INDIANAPOLIS -- The window is open for NFL teams to use the franchise designation to retain impending free agents.
Atop the list of potential tag candidates are Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green.
Teams have until March 12 to apply the tag, which brings refusal rights to the free agency process. For example, if Prescott is tagged, he would be guaranteed the average of the top-five player salaries at his position for the 2020 season. If he receives a contract offer sheet from another team on the non-exclusive tag, the Cowboys could match the offer and retain Prescott or allow him to leave, accepting multiple first-round picks in return as compensation.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday the team is building around Prescott and wants to keep wide receivers Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, who are also free agents. That's going to take a hyper-creative accountant and likely require Prescott to relent on salary demands reportedly approaching $40 million per season.
Prescott doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The Cowboys are negotiating with his representatives this week in Indianapolis with an eye toward a new deal before the league year begins next month.
Cincinnati is also publicly saying Green won't be getting out of town easily. Head coach Zac Taylor and president of player personnel Duke Tobin said Tuesday that Green is a priority, and all means possible would be used to make sure he stays with the Bengals.
Green said the franchise tag "is not the best thing," but added he wouldn't turn down $18 million guaranteed. Green turns 32 before the start of the 2020 season.
Franchise tag values are not yet official as the looming CBA extension could impact one-year contract tenders. Franchise tags must be utilized by 4 p.m. ET on March 12. A negotiating window toward a long-term contract with tagged players remains open until 4 p.m. ET on July 15.
Denver Broncos president of football operations John Elway said during the NFL Scouting Combine that the franchise tag is in play for safety Justin Simmons.
"I'd like to get a deal done with him before that, but we'll see. Yeah, if we don't get something done, we'll use the tag," Elway said.
The tag game is also a realistic option in Jacksonville, where defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is reportedly requesting a long-term deal worth $22 million per season.
The 24-year-old posted his fourth straight season with at least eight sacks in 2019.
Jones is a candidate for a tag-and-trade, the kind of deal the Chiefs pulled to land Frank Clark from the Seattle Seahawks last year.
--By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media