One year from now, the "franchise tag" could be a source of great drama for the Giants if Odell Beckham Jr. doesn't have his mega-deal by then. If he doesn't, the Giants will surely tag him. And he surely won't be happy about it. He might not even sign it.
But that's a problem for 2019. Right now, the 15-day "franchise tag" period - which officially opened in the NFL on Tuesday - figures to be completely drama-free. The Giants seem to have only one player worthy of the "franchise tag" - guard Justin Pugh. And they aren't expected to use it, even on him.
The unfortunate truth is that coming off a 3-13 season, none of the Giants' 19 unrestricted free agents are players they absolutely can't afford to lose. And Pugh is the only one worthy of being paid an average of the five highest-paid salaries at his position, which is what franchised players get. They could conceivably use the tag on Pugh as a place-holder if they were close to signing him to a long-term contract.
But there's no indication that the two sides are close to anything at all.
Tagging Pugh - or center Weston Richburg for that matter - would be costly, anyway. The projected tag amount for an offensive lineman is about $14.3 million. That's about half of the available salary cap space the Giants are expected to have. That number would remain on the Giants' cap until a long-term deal was worked out, and if Pugh decided to sign it, it would become a one-year, guaranteed contract that would remain on the books throughout 2018.
Either way, that could severely limit what the Giants are able to do in free agency - particularly on the costly offensive line market. Essentially, as the Giants look to completely rebuild their line, keeping Pugh would end up being the only big move they could really afford.
Of course, Pugh is looking for much more than that anyway - especially after seeing Kevin Zeitler break the guard market last year when he got a five-year, $60 million deal from the Browns with $23 million guaranteed. And the Giants would want a deal at a much smaller cap number than $14.3 million. That's why it's unlikely to happen.
As for the rest of the Giants' UFAs, none of them are worth even close to the franchise tag price. Richburg is a nice player, but he's coming off a season lost to a concussion, plus the Giants got good play in his absence from his replacement, Brett Jones.
The best of the rest of their crop is probably linebacker Devon Kennard, but he's not going to get anywhere close to the projected franchise tag for linebackers of $15.1 milllion.
So instead, the Giants will be watching the rest of the league over the next 15 days - particularly the Carolina Panthers, who could conceivably use their tag on guard Andrew Norwell. If the 26-year-old Norwell becomes a free agent, the Giants are expected to be bidders on Gettleman's former player. The Panthers want him back too, but they're in virtually the same cap situation as the Giants. It's possible the $14.3 million tag on him will be too much for them to afford.
The Giants, by the way, have only used the "franchise tag" five times in their history since it was invented in 1993. They used it on tackle Jumbo Elliott in 1993, running back Brandon Jacobs in 2009, punter Steve Weatherford in 2012, and twice on defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, in 2015 and 2017. Jacobs and Weatherford both signed long-term deals shortly after they were tagged. JPP did the same in 2017.