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Ashburn, Va. — Washington placed the franchise tag on three-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff on Saturday to keep him in the fold next season.

Scherff and Washington had been in talks on a long-term deal. Instead, the team ensured its 2015 first-round pick would not reach free agency.

The 28-year-old could have been among the NFL’s highest-paid guards had he hit the open market. He dealt with numerous injuries the past two seasons but has been a force for Washington when healthy.

Scherff was named to his third Pro Bowl in 2019 after starting 11 games. He has started all 65 games he has played in since turning pro out of Iowa and being drafted fifth overall by Washington five years ago.

Washington used the regular, not the exclusive, franchise tag on Scherff, meaning he can still talk to other teams. They’d have the right to match another offer or receive two first-round picks as compensation. They also have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term contract.

The franchise tag for offensive linemen is expected to be worth upward of $15 million for the 2020 season. With coach Ron Rivera now in charge, Washington released cornerback Josh Norman and receiver Paul Richardson to clear salary-cap space and had more than $60 million in room to spend.

Falcons extend RB Smith

Atlanta Falcons fullback Keith Smith agreed to a three-year contract extension.

Smith, who started five games and led the team with eight special teams tackles in 2019, was set to become an unrestricted free agent Wednesday.

The 27-year-old Smith signed with Atlanta early last season after he played in 16 games, including three starts, with the Raiders in 2018. He had five carries for eight yards and one catch for 13 years with the Falcons.

Smith signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent linebacker from San Jose State in 2014. He made the move to fullback and was a part-time starter for the Cowboys in 2016 and 2017.

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