many candidates who the tag could be applied to who are set to hit free agency next year. George Iloka would be the most obvious, and a safety tag costs just around $8.44 million. If Iloka plays as well in 2015 as he did in 2014, he's well worth that cost for one year.
After him, Marvin Jones is also set to hit free agency next year. There's little chance though that an injury-prone No. 2 receiver gets the tag, even if he replicates his 51-catch, 10-touchdown 2013 season this year.
Long-time cornerback Leon Hall is another candidate, but age and injuries have led to a steady decline in his play over the past two years. He also turns 31 in December, so the tag is pretty much out of the question for him.
The same is likely true for Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who turns 34 in December and will likely be on the decline by then. He's played at a high level in each of the past five seasons since becoming the full-time left tackle. But, with Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi waiting in the wings, Whitworth isn't getting the tag.
As of now, these are the only Bengals who will even be given a thought for the franchise tag. Other than Iloka or Green, don't expect the Bengals to use the tag on anyone else in 2016.