The 2023 DFL season is officially underway as the new league year kicked off on June 1 with salaries paid and franchise tags locked in.
There were 16 franchise tags handed out with only two of them being EFTs, which means there will be a good deal of talented players hitting the open market looking to get paid.
Let’s take a look at who received the guaranteed lucrative paychecks.
Exclusive Franchise Tags (2)
A.J. Brown, WR/PHI — Kazakhstan ($18.6)
Brown had a change of location last offseason leading him to finish as the WR6 overall during the 2022 season. He’s got a young, hungry teammate in DeVonta Smith nipping at his heels and a strong tight end who commands targets in Dallas Goedert. Will there be enough to go around for Brown to earn his hefty salary?
Aaron Rodgers, QB/NYJ — Saint Kitts & Nevis ($6.3)
For a quarterback to be given the EFT, he’d better be a darn good playmaker and a difference-maker at the position. We haven’t seen that from Rodgers in a while, which means he’ll likely be one of the more overpaid players at the position. Fortunately for the Shockers, they don’t have to foot the whole bill. Peru traded Rodgers and agreed to pay half of his salary for third-round picks in 2023 and 2025. Each franchise will have to decide if their $3 million and change is worth what they’re getting in return once this all plays out.
Non-exclusive Franchise Tags (8)
Austin Ekeler, RB/LAC — Kazakhstan ($15.5)
The Very Nice Team rode Ekeler to an RB1 overall finish last year and now are looking to reward him with another contract. Being that he’s on the NFT tag, he’ll shop his services around and see if anyone else is willing to give him a bigger contract. He figures to draw at least some interest and then the ‘Stans can decide if they want to match and retain him.
Christian McCaffrey, RB/SF — Greece ($15.5)
McCaffrey surpassed a major hurdle last year proving that he could survive the grind of the football season, which he failed to do the previous two years. And not only did he play the full year but he resumed his place back near the top of the league, at RB2. The Trojans traded the fourth overall pick to Peru to secure the matching rights to McCaffrey, so you can bet they’ll be heavily invested in matching the highest offer for him.
Jonathan Taylor, RB/IND — Australia ($15.5)
Last year’s highest-paid player was a colossal bust, as he missed some time and played through injury. He was rewarded with an initial contract offer exactly half of what his 2022 salary was. Odds are good that he will receive at least some attention in free agency and he should rebound for a better 2023 given that he still has Top 5 RB talent.
Josh Allen, QB/BUF — Papua New Guinea ($6.3)
One of the most versatile and dangerous quarterbacks in the league due to his rushing ability, Allen was the highest-paid player at his position last year. It seemed a no-brainer for Papua New Guinea to place the NFT on him. Now the real question will be just how high are teams willing to go with contract offers, including a possible second-round pick compensation, to try to pry him away from the Pigs?
Justin Jefferson, WR/MIN — Saint Kitts & Nevis ($18.2)
Jefferson is one of the top few wide receivers in the league and the Shockers paid a hefty price for him last year at $29 million. That does not seem like it is in the cards for this year. One could expect offers to come rolling in somewhere in the low-to-mid $20 million range and the Shockers will have to decide if they want to retain his services and at what price.
Patrick Mahomes, QB/KC — Sint Maarten ($6.3)
The Savages greatly value Mahomes and were willing to go as high as $20 million on him last offseason. Fortunately, they did not, and they settled on a still-expensive but more reasonable $14 million. I wouldn’t expect his price tag to reach that high this offseason, but the Savages seem likely to match most reasonable offers that come in for their prized quarterback.
Travis Kelce, TE/KC — Ireland ($6.9)
The most consistently dominant player at his position — hands down — over the past half decade or so has been Travis Kelce. And although he is getting up there in age, he is still expected to draw a big paycheck. The fun question waiting to be answered is not so much how big a contract he will ultimately receive, but what the first offer of free agency will be for him and how high above his tag price that will come in at.
Stefon Diggs, WR/BUF — Bolivia ($18.2)
One of the best receivers in the game the past few years, Diggs received a tag price that actually appears to be in line with his market value. He’s a solid contributor on the field and the interesting question will be if anyone is willing to offer him much more than his tag price, and if so, how much.
Transition Tags (6)
CeeDee Lamb, WR/DAL — Peru ($13.7)
Lamb finished as WR5 last year but he came with a mighty hefty EFT cost and the Gurus already used their NFT tag on Christian McCaffrey, before trading him. The only other option was to place the TT on Lamb and see how high his price soars. The Gurus have a pretty set roster but they also have the lowest amount of cap space. A high contract offer might give them pause about matching.
Darren Waller, TE/NYG — Bolivia ($4.3)
Waller will see a change of scenery this season and that could really boost his stock. With the tight end position such a crapshoot every year, finding a good one becomes a high priority. Waller has shown the ability to be one of the very best tight ends in the league before, but he’s had health issues to deal with lately.
Davante Adams, WR/LV — Papua New Guinea ($13.7)
A lot of people were wondering what kind of player Adams would be without his long-time quarterback and he proved that he could still be a top wide receiver last year, finishing as WR3. The Pigs are doubling down on that theory as Adams faces another quarterback change. How high will his contract go, and will the Pigs match it?
Mark Andrews, TE/BAL — Saint Kitts & Nevis ($4.3)
Andrews’ contract last year topped $20 million and he finished as TE4. He’s perennially thought to be among the top three best tight ends, so he figures to get a lot of offers in free agency. If the Shockers do match the highest offer for Jefferson, do they dare risk the same financial peril they faced last year by matching on Andrews, too?
Najee Harris, RB/PIT — Greece ($10.8)
Harris was a highly-paid bust last season but the Trojans are rolling the dice on a rebound season. It’s doubtful that his contract will come close to last year’s $25 million, but the big question is whether the Trojans can afford both McCaffrey and Harris. If they do retain them both, they will have to find good deals at wide receiver.
Tee Higgins, WR/CIN — Colombia ($13.7)
The Capybaras already have the makings of a nice receiving corps on their roster. Matching the highest offer on Higgins and bringing him back for a title defense would make things all the more interesting. They don’t have a ton of cap space available, but they also don’t have many needs remaining either.