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Three top edge defenders all franchise tagged ahead of free agency

Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, and Dee Ford are off the market before free agency even begins.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The pool of free agent edge rushers shrunk in a big way by Monday afternoon, as teams made a few final moves before the NFL’s franchise tag deadline of March 5.

The Houston Texans officialy used their franchise tag on edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney early in the morning, the team’s official public relations account announced:

The release mentions that the team will be working towards a longterm contract with the top overall selection in the 2014 draft. Health has been an issue for Clowney during his NFL career, giving the team a reason to be reluctant to sign him to a lengthier deal, but he has been great when on the field.

Dee Ford of the Kansas City Chiefs will reportedly be franchise tagged as well, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday:

Ford is in an interesting situation. The edge defender had a break out 2018 where he proved to be one of the most fearsome pass rushers in the league. Unfortunately, “edge defender” is not a recognized NFL position, and Ford may get tagged as a linebacker rather than a defensive end which could end up costing him. The tag for a defensive end is almost $2 million more than it is for a linebacker, so Ford will now hope to get his distinction changed.

One of the top dominoes on the market fell on Monday afternoon when it was reported that the Dallas Cowboys planned to tag edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence.

A report from mid-February stated that the Cowboys were planning on signing Lawrence to a longterm deal to avoid the tag. They could not reach an agreement, though, but Dallas still has until June to work out a deal with their star edge defender before his salary locks in for 2019.

All three seemed unlikely lands for the Lions, but all three had to be on the radar of general manager Bob Quinn. With all three now removed from the market, the bidding price of both Preston Smith and Trey Flowers is likely to have increased as now they will have more suitors vying for their services.

Luckily for the Lions, last weekend’s NFL Combine was a great day for many edge defenders, and the draft is seeming to be even more likely an option to cheaply address Detroit’s biggest need.

UPDATE: A fourth edge defender also received the franchise tag:

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