Why Packers are highly likely to use franchise tag on WR Davante Adams

Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams would be one of the best players to reach free agency in years. The back-to-back first-team All-Pro is either the best receiver in football or a strong second to Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp. Adams produced 238 catches, 2,937 yards and 29 touchdowns over the last two seasons and is still only 29 years old.

He has an expiring contract and would be an unrestricted free agent without a new deal before the start of the new league year in mid-March.

This is all exactly why Adams won’t reach free agency and exactly why the Packers are highly likely to use the franchise tag to make sure he doesn’t.

Adams and the Packers might be miles away from a realistic compromise on a new deal. The DeAndre Hopkins contract remains a significant hurdle in negotiations because Adams rightly believes he’s the best receiver in football and should be compensated as such on a per-year basis. The Packers probably have a much different definition of highest-paid. This perceived gap means a new deal is unlikely before his contract officially expires.

Without the franchise tag in play, Adams would be barreling ahead to unrestricted free agency, where the open market would set his value and likely price him out of Green Bay.

But the Packers can use the tag, and the team would be taking a gigantic risk by not using it. If Adams got to free agency and departed, the most the Packers would receive in return is a third-round compensatory pick in the 2023 draft.

No team would ever agree to trade Davante Adams for a future third-round pick.

The easiest way for the Packers to avoid this fate and open up more attractive end results? The franchise tag.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has been reporting for two months that the Packers are expected to use the tag to keep Adams. So, despite the significant salary cap hurdles that the tag would create, this appears to have been the plan all along.

The second the Packers apply the tag, the tag’s $20.1 million cap number for Adams hits the salary cap. So using the tag would significantly complicate the team’s path to getting under the cap by the start of the new league year on March 16, but the Packers also have many ways of shedding cap space between now and then and sound committed to doing everything possible to keeping the core of the roster intact.

Tagging Adams is probably in the team’s plans regardless of what happens with Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers wants to return, the Packers will have to keep Adams. No two ways around it. If Rodgers wants to retire or be traded away, the Packers will either want to keep Adams around for Jordan Love or to make sure they maximize the return for losing their two best players. Tag-to-trade should be an option. Dealing Rodgers and Adams for premium draft capital this offseason could help supercharge the team’s rebuilding phase.

A new, multi-year deal signed in the next month is probably the ideal scenario for the Packers. Adams is on a Hall of Fame path and could have several more great seasons ahead, especially if Rodgers returns. The second-best result might be using the tag as a way of extending the negotiating window and eventually getting a new deal done before the July deadline.

But using the tag prevents the worst-case scenario: losing Adams for next to nothing.

And you can bet there will be a team in free agency willing to give Adams the financial commitment he wants and has earned.

The window for using the franchise tag opens on Tuesday, Feb. 22. It closes two weeks later on March 8. Expect the Packers to use the tag at some point during that two-week window and keep Adams from becoming a coveted free agent on the open market. With a new deal probably, not using the tag is just too big of a gamble for Green Bay.

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