Chiefs franchise tag history
Outside linebacker
Dee Ford is the 11th player the Kansas City Chiefs have used the NFL franchise tag on since 1993. He is the seventh defensive player and sixth edge rusher the franchise has tagged during that span.Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Neil Smith 1993
1993 — DE Neil Smith

Pre-tag 1992 stats: 77 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries

Franchise-tag season stats: 55 tackles, 15 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries

Analysis: The Chiefs were with an impasse with a star player but managed to get him in the fold in time for the 1993 season opener. A motivated Neil Smith produced a NFL-high 15 sacks during his franchise-tag season and was selected first-team All-Pro for the only time in his career.

Smith made the Pro Bowl each of the next three seasons with the Chiefs beginning with the tagged season and averaged nearly 13 sacks per year during that span. His production fell off in 1996 before Smith wound up with the AFC West rival Denver Broncos for three seasons. He finished his career with the then-San Diego Chargers in 2000.

Grade: A

Smith was an elite defensive end in the prime of his career. The franchise tag allowed the Chiefs to retain him, which was the essence of its original design, after then-Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson won a game of chicken as the deadline approached.
Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Dan Williams 1998
1998 — DE
Dan Williams

Pre-tag 1997 stats: 47 tackles (35 solo), 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries

Franchise-tag season stats: DNP

Analysis: Former Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson lost a staring contest with Williams and his agent in 1998. Coming off a career year in 1997, Williams wanted a multiyear extension. Instead, he got tagged and was offered a one-year deal worth $2.88 million.

Williams’ camp was adamant it wouldn’t play without such a deal. Peterson insisted he sign the franchise tag tender before negotiating a possible long-term deal. The net result was the Williams missed the entire season.

Grade: F

Williams eventually signed a five-year deal worth $28 million in February 1999. He 64 tackles and 12.5 sacks in 26 games during the next two seasons before he was released amid an impasse over his rebab from offseason foot surgery.Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Will Shields 2000
2000 — OG
Will Shields

Pre-tag 1999 stats: Shields didn’t commit a single penalty during the 1999 season

Franchise-tag season stats: Shields was flagged for one holding and three of his six career false-start penalties

Analysis: Shields made around $4 million, playing a full season on the franchise tag in 2000. He was rewarded the next spring with a six-year deal with $26 million.

Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2015, Shields went onto to have one of the most storied careers in franchise history.

Grade: B

It worked out in the end, but the impasse illustrates the difficulty Peterson had in working with top-tier talent. Several good players left the franchise amid ego clashes with Peterson — John Tait and Jared Allen come to mind — and others had to fight harder than necessary for the deals they deserved, like Shields.Photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Tony Gonzalez 2002
2002 — TE
Tony Gonzalez

Pre-tag 2001 stats: 73 receptions, 917 yards, 6 touchdowns

Franchise-tag season stats: 63 catches, 773 yards, 7 touchdowns

Analysis: Gonzalez and former GM Carl Peterson were butting heads over his continued pursuit of an NBA career. After signing a $3 million tender and reporting to camp, the two sides ironed out a seven-year deal worth $31 million right before the 2002 season started.

The contract, which included a $10 million signing bonus, was the richest in NFL history for a tight end at the time.

Grade: A

Gonzalez averaged 83 catches for 997 yards with nearly seven touchdowns during the life of the contract. He burnished his NFL Hall of Fame credentials with 582 receptions, 6,982 yards and 46 touchdowns during that span.Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Jared Allen 2008
2008 — DE
Jared Allen

Pre-tag 2007 stats: 64 tackles (55 solo), 15.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 11 passes defended

Analysis: Allen’s relationship with then-GM Carl Peterson had deteriorated so much by 2008, the tag was simply a vehicle for the club to retain control and find a trade partner. In fairness, when Allen voiced his desire for a long-term deal in March 2007 (and displeasure that it hadn’t happened), he was less than a year removed from two DUI arrests and coming off his worst professional season.

That said, Allen was an immensely popular with the Chiefs and had averaged more than nine sacks in his first three seasons. He put together a career year in 2007, leading the NFL in sacks and tackles for a loss, and leveraged that to get dealt to the Minnesota Vikings for a first-round pick (OT Branden Albert) and two third-round picks (RB Jamaal Charles and S DaJuan Morgan).

Allen signed a six-year deal with $73.4 million after the trade and reached double figures in sacks during each year of the contract, including a franchise-record 22 sacks in 2011. He averaged more than 14 sacks and nearly 55 tackles and never missed a game during the span before wrapping up his career with the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers.

Grade: C+

It’s a shame Peterson couldn’t find a way to make it work with Allen and keep him around, but the return haul — especially Charles — make the situation easier to swallow.Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Tamba Hali 2011
2011 — OLB
Tamba Hali

Pre-tag 2010 stats: 51 tackles (36 solo), 14.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries

Franchise-tag season stats: 66 tackles (48 solo), 12 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles

Analysis: After leading the NFL in sacks in 2010, it took awhile for the Chiefs and Hali to agree on a long-term deal. Thus, Hali received the franchise tag early in the 2011 offseason.

The two sides hammered out a five-year deal worth $60 million (despite a player lockout), including $35 million in guaranteed money, early in training camp. As a result, Hali never actually played on the franchise tag.

