NFL free agency begins on March 10. But before the market opens, a number of teams will play tag. Yes, Feb. 16 is the first day for clubs to apply franchise tags. And the tag has been discussed as a stopgap solution for each of the top four players on Around The NFL's list of the 25 best free agents-to-be:
Of those four stars, who is most deserving of a long-term contract from his current team?
Now, I'm on record
begging Dallas to re-up Dez Bryant. He's a special receiver, and if the
Cowboys let him go, they'll always be chasing that kind of player. He would be second on my list. But Suh is unique and dominant. The
Lions just cannot function without him.
[Ndamukong Suh](/player/ndamukongsuh/496861/profile) and [Demaryius Thomas](/player/demaryiusthomas/497328/profile) are very good players, but both have questions. Suh can be a distraction, no matter how solid a player he is. Thomas undoubtedly has been helped by the play of [Peyton Manning](/player/peytonmanning/2501863/profile) over the last three years. Could he do it with [Brock Osweiler](/player/brockosweiler/2533436/profile) ... or somebody else? If we are splitting hairs here (we are), those factors would cause me to lean toward Houston and Bryant.
Here's where it gets really fun ... or scary, depending on your rooting interest: Where might those guys wind up if they do move on? What if Demaryius Thomas found his way to New England, where he, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman would be almost unstoppable? Why'd I bother typing "almost"? Because the Seahawks, with regional hero Ndamukong Suh joining the already-dominant Seattle D, would have a great shot at stifling that Pats offense.
Now that we're recklessly speculating ... what if the Eagles could land Dez Bryant? Dallas would crumble, Philly would soar. Then again, the Rams would be transformed to formidable if THEY added Dez. ( Los Angeles does love star power, y'know.)
Yes, the offseason is fun. Not as fun as the actual season ... but fun.
All four players deserve long-team deals and the stability that goes with them. They've earned it, which is why they are atop the free-agency list.
[Justin Houston](/player/justinhouston/2495493/profile) is most likely to get a long-term deal from his team this offseason. Houston harassed the quarterback with more ferocity than any NFL player outside of [J.J. Watt](/player/j.j.watt/2495488/profile) this past season. His talent for disruption makes it paramount for the [Chiefs](/teams/kansascitychiefs/profile?team=KC) to hang on to [the NFL's 2014 leader in sacks](http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&statisticCategory=SACKS&conference=null&season=2014&seasonType=REG). I expect Houston to get franchise tagged, but there aren't huge obstacles when it comes to potentially inking him long term later in the offseason -- unlike others on this list. [Chiefs](/teams/kansascitychiefs/profile?team=KC) general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid know the importance of hanging on to homegrown talent. A multi-year deal might not get done until the Suh situation untangles itself, but Houston isn't leaving Kansas City any time soon.