The official deadline for NFL teams to place the franchise tag on their pending free agents has come and gone. All tags must have been submitted by 4 PM/EST Tuesday. While many teams around the league exercised that ability, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t issue the tag on any of their pending free agents. It was a wholly expected move but this cements confirmation.
Pittsburgh simply didn’t have any free agent worthy to tag. Their top pending unrestricted free agent is CB Cam Sutton, in-line for a big payday this offseason but not at the tag level. That would’ve equated to a one-year deal worth $18.140 million, a deal that wouldn’t make sense for the Steelers to do. Pittsburgh has until March 15th to work out a long-term deal with Sutton otherwise he’ll officially become a free agent. The legal tampering period begins on Monday, March 13th, when teams can speak with any pending free agents.
Beyond Sutton, there was zero chance the team would use the tag on anyone else. Other notable pending free agents include DL Larry Ogunjobi, SS Terrell Edmunds, QB Mason Rudolph, ILBs Robert Spillane and Devin Bush, S Damontae Kazee, TE Zach Gentry, RB Benny Snell, FB Derek Watt, and WR Miles Boykin. Some of those names could return while others, like Bush and Rudolph, are virtually guaranteed to be playing elsewhere in 2023. But none even came close to meeting the threshold of being worthy of the franchise tag.
The last time Pittsburgh used the franchise tag was on EDGE rusher Bud Dupree in 2020. He played out his year on the tag before securing a long-term deal, despite tearing his ACL, with the Tennessee Titans. But Dupree has struggled to be the same player since and the Titans are expected to release him next week. If the numbers are right, it’s possible he returns to Pittsburgh.
The Steelers also didn’t use the rarely-used transition tag on any of their free agents. For the next week, the focus will be on the players who get cut. CB William Jackson III is an obvious one and it’ll be a question of if anyone joins him like LB Myles Jack and CB Ahkello Witherspoon. We’ll also see which free agents the team is able to retain and which hit the open market. The team also has four restricted free agents. RB Jeremy McNichols won’t get tendered by CB James Pierre, WR Steven Sims, and C J.C. Hassenauer could be.
Notable players franchise tagged this year include Washington Commanders DL Daron Payne, Dallas Cowboys RB Tony Pollard, Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley, and Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who was hit with the non-exclusive tag. Meaning, teams are able to submit offer sheets. If Jackson agrees and the Ravens don’t match, Jackson would leave for that team and Baltimore would receive that team’s first round picks in 2023 and 2024. Jackson was the only player in the AFC North to be tagged.