LOS ANGELES (AP) The Los Angeles Chargers placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Melvin Ingram on Monday night.
Ingram is a pass-rushing dynamo with 18+ sacks over the past two seasons, and he also excels as an edge rusher for the Chargers. He had eight sacks last season, and he has 24+ in his five-year career.
The South Carolina product has spent his entire career with the Chargers, who drafted him in the first round in 2012.
Ingram is free to negotiate with other teams under the terms of the non-exclusive tag, but the Chargers have the right to match any offer. If they decide not to match it, they would get two first-round draft picks from the team signing Ingram.
The Chargers used the franchise tag for only the seventh time in team history, and for the first time since San Diego retained receiver Vincent Jackson in 2011. Jackson left for a $55 million free-agent deal with Tampa Bay in 2012.
Ingram would have been one of the NFL's most desirable free agents if the Chargers had allowed him to hit the free-agent market. Most NFL teams have been eager to retain their top pass-rushers, with the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul, Carolina's Kawann Short and Arizona's Chandler Jones all getting the tag on Monday alone.
Ingram provides a potent double threat with rookie defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who had 10 1/2 sacks in his standout debut. The Chargers will move from a 3-4 scheme last season to a 4-3 front under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, and Ingram is likely to rush more often from a typical defensive end position at the line of scrimmage.
Ingram and the Chargers are allowed to work on a long-term contract until July. If he instead signs a franchise tender, Ingram would make $15 million or more next season, consuming most of the Chargers' roughly $20 million in salary cap space.
Ingram had health issues in his first three NFL seasons, but has played every game in the past two years. Along with his pass-rushing prowess, Ingram led the Chargers with four forced fumbles and ranked fourth with 60 tackles.
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