Chandler Jones' future wasn't going to be on the free-agent market, and the Cardinals had made that clear multiple times – including a blunt statement by team president Michael Bidwill on Valentine's Day.
"He's a great pass rusher," Bidwill said on Arizona Sports. "But if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him. His people know that."
The two sides haven't yet come to an agreement on a long-term contract. So Monday -- coincidentally, Jones' 27th birthday -- the Cards officially placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jones, who finished with 11 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2016.
Wednesday is the deadline for teams to apply the tag.
The tag for linebackers is expected to be around $15 million. It is a tender offer which Jones would still need to sign to guarantee that salary for 2017. The salary cap hit, however, immediately hits the books when the new league year begins March 9.
Jones still has the ability to seek out a contract offer from another team. But the Cardinals have to right to match any offer, and if the Cardinals chose to let Jones leave, the team signing Jones would have to trade back a pair of first-round draft picks.
It is that prohibitive price that makes the tag a virtual guarantee that the player will remain on his current team.
The Cardinals and Jones now have until July 15 to reach a long-term contract extension. If they cannot, a new deal can't be negotiated until after the 2017 regular season ends.
The last time the Cardinals used the franchise tag was in 2012, on defensive lineman Calais Campbell. Campbell was tagged March 2, and the two sides agreed to a long-term contract May 10.
With Jones getting the tag now, it makes it more likely Campbell – now with his 2012 contract expiring – will reach the free-agent market and end up elsewhere next season.
But Campbell will be 31 when the 2017 season begins, and the Cardinals have brought in young defensive linemen (like Robert Nkemdiche and Josh Mauro) in an effort to protect themselves against losing Campbell. Jones, meanwhile, helped sparked a pass-rush resurgence the Cardinals had sought for years, teaming with fellow linebacker Markus Golden (12½ sacks) to push the team to No. 1 in the league in sacks.
"I love it here," Jones said following the final game of the season. "I love playing here, and we'll see what happens."
Jones is the ninth Cardinal to receive the tag since the tag was created in 1993. The Cardinals have used it 10 times.
Prior to Campbell, the Cardinals used the tag twice on linebacker Karlos Dansby in 2008 and 2009. There was a time the team used the tag fairly regularly, tagging safety Kwamie Lassiter (2002), cornerback Aeneas Williams (2001), defensive end Simeon Rice (2000) and wide receiver Rob Moore (1999) in consecutive years.
Defensive tackle Eric Swann (1995) and safety Tim McDonald (1993) were also tagged by the Cardinals.
Images of the Cardinals players who registered sacks in 2016, led by LB Markus Golden