Now that the franchise tag deadline has passed, take a look at the best players in the free-agent market according to NFL.com.
Although the nearest major event on the NFL calendar is the 2016 Scouting Combine next week in Indianapolis, Tuesday marked an official start of sorts to the league's free agency buildup – which will reach its zenith on March 9 (the first day teams can sign 2016 free agents).
Tuesday was the first day of a two-week window in which clubs can designate an impending free agent with either the franchise or transition tag. We mention that in this post because at least a few of the top free agents for 2016 will likely never actually reach free agency. Between now and March, teams will use the tags to stop their star players from signing elsewhere. In each of the last two years, six players have drawn the franchise or transition tags. Here is NFL.com’s list of players who could be candidates in 2016.
The franchise tag comes with two options: exclusive and non-exclusive. The former means a player can only negotiate with his current team, while the latter allows him to negotiate with other teams. The transition tag gives the team a right of first refusal if the player receives a contract offer elsewhere.
In regards to the franchise tag, if the two parties are unable to come to terms on a long-term contract, the player would get a one-year, guaranteed contract based on the average of the five largest prior-year salaries for players at that position. If you want to see what those figures could look like this year or simply want more information about the different tags, go here.
The 49ers have used the franchise tag on four occasions: for linebacker Julian Peterson in 2004 and 2005, for defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin in 2010 and for safety Dashon Goldson in 2012.
San Francisco's list of unrestricted free agents in 2016 is comprised of wide receiver Anquan Boldin, guard Alex Boone, running back Reggie Bush, tight end Garrett Celek, kicker Phil Dawson and nose tackle Ian Williams.
With that preface out of the way, let's get to what you came here for: the top five free agent players at each position. We used Pro Football Focus’ rankings to determine the order.
According to Over the Cap, the 49ers will have the third-most salary cap room in 2016, so it seems likely the team will be an active player come March. Here are many of the names you should know beforehand.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles
Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos
Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
James Starks, Green Bay Packers
Eleven players are set to become free agents this spring. View all of them in one place.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals
Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins
Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns
Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Dwayne Allen, Indianpolis Colts
Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
Vernon Davis, Denver Broncos
Benjamin Watson, New Orleans Saints
Interior offensive line
Richie Incognito, Buffalo Bills
Evan Mathis, Denver Broncos
Brandon Brooks, Houston Texans
Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Stefen Wisniewski, Jacksonville Jaguars
Kelechi Osemele (G/T), Baltimore Ravens
Cordy Glenn, Buffalo Bills
Donald Penn, Oakland Raiders
Kelvin Beachum, Pittsburgh Steelers
Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland Browns
Interior defensive line
Damon Harrison, New York Jets
Nick Fairley, St. Louis Rams
Ian Williams, San Francisco 49ers
Akiem Hicks, New England Patriots
Brandon Mebane, Seattle Seahawks
Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets
Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
Malik Jackson, Denver Broncos
Robert Ayers, New York Giants
Von Miller, Denver Broncos
Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks
Danny Trevathan, Denver Broncos
Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs
Jerrell Freeman, Indianapolis Colts
Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers
Sean Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
George Iloka, Cincinnatti Bengals