Early RSO Decisions: Franchise Tags

Updated: February 26th 2020

The Reality Sports Online Writer’s league started up for a variety of reasons including testing out new features out like the 5th year rookie option to see how they work in an actual league.  It also gave us a platform to talk about key decisions which occur in RSO leagues and discuss some of the inputs which go into the decision-making process of those decisions.  This article deals with one of those decisions crucial to RSO leagues; franchise tag use.  The reader will find some basic considerations going into the franchise tag decision and a few real-life examples of decisions members of the league are making going into the 2020 season.

League Situation


Starting Spots:  1 QB, 1 Open Flex, 2 RB, 2 WR, 2 Flex, 1TE. 24 Roster spots.  1st round rookie option enabled.  1 Franchise tag allowed. 2 practice squad spots. 10 teams.

Scoring:  PPR with passing TDs worth 4 points, 1 point per 25 passing yards, and -1 point per interception.

Some of the Top Potential Free Agents

QBs: Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick, Minshew, Dalton

RBs: Gordon, Jones, D. Williams, Drake, Freeman, Coleman, Mostert, Hyde, Howard

WRs: OBJ, Evans, Robinson, Kupp, Woods, Boyd, Green, A. Brown, Edelman, J. Brown, Watkins, Parker, Sanders, Tate, Shepard, T. Williams, R. Anderson

TEs: Kelce, Henry, Hooper, Waller, Cook, Hockenson, Higbee, Everett, Olsen, Walker, Rudolf, Doyle

I categorize wide receiver and tight end as the deepest positions in the free agent pool with good depth and potential front line starters.  Tight end also happens to be one of the most needed position groups by teams in the league heading into free agency.  The available running backs produce many questions and the quarterback position is a graveyard of older QBs on the brink of retirement.

Cap Situation

The league has about $620 million in total cap space with four teams above $96 million.  The $620 million will rise as the new salary cap numbers come out.

Decision 1: Mike Evans ($34M) vs. Darren Waller ($10M)

Team Situation:

No better place to start with than a situation I am very familiar with, my own.  My team currently has the highest amount of cap space in the league for 2020 at $106M.  I also have three top-6 rookie picks to build around.  These attributes give this squad a lot of flexibility heading into next season.  The team has Tyreek Hill and Courtland Sutton locked in as the only starting wide receivers with Evan Engram in his final year of his rookie deal at tight end.


Waller might be the feel-good story in the NFL for 2019 overcoming drug issues with a 90 reception, 1,100 yard season after never reaching 100 yards in a previous season.   He is the focal point of the Raider’s passing attack.  Las Vegas (it is still somewhat odd to write that) likely adds another receiving threat to the wide receiver core this offseason.  Tagging tight ends in RSO is always interesting as they usually come at a low cost but are a low demand position with usable options readily available in shallow leagues.  Evans put up a 1,400 yard, 10 touchdown 16-game pace in 2019 despite injuries and sickness limiting his playing time/performance in multiple games.  That is the kind of upside which is likely not in Waller’s reasonable range of outcomes at tight end no matter how well he plays.  Neither team seems completely set at quarterback with both Jameis Winston and Derek Carr facing questions about their starting spots going forward.


I likely tag Waller.  His limited sample is a concern but he provides insurance against Engram’s lengthy injury issues at a relatively low cost.  He provides a legitimate flex option, especially during bye-weeks, as a strong potential TE1.  Waller should also be in high demand on the trade market by tight end needy teams, for which there are many in this league.  My cap space combined with Evans’ historic early production and upside makes this decision close despite the salary difference.  We will know more when the quarterback decisions are made for Tampa Bay and Las Vegas.

Decision 2: Melvin Gordon ($39M) vs Ryan Tannehill ($24M)

Team Situation:

This team currently sits at $35M of cap space with only a 3rd round rookie pick.  It has most of the starting lineup locked up on contract, including Chubb and Fournette at running back, with plenty of cheap bench depth.  Notable quarterbacks on contract include Prescott, Darnold, Trubisky, Mariota, and Taylor.


This situation presents a curious case as both options are NFL free agents this year.  We do not know for certain where they sign or even if they will be a starter for whichever team they sign with.  Gordon’s holdout decision in 2019 turned disastrous.  Austin Ekeler stepped up into the lead role in Gordon’s absence and responded as PFF’s fourth ranked running back and top receiving back.  Gordon struggled mightily in his return after a strong 2018, likely costing himself a lot of real money.  No team will give Gordon the money he was looking for and he might be out of a starting job if he is not willing to take less money.  Tannehill, on the other end of the spectrum, likely made himself a boatload of money.  The former Dolphin took over for a struggling Mariota and ran away with the Titans’ starting quarterback gig.  He led the league in passing yards per attempt by a whole yard (9.6 YPA) over 12 games!


This is an obvious “wait and see” decision to determine what the situation looks like later.  I still probably would not tag either of these players assuming starting jobs in their futures.  The team’s cap situation is not dire, but also doesn’t leave a lot of room for luxury buys.  This team’s QB2 situation has lots of potential options but can probably be described as murky at best.  Tannehill has never shown much of a fantasy ceiling and I would not want to bet on another outlier career season.  Gordon’s potential outcomes present a wider range depending on his landing spot.  His franchise tag number puts him at the top of market for our league.  That is not the type of gamble I like making on a running back in a new situation with a lengthy injury history.

Decision 3: Aaron Jones ($29M) vs Austin Hooper ($10M)

Team Situation:

Team three sits at a healthy $96M in cap space to go with the 5th overall rookie pick.  Much of the team’s starting lineup look locked up.  McCaffrey, Michel, and Hunt make up his primary running backs on contract, while Mike Gesicki remains as the only tight end under contract.


Jones produced the huge fantasy breakout many were waiting for in 2019.  He totaled over 1,500 combined yards with 49 receptions and 19 touchdowns finishing as the RB2. Jones remains in Green Bay for his final year of the rookie contract.  Expect his absurd touchdown total to fall this season as the offense progresses and the Packers likely adding more receiving weapons.  Hooper also produced his own coming out party finishing as the per-game TE3 with 75 receptions in just 13 games.  It looks like Hooper moves on from Atlanta this offseason given the Falcons’ limited cap space.  The situation Hooper lands in is unlikely to be as good as it was with Atlanta and Matt Ryan.


This seems like the easiest decision to me by tagging Jones.  He showed off a RB1 season last year and comes in at a reasonable cost.  The only issue which makes this a question is this team’s weakness at tight end.  Nobody wants to go into a season with Gesicki as their only tight end option, but there is plenty of time for free agency and the trade market to address the position.  Hooper’s uncertainty moving forward, even with a good landing spot, makes the choice easy.

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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