Grade: B+

Hali’s production never again matched the 2011 campaign, but he remained a sold pass rusher and decent against the run on the edge for several more seasons.Photo by: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Dwayne Bowe 2012
2012 — WR
Dwayne Bowe

Pre-tag 2011 stats: 81 receptions, 1,159 yards, 5 touchdowns

Franchise-tag season stats: 59 receptions, 801 yards, 3 touchdowns

Analysis: It was probably the right decision to franchise Bowe, who was two years removed from leading the NFL with 15 touchdowns catches in 2010. The mistake came the next offseason after Bowe caught only 59 of 114 targets and saw his yards and touchdown numbers decline yet still received a long-term extension.

Bowe, who missed the final three games of 2012 with a rib injury, signed a five-year deal worth $56 million in March 2013. Eight months later, he was arrested for marijuana possession and speeding.

Grade: C+

The Chiefs were terrible, especially on offense, and kept Bowe to keep the fan base from revolting, but the signs were there that he was on a downhill slide. Again, the franchise-tag season wasn’t nearly as big of a mistake as the decision to sign Bowe long term the next offseason. He failed to reach 60 catches or 800 yards in either of the next two seasons and managed only five touchdowns in his final 30 games with the Chiefs.
Photo by: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Branden Albert 2013
2013 — OT
Branden Albert

Pre-tag 2012 stats: Only incurred one holding penalty in 13 games

Franchise-tag season stats: Incurred 3 holding penalties and 5 false starts in 12 games

Analysis: Albert only played all 16 games in one of his nine NFL seasons. He was a two-time Pro Bowl tackle, including his franchise-tag season in 2013 with the Chiefs and again in 2015 with the Miami Dolphins.

The Chiefs wisely declined to use the franchise tag again in 2014 on Albert, who instead signed a five-year deal worth $47 million with the Miami Dolphins that offseason. Albert was out of the league within three years.

Grade: B+

Using the tag on Albert in 2013 took the pressure off 2013 No. 1 pick Eric Fisher, who the Chiefs selected from Central Michigan. It provided a veteran for Fisher to learn from as he adjusted to the NFL.Photo by: Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Justin Houston 2015
2015 — OLB
Justin Houston

Pre-tag 2014 stats: 68 tackles (59 solo), 22 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 5 passes defended

Franchise-tag season stats: 30 tackles (25 solo), 7.5 sacks, 6 passes defended

Analysis: Houston had increased his sack total from 5.5 to 10 to 11 in his first three seasons in the NFL, but rather than reward that John Dorsey opted to wait one more season to be sure he was a budding star.

Houston nearly set the NFL record in sacks in 2014 with 22, which significantly increased his value and necessitated the franchise tag to buy time for long-term negotiations. The result from a six-year deal worth $101 million, but the price would have been much lower a year earlier.

After his record-setting 2015 season, Houston suffered a knee injury, which caused his durability and productivity to plummet.

Grade: B

It’s not that keeping Houston, who has totaled 18.5 sacks in 27 games during the last two seasons, was a terrible decision. But former general manager John Dorsey’s timing was awful — and needlessly so. That cost the Chiefs dearly, ultimately contributed to his ouster from Kansas City, and has handcuffed new GM Brett Veach.Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Eric Berry 2016
2016 — S
Eric Berry

Pre-tag 2015 stats: 61 tackles (55 solo), 2 interceptions, 10 passes defended

Franchise-tag season stats: 77 tackles (62 solo), 4 interceptions, 9 passes defended

Analysis: Yet another example of former GM John Dorsey buying long-term too late and having to overpay for a player before he hit free agency. If he’d signed Berry to an extension after the 2015 season, when he proved he was healthy and remained a force after beating cancer, the Chiefs wouldn’t be in such a terrible predicament right now from a salary-cap perspective.

Much like Houston the year before, an earlier long-term deal would have been less costly and probably locked the Chiefs in for fewer years. But Dorsey obviously hadn’t learned from the previous year’s mistake.

Grade: C+

The decision itself wasn’t egregious, but the results have been awful for Kansas City. Since signing an extension after his franchise-tag season, Berry has played in parts of four games. The AFC Championship Game earlier this season is the only one in which he played a full game. He has 24 total tackles during that span, which equates to nearly $1.67 million per tackle.Photo by: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Dee Ford 2019
2019 — OLB
Dee Ford

Pre-tag 2018 stats: 55 tackles (42 solo), 13 sacks, 7 forced fumbles

Analysis: It’s clear that general manager Brett Veach doesn’t view Ford as worthy of a big-money, long-term deal. Part of that calculation is the need to pay wide receiver Tyreek Hill, defensive tackle Chris Jones, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is line to become the NFL’s first $200 million man next offseason.

After combining for 17.5 sacks in his first four seasons, which saw him miss 10 games in 2017, Ford finally put everything together last season. He finished with career-highs in sacks (13) and tackles (55) along with an NFL-best 78 quarterback pressures and seven forced fumbles.

Despite that production, Ford’s injury history and lack of consistency probably make him more valuable for another team than the Chiefs, who are shopping him around for draft capital after slapping on the franchise tag Monday.

Grade: A

This was a no-brainer. Unlike Houston and Berry, who deserved long-term deals at least a year before being franchise tagged, Ford is a major injury risk on a deal of significant length and hasn’t been consistent enough to merit such a contract. If the Chiefs can’t trade Ford, having him play another season on the tag won’t be the worst thing. But a deal for draft picks is probably the Chiefs’ preference.Photo by: David Eulitt/Getty Images