Several teams have elected to use their franchise tag on pass rushers this offseason. This could drive up Preston Smith’s value on the open market and keep the Redskins from re-signing him.
The 2019 offseason was supposed to be a very good one for edge rushers. With a robust market of edge rushers set to hit the market along with a talent-rich class at the position, teams looking for help on the edge were set to be in good shape. However, one thing has changed that a bit. And that’s the franchise tag.
Ahead of the franchise tag deadline, several teams have put the franchise tag on their top edge rusher. Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence, Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney, Kansas City’s Dee Ford, and Seattle’s Frank Clark are all reportedly off the market, as their respective teams have slapped them with the tag. Ford is rumored to be available via trade, but the fact is that there is much less talent on the edge rush market than expected.
This could have a negative impact on the Redskins. The team has expressed an interest in bringing back Preston Smith, but with him set to hit the open market, it’s likely that a team with ample cap space will spend up to bring him to their team. This was always the case anyway, but with less quality edge rushers available in free agency, the prospects of losing him have certainly increased.
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Smith’s suitors could include teams like the Colts and Raiders. The Colts, a team ready to win now, could stand to add some pass rushing help, and Smith would be a nice fit for Matt Eberflus’ defensive system. Meanwhile, the Raiders have a lot of cap space and lack pass rushing talent after trading Khalil Mack last season. Smith would give them a chance to add a young, athletic edge player to try and help their defense, and it wouldn’t preclude them from drafting a bookend to pair with him.
The Redskins can still try to bring back Smith, but the fact is that they don’t have a ton of cap space, so it will be hard to give him what he’s set to earn on the open market. Smith is just 26 and while his sack production hasn’t been consistent, he always gets pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That will likely lead a team to pay him somewhere in the $12-$14 million range this offseason, and that’s something that the ‘Skins simply can’t afford to do.
Had some of the other pass rushers been on the market this offseason, it’s possible that Smith may have been slightly devalued and Washington may have come back into play. But as it stands, Smith and Trey Flowers are the top two free agents on the edge and they will garner significant interest this offseason. It’s looking less and less likely that Smith will return to the Redskins, so the team will have to focus on upgrading the rush linebacker position in the 2019 NFL Draft.