Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Pick Six newsletter!

Let the offseason fun begin! As of Tuesday, the offseason will officially be kicking into high gear and that's because the franchise tag window is now open. From Tuesday through March 5, teams are allowed to use the franchise tag, so obviously we'll be taking a look at a list of the players who may get hit with the tag. It's a long list, so we should probably get started now. Let's get to the rundown. 

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1. Franchise tag window opens: Looking at players who could possibly get tagged

Bengals WR Tee Higgins USATSI

You know the NFL offseason is officially here when the franchise tag window opens. That means that as of Tuesday, the NFL offseason is officially here. 

For the next two weeks, each team is allowed to use the franchise tag on one player (but they don't have to use it). Once a team uses a tag on a player, the two sides have until July to work out a long-term deal. If no deal is reached, then the player will get a fully guaranteed one-year contract in 2024 at the franchise tag number, which is different for each position. (This year, the current estimate is that those numbers will range from a low of $5.68 million for kickers to a high of $36.37 million for quarterbacks.)

Last season, a total of six teams used the franchise tag. This year, teams will have until March 5 to decide if they want to tag someone. 

Our Jeff Kerr came up with a list of franchise tag candidates, and we're going to go over five of them here. You can see his list below, along with what their salary will be for 2024 if they play on the tag. 

  • Bengals: WR Tee Higgins ($20.71 million). "The Bengals would be paying Higgins a lot ($20.71 million) to keep him around, but it would be wise to give Joe Burrow one of his top targets for another year and run it back"
  • Cowboys: RB Tony Pollard ($12.11 million). "A raise from $10.091 million to $12.11 million isn't much, especially if Dallas can reduce that salary with a multi-year deal this time around. The lone issue for the Cowboys is getting under the cap ($19.7 million over the cap)."
  • Colts: WR Michael Pittman Jr. ($20.71 million). "The Colts just don't have enough at wide receiver, so they're in a box regarding a Pittman extension. ... The career yards per catch need to improve (10.9), but Pittman is too valuable in the Colts offense to just let him walk."
  • Jaguars: DE/OLB Josh Allen ($22.794 million). "This is an easy decision for Jacksonville, as the Jaguars have to make sure Allen doesn't get on the open market."
  • Panthers: DE/LB Brian Burns ($22.794 million)"The Panthers need to work out a long-term deal with Burns, so the franchise tag will buy them more time. Burns is worth the money, coming off a season during which he finished with 40 pressures, 18 quarterback hits, 8 sacks and a 11.1% pressure rate."

To see the rest of Kerr's list and the franchise tag number for each position, be sure to click here

In other franchise tag news, the Giants are unlikely to use the tag on Saquon Barkley, according to the New York Post. Also, if the Buccaneers use the tag this year, they'll likely use it on Antoine Winfield, Jr. instead of Baker Mayfield, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

2. NFL offseason calendar: Here are the biggest dates you need to circle now

With the franchise tag window opening Tuesday, I thought now would be a good time to rehash all the important dates on the NFL offseason calendar. Fortunately for me, one of our writers already did that -- former NFL agent Joel Corry -- and here are the key dates he would like everyone to know over the next month. 

  • Feb. 20: Franchise tag window opens. "The 15-day period where teams can designate franchise or transition players begins."
  • Feb. 27-March 4: NFL Combine. "The NFL Scouting Combine takes place in Indianapolis. Meetings between agents of impending free agents and teams routinely occur at the combine, although these types of discussions are prohibited by NFL rules. Teams are rarely penalized for tampering with players from other teams when those players are scheduled to become free agents."
  • March 5: Tag window closes. "The period for designating franchise or transition players ends at 4 p.m. ET."
  • March 11-13: Legal tampering period. "NFL teams are allowed to negotiate with the agents of prospective unrestricted free agents during a two-day period beginning March 11 at 12 p.m. ET and ending at 3:59:59 p.m. ET on March 13."
  • March 13: Free agency starts. The 2024 league year and free agency will begin at 4 p.m. ET (All teams must be in compliance with the salary cap at this point). 

Those are your key dates, but they're not the only key dates.

I would advise you to click here and check out Corry's entire story and that's mainly because he explains why there are several other key dates on the calendar over the next month. For instance, Russell Wilson's $37 million base salary for 2025 becomes fully guaranteed on March 17, so if the Broncos are looking to dump him by cutting him or trading him, you can probably go ahead and bet they'll do it before St. Patrick's Day.  

3. Ranking the top running backs available in free agency and their best fits

Raiders RB Josh Jacobs USATSI

After going over the top available quarterbacks in free agency on Monday, we're going to switch things up by taking a look at the market for running backs. This year's free agent class of running backs consists of some big games, so Jordan Dajani decided to take a look at those names and take a stab at where they might end up. 

