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Sources – Franchise tags unlikely for Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley

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Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley and Tony Pollard are all expected to become free agents in what promises to be a star-studded running back market, sources told ESPN on Monday.

The Las Vegas Raiders will attempt to re-sign Jacobs, but they are not expected to tag him, league sources told ESPN, especially with his franchise tag costing $14,149,200.

The New York Giants will speak with Barkley and explore a deal with him, but they are also unlikely to tag him for $12,109,200, sources told ESPN.

The Dallas Cowboys are not expected to use the same $12,109,200 tag for Pollard, sources told ESPN.

The Tennessee Titans won’t tag standout veteran Derrick Henry, and the Los Angeles Chargers also are expected to let Austin Ekeler explore free agency, league sources told ESPN.

Other running backs scheduled to hit free agency next month include D’Andre Swift, AJ Dillon, Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Ezekiel Elliott, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

All of this sets up an offseason that now stands in direct contrast to 2023, when three running backs — Jacobs, Barkley and Pollard — each received the restrictive franchise tags. This offseason, it appears no running backs will be tagged, making this one of the finest and deepest running back classes in the history of free agency, if not the best and most accomplished of all time.

While the glut of running backs will be good for teams, it might not be great for all the backs. Free agency is about supply and demand, and the supply at the position this offseason is unprecedented and could contribute to keeping down the prices in free agency, though the top stars still could land hefty paydays.

The NFL on Friday announced that its salary cap for the 2024 season will be a record $255.4 million per team — a stunning 13.6% increase over last year’s cap. That amounts to $30.6 million more per team than last year’s $224.8 million.

The running back market has been a challenging one in recent years. Jonathan Taylor became the first running back since 2021 to sign a long-term contract worth at least $10 million per year when he agreed to a three-year, $42 million extension with the Indianapolis Colts last October.

This offseason, it would be a feat for one — or some — of these backs to command what their franchise tag number would be. Jacobs’ franchise tag is higher than the normal running back tag because he had extra guaranteed money added to his adjusted deal last summer. Barkley had incentives added to his deal, but did not hit any of them.

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