Tag, you're it! Miller, Norman, Cousins, Berry get NFL franchise tags
Where are the All-Pros without contracts going?
Nowhere, it appears.
Super Bowl MVP Von Miller and fellow All-Pro players Josh Norman and Eric Berry were given franchise tags Tuesday, the league's deadline to do so.
In all, nine players were slapped with the franchise tag and one, Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, got the transition tag.
Broncos linebacker Miller was the only player to get the exclusive tag, at $14.129 million, meaning no other team can make him an offer.
Panthers cornerback Norman and Chiefs safety Berry were among the eight who received non-exclusive designations, so other clubs can make offers, but their current teams have the right to match or get compensated with two first-round draft picks.
Also getting tagged with free agency set to begin on March 9 were Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, Ravens placekicker Justin Tucker, Bills tackle Cordy Glenn and Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
The players have until July 15 to work out a long-term contract with their teams. If they can't - and most franchises are eager to get these players locked up for several years - then the salary for 2016 is determined by the tag designation.
Cousins would earn the most, $19.9 million, because quarterbacks have the highest tag number. Wilkerson would be next at $15.7 million.
Miami decided against placing the franchise tag on Vernon, and this year's transition number calls for defensive ends to receive $12.734 million. A transition tag allows the player to negotiate with other teams, but his current club has the right of first refusal to match any offer. Should Vernon leave, there is no compensation for Miami.
A look at how this game of tag played out:
Von Miller, Denver ($14.129 million) - Many people consider the 26-year-old Miller the best defensive player in the NFL. Some rate him the best overall player. Clearly, the Broncos weren't leaving any opening for him to get away.
"We've had productive talks with Von's representation, and we'll continue those discussions with the goal of making sure Von remains a Bronco well into the future," GM John Elway said in a statement.
The outside linebacker has 60 sacks in his first five NFL seasons after being taken second overall behind Cam Newton - the Panthers QB he harassed in the Super Bowl - in 2011.
Eric Berry, Kansas City ($10.806 million) - The Comeback Player of the Year, Berry was diagnosed with lymphoma midway through the 2014 season and immediately began treatments. After going through chemotherapy, he was deemed cancer-free last summer, and the 27-year-old Berry then had the best season of his six-year career.
A 2010 first-round pick, Berry made 55 solo tackles and two interceptions while providing inspiration not only for the Chiefs, but for all athletes.
Josh Norman, Carolina ($13.952 million) - The Panthers have seen Norman, 28, develop into one of the best cover men in the NFL. Norman had four interceptions in the first four games last season, returning two for touchdowns, then quarterbacks stopped throwing his way. Opposing passers had a league-worst 54.0 QB rating when throwing at Norman, who expects to remain in Charlotte.
"I have been in the Carolinas my entire life," Norman said. "I went to (high school) in South Carolina, played at Coastal Carolina in college and been with the Panthers since Day 1. I have no reason to leave."
Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets ($15.701 million) - Although he broke his right leg in the season finale, Wilkerson, 26, never seemed destined to leave the Meadowlands. He had a career-high 12 sacks in Todd Bowles' defense. A first-rounder in 2011, Wilkerson and has improved in each season in the NFL. He has 36 1/2 sacks in five seasons, along with a safety, nine forced fumbles and an interception.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago ($14.599 million) - An injury-plagued season for Jeffery (807 yards on 54 receptions in nine games) didn't dampen the Bears' desire to keep him. Jeffery played in all 16 games the previous two years, finishing with 1,421 yards in 2013 and 1,133 in 2014.
Kirk Cousins, Washington ($19.953 million) - Four years ago, Robert Griffin III was the No. 2 overall draft pick and led the Redskins to a division title as Offensive Rookie of the Year. Now, he's headed elsewhere and Cousins, selected in the fourth round in 2012, will become one of the highest-paid QBs. Cousins led the NFL with a 69.8 completion rate, finished with 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, a franchise-record 4,166 yards and a passer rating of 101.6.
Cordy Glenn, Buffalo ($13.706 million) - This signing shows how valuable reliable offensive tackles are. Glenn was a key to the Bills' top-ranked rushing game. He was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft out of Georgia, and has started 61 games for Buffalo.
Justin Tucker, Baltimore ($4.572 million) - Tucker went undrafted as a rookie, which meant no signing bonus. How underpaid was he? Try league minimums for each of his four seasons despite becoming the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history behind the Cowboys' Dan Bailey.
Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles ($13.952 million) - Hardly in Norman's class as a cover man, Johnson still is a playmaker and had seven interceptions last season. He has 15 interceptions in his first four NFL seasons. Now Los Angeles tried to re-sign its other young starting cornerback, Janoris Jenkins.
Olivier Vernon, Miami ($12.734 million) - Vernon made $1.7 million in 2015, when he led the Dolphins with 7 1/2 sacks and 36 quarterback hits. He has started every game the past two years and has 29 sacks in four NFL seasons. Keeping him makes re-signing running back Lamar Miller more difficult.