Here's a look at the top five running backs on his list: 

1. Josh Jacobs (Raiders)
Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Patriots

2. Derrick Henry (Titans)
Best fits: Ravens, Cowboys, Eagles

3. Saquon Barkley (Giants)
Best fits: Ravens, Texans, Giants

4. Tony Pollard (Cowboys)
Best fits: Cowboys, Panthers, Raiders

5. Austin Ekeler (Chargers)
Best fits: Eagles, Raiders, Broncos

If you want to check out Jordan's full top 10 list of free agent running backs, then be sure to click here.

4. Bears drama: Justin Fields' status still up in the air

One of the biggest questions of the offseason revolves around someone who's NOT a free agent and that someone is Justin Fields. The Bears essentially have two options when it comes to their QB: They could stick with Fields and build around him in the upcoming NFL Draft, or they could look to trade Fields and use the first overall pick to bring in his replacement. 

The fact that no one yet knows what the Bears are going to do has created some drama. Here's what we know: 

  • Bears are expected to have their QB plan in place by next week. According to Sports Illustrated, the Bears are hoping to have their QB plans set in stone by the time the NFL Combine kicks off on Feb. 27. This makes sense, because if the Bears are looking to trade Fields, the combine is the perfect spot to talk with other teams. On the other hand, if they're looking to keep Fields and possibly trade the top pick, the combine would also be a good spot to start those talks. 
  • Some teams have already inquired about Fields' availability. If the Bears decide to move on from Fields, it seems like there will definitely be market for a trade. According to SI, multiple teams inquired about Fields at the Senior Bowl. If Fields does get traded, it will almost certainly happen before free agency, because teams will want to have their QB plans set before free agency starts. 
  • Fields not following the Bears on Instagram. If you're wondering how Fields feels about the Bears, just check out his Instagram: The QB is following 778 people on the social media site, but he is NOT following the Bears (shout out to Tom Fornelli for pointing that out). I'm not sure what this means, but it can't be good. 

The Fields rumors will likely amp up once we get to the combine, so you have roughly one week to mentally prepare yourself. 

5. Mock Draft Madness: What the top-10 would look like if EVERY team traded their pick

Former USC QB Caleb Williams USATSI

We're going to be doing a lot of mock drafts between now and April, so instead of giving you the same thing every day, the guys over at the "With the First Pick" podcast decided to change things up this week. During Friday's episode of the podcast, the two stars of the show -- Ryan Wilson and former Vikings GM Rick Spielman -- decided to do to a mock draft where every pick in the top 10 had to be traded. 

Although we almost certainly won't see every pick in the top 10 get traded, this should give you an idea of what teams may be looking to trade up and who they may be looking to get if they trade. 

Here is how the top five picks in the draft unfolded: 

1. Commanders (via mock trade with Bears): QB Caleb Williams (USC)
2. Falcons (via mock trade with Bears thru Commanders): QB Jayden Daniels (LSU)
3. Giants (via mock trade with Patriots): WR Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State)
4. Broncos (via mock trade with Cardinals): QB Drake Maye (North Carolina)
5. Jets (via mock trade with Chargers): OL Olumuyiwa Fashanu (Penn State) 

Although we won't see every pick in the top 10 get traded in the actual draft, this could be a year where there are more trades than usual. If the Bears decide to hold on to Justin Fields, that will open the door for them to trade away the top pick, and if that happens, the scenario presented above would become very realistic. (The Bears trade the top pick to the Commanders for more picks. The Bears then take the No. 2 pick they got from Washington and trade it to the Falcons for more picks. By making those two trades, the Bears would be able to stockpile draft picks and build around Fields.) 

Anyway, if you want to see how the rest of this "all trade" mock draft played out, be sure to check out our story here

For more draft coverage, you can hear in-depth analysis twice a week on "With the First Pick" -- our year-round NFL Draft podcast with Wilson and Spielman. You can find "With the First Pick" wherever you get your podcasts: Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube. Listen to the latest episode below!

6. Extra points: Patriots special teams star retires

It's been a busy 24 hours in the NFL, and since it's nearly impossible to keep track of everything that happened, I went ahead and put together a roundup for you. 

  • Matthew Slater calls it quits after 16 seasons. One of the most impactful special teams players in NFL history has decided to retire. Slater announced Tuesday that he's hanging up his cleats for good after spending his entire 16-season career in New England. Slater was a 10-time Pro Bowler who was also voted first-team All-Pro twice. You can read more about his retirement here.  
  • Patriots cut ties with two veterans. In other Patriots news, the team has made the decision to release veterans Lawrence Guy and Adrian Phillips. Guy started 12 games for the Patriots last season. By releasing the two defensive players, the Patriots have freed up roughly $6.4 million in cap space. For more details on these two releases, be sure to go here
  • Veteran running back retires. After spending eight seasons in the NFL, Mike Davis has decided to call it quits. Davis made his announcement Monday, which was his 31st birthday. Davis, who started his career as a fourth-round pick with the 49ers in 2015, ended up playing for six teams over his eight career seasons. 
  • Only one player was hit with a fine in the Super BowlNick Bolton ended up being the only player who got fined for a play in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs linebacker got docked $8,238 in pay for a horse-collar tackle that he made on 49ers QB Brock Purdy