Revisiting every time Eagles used the franchise tag on players

Jeremiah Trotter, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Jeremiah Trotter, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) /

Welcome to one of the biggest and most important offseasons in Philadelphia Eagles franchise history. Sure, we could probably say that about every offseason, but it’s particularly true this time around. The champions of the National Football Conference are at a crossroads. One of the greatest seasons in franchise history now doubles as one of the most disappointing, and with searches for two coordinators, the NFL Scouting Combine, the free agency period, and the NFL Draft on the horizon, there’s work to be done.

Philly has to balance the salary cap and keep as much of this phenomenal core together as possible, but it won’t be easy. If there was ever a time for Howie Roseman to wave his magic wand, it would be now.

The Birds have decisions to make on 19 potential unrestricted free agents and one exclusive rights free agent (Tyree Jackson). There are questions about whether or not the franchise tag may come into play.

For an explanation of what the franchise tag is and how it works, you can click here for explanations (if you need them). Once you’re done there, buckle up because we have much to discuss.

History suggests the Eagles may not use the franchise tag, but since were on the subject, here’s a look at each time they did.

Free agency can lead to complicated discussions and heated debates. This time around, those discussions revolve around 20 men who gave all that they had to give during the 2022-2023 Eagles regular season and a postseason run that fell short of the ultimate goal.

In March, the conversation shifts to the NFL Draft and free agency. In terms of the latter, again, a total of 20 Birds from the 53-man roster have taken centerstage.

Placing the franchise tag on one of those guys would allow the Eagles more time to negotiate and hammer out a deal with one of those guys if they’re interested. Philly typically hasn’t exercised the option, but in an attempt to keep a star-studded roster together, the tool is there if Howie Roseman wants to use it.

Here’s a look at the five times, they did so.

Jeremiah Trotter (2002):

Though originally meant to aid teams in keeping their best players, stars began looking at the tag begrudgingly as it kept them from finding the best deal for themselves and it kept them from finding better deals elsewhere.

Jeremiah Trotter’s tag in 2002 was the first time Philly exercised the option, and this is probably the best example of how the franchise tag can cause rifts. This is still one of the ugliest showdowns between a front office and a player in Philly’s history.

Trotter wanted to be paid as one of the top linebackers in the game and didn’t appreciate the tag. After an ugly fallout, the Eagles rescinded the tag, and Trotter signed a seven-year deal with Washington.

All is forgiven now as Trot returned to Philly in 2004, and he made two more Pro Bowls. He is still one of the more beloved players by fans everywhere.

Corey Simon (2005)

Simon’s standoff with the Eagles organization wasn’t as venomous as the Axe Man’s, but he didn’t take kindly to being franchised either. He never signed his tag. It was rescinded, and after five seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, he signed a five-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts.

He lasted one year with the Colts but suffered a devastating knee injury that essentially ended his career. He was placed on Indy’s Physically Unable to Perform/Non-Football Injury list during training camp in 2006 and didn’t play in any games. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans in 2007, but he never played in any games during his final two seasons.

L.J. Smith (2008)

Almost 15 years later, we’re still not sure if L.J. Smith earned his franchise tag because the Eagles wanted him or because Donovan McNabb wanted him, but it has always felt like it’s more of the latter.

The Eagles moved on from Smith in 2009, and he signed with the Baltimore Ravens. There, he appeared in 12 games with no starts and caught two passes on three targets in what would wind up being his final NFL season.

Michael Vick (2011)

The 2011 NFL season brought a fear of work stoppages and the absence of a free agency frenzy. The Philadelphia Eagles placed the franchise tag on Michael Vick to allow themselves an opportunity to work out a contract. He eventually signed a six-year, $100 million contract with $40 million guaranteed.

See? Sometimes, the franchise tag is a good thing and there isn’t any drama.

DeSean Jackson (2012)

DeSean Jackson didn’t have much of an issue with the franchise tag as he actually released a statement via his social media account that thanked the Eagles for doing so.

Placing the franchise tag on D-Jax meant he would be paid like a top-five wide receiver in the NFL (which is what he wanted), but both sides continued to work on a long-term deal which wound up being a five-year extension that was worth $51 million.

Here’s a list of the 20 Eagles who must be extended or allowed to play ball somewhere else.

  • Fletcher Cox
  • Robert Quinn
  • Brandon Graham
  • Javon Hargrave
  • Ndamukong Suh
  • Linval Joseph
  • T.J. Edwards
  • Kyzir White
  • Jason Kelce
  • Isaac Seumalo
  • Andre Dillard
  • James Bradberry
  • Marcus Epps
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
  • Gardner Minshew
  • Miles Sanders
  • Boston Scott
  • Zach Pascal
  • Rick Lovato
  • Tyree Jackson

It’s hard to make everyone happy. Sometimes, it’s hard to say goodbye to guys (Brian Dawkins, Duce Staley, Troy Vincent, Malcolm Jenkins, Zach Ertz), but more often than not, the Eagles take care of their guys sooner rather than later.

The 2023-2024 Eagles will look much different than the most recent version in some of the position groups, but we trust Howie Roseman to do the right thing. Don’t be shocked if the franchise tag comes into play, but don’t be shocked if it doesn’t either.