It’s franchise tag deadline day.
The Falcons have until 4 p.m. Monday to reach a contract extension with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
In order to retain Jarrett’s rights and block him from becoming an unrestricted free agent when the new league year started on March 13, the Falcons placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on him March 4.
Owner Arthur Blank proclaimed earlier in the offseason that Jarrett, who signed his $15.209 million franchise tender April 22, would be a Falcon for life.
“At this point everybody knows who I’m repped by, they are going to handle all of that,” Jarrett said during the minicamp in June. “I’m here to talk about football and being back around my teammates.”
If a deal is not reached, Jarrett, who was a fifth round pick in 2015 out of Clemson, will play on the one-year franchise tag deal, which doesn’t have any long-term security.
Entering the weekend, the negotiations were described as “cool” between the team and Jarrett’s agent, Todd France. But it was quickly added that things could “heat up” as the deadline approached.
The Falcons continued to remain in contact with France, but noted back in May that Jarrett may have to play under the franchise tag. The Falcons have said that re-signing Jarrett, 26, was a priority after the 2017 season, but they have not been able to reach a multi-year contract extension.
“I’m confident that something will get done one way or the other,” Falcon general manager Thomas Dimitroff said on SiriusXM Radio recently. “If it doesn’t, we have (another) year to continue to talk about it.”
It was noted by CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry, a former agent, that France also represents the NFL’s two highest paid interior defensive linemen, Aaron Donald ($22.5 million per year) and Fletcher Cox ($17.1 million per year).
“France likely views those deals he negotiated as being relevant to his Jarrett negotiations,” Corry wrote in a recent column.
The Falcons apparently don’t believe Jarrett is in the same financial neighborhood as Donald or Cox.
Jarrett, Houston pass rush Jadeveon Clowney and San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould are the only remaining players on franchise tags. The three other players to receive the franchise tag this offseason have signed multi-year deals.
If no deal is reached, Jarrett, Clowney and Gould must wait until the 2019 regular season ends to sign long-term deals. They could be tagged for a second year or allowed to become unrestricted free agents.
After receiving the franchise tag, pass rusher Dee Ford received a five-year, $85 million contract from San Francisco. Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence received a five-year, $105 million deal in early April. Kansas City defensive Frank Clark signed a five-year, $104 million deal after his trade from Seattle.
Clowney, whose franchise tag is $15.9 million, isn’t expected to receive a long-term deal, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson.
Gould reportedly wants to be traded back to Chicago, where he played for 11 seasons. His franchise tag is $4.9 million.
The Falcons have sparingly used the franchise tag on position players. The team put tag on cornerback Brent Grimes in 2012 for $10.28 million after they failed to reach a long-term deal. Before Grimes, they used to return punter/kickoff specialist Michael Koenen in 2009 for $2.4 million.
Jarrett’s value is very high after a stellar four years.
OverTheCap.com and ProFootballFocus.com have projected that Jarrett is worth a five-year, $82.5 million deal with $46 million guaranteed. Spotrac has a six-year, $93.1 million projection on Jarrett.
Jarrett had 52 tackles, six sacks, 16 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and eight tackles for losses last season.
Jarrett’s rookie contract was a four-year, $2.527 million deal signed with the Falcons on May 8, 2015.
Jarrett has played in 61 games and made 46 starts. He’s made 179 tackles (95 solo) with 14 sacks, 31 tackles for loss, one fumble recovery and 40 quarterback hits.
During Super Bowl LI, Jarrett tied an NFL record with three sacks against the New England Patriots. Since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, three other players have posted three sacks in the Super Bowl — Darnell Dockett, Kony Ealy and Reggie White.
The Falcons, who are just $6.71 million under the salary cap, could use space created by a deal with Jarrett to help with wide receiver Julio Jones’ deal.
Jones is projected to land a deal that averages more than $20 million per year.
The Falcons’ rookies are scheduled to report for training camp on the Thursday, July 18. The veterans are set to report Sunday, July 21.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.