Jarvis Landry has signed his franchise tag, which commits the Miami Dolphins – or whatever team that may trade for the receiver – to paying the three-time Pro Bowl selection $15,982,000 in 2018.
The signing of the franchise tag was a formality that now allows the Dolphins to trade him as early as March 14, which is when the league's new year begins.
By signing the franchise tag, Landry is under contract and is subject to a fine if he skips any of the team's mandatory camps.
Landry's contract, which will make him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL when it comes to base salary in 2018, puts the Dolphins $19 million over the projected salary cap of $177 million. The Dolphins must clear that cap space before March 14 to facilitate the pending trade for defensive end Robert Quinn, and sign other free agents.
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The deadline for any team to sign a player placed on the franchise tag to a multi-year deal is July 16. After that date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior team for the 2018 season, and that contract cannot be extended until after the team's last regular-season game.
Signing the franchise tag could speed up the trade process, but it is hard to envision a team trading for Landry without him agreeing to a multi-year deal first because he'd likely be viewed as a one-year rental since giving him the tag for a second season would pay him roughly $19.5 million for one season.
Tagging a player effectively makes him a restricted free agent, and a team would be required to send Miami two first-round picks if Miami doesn't match the offer. However, the trade price would be much less if Miami works out a trade.
The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears are two teams that have reportedly expressed interest in trading for Landry. However, the Ravens lack the cap space (a little under $5 million) to make a deal unless it also involves other players. The Bears have $50 million in cap space, and are in desperate need for receivers.
Since 1993, three receivers have been tagged and traded. In 1995, the New York Jets traded Rob Moore to Arizona for the 16th overall pick in the 1995 draft, and tailback Ron Moore. In 2000, Seattle traded Joey Galloway to Dallas for a first-round pick in 2000 and 2001, and Buffalo sent Peerless Price to Atlanta for pick No. 23 in the 2003 draft.
While every receiver with the franchise tag produced a first-round pick in a trade, don't expect the Dolphins to benefit from a similar haul for Landry. It is believed that the Dolphins are targeting a trade that would equate to the value of second-round draft pick.
Replacing Landry won't be easy considering he's the Dolphins' best draft pick since Hall of Fame pass rusher Jason Taylor, who was selected in the third round of the 1997 draft.
Kenny Stills, a three-year starter for the Dolphins, has experience playing the slot position going back to his tenure with New Orleans. If Miami moves Stills inside, Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant, two receivers selected in the 2015 draft, would compete to become the third receiver paired with Stills and DeVante Parker.
The Dolphins also have Drew Morgan, who worked exclusively in the slot last season while a member of Miami's practice squad, two former Miami Hurricanes in Rashawn Scott and Malcolm Lewis, and Isaiah Ford, last year's seventh-round pick, on the roster.
According to a league source, the Dolphins have offered Landry a contract that would pay him an average salary of $13 million a season. Landry, who has set an NFL record for receptions in a receiver's first four years, wants a contract that's in the neighborhood of the four-year, $58 million deal Green Bay gave Davante Adams last December, which paid Adams an $18 million signing bonus and will pay him $32 million in the deal's first two seasons.
Adams' average annual salary of $14.5 million will make him the fourth-highest paid receiver, behind Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown ($17.0 million), Houston's DeAndre Hopkins ($16.2 million) and A.J. Green ($15.0 million). The franchise tag price is based on the average of the 10 highest-paid players at each position. If Landry plays on the tag, he'll earn the highest base salary of any receiver in the league for one season.
However, it's possible that Sammy Watkins' next deal, and a new contract for Tampa Bay's Mike Evans, could raise the bar even higher. Watkins is viewed as the top unrestricted free-agent receiver on the market, and Evans is slated to earn $13.25 million on the fifth-year option of his contract.