City Sports Report

The Pluses And Minuses Of The Franchise Tag In The NFL

Dez Bryant and the Cowboys have a decision looming about the franchise tag soon (photo courtesy of

The NFL offseason is about to have a huge jump in business. On March 10th, all teams can begin officially signing free agents. That date will be huge for a lot of teams to fill their needs on their teams. But for the teams that have players that are potentially about to hit free agency, there is another option for them to keep a player: the franchise tag. When a player gets the franchise tag placed on them, they are committed to play with that team for one year and their salary is guaranteed for that year. The salary the player that is tagged gets for that season is the average salary of the Top Five paid players in the NFL at that position. For example, Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo had the franchise tag placed on him last season and he made a guaranteed $11.455 million last season. Heading into this season and with the salary cap expanding even more, teams have that choice once again to keep a player via this designation or to let them walk in free agency with no compensation. But whether it’s good or bad for players depends on your viewpoint.

NFL players know they have a limited time to play football. The average career for an NFL player is not even over five years. Add to that fact that NFL players are the only one of the three major pro leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB) that does not have guaranteed contracts for its players and that makes the decision for some easier to accept the franchise tag. But for all the guaranteed money for that one year, the player has to also think about the fact that they could potentially face that tag again the next season. When faced with that tag all the time, there is no guarantee that you will perform the same way each and every season. There is always the possibility that your stats and level of play will drop at some point. Age will always catch up to you. So for some players, it is important to play as well as they can so they can get as much guaranteed money as possible as early as they can. Because the later it goes on and the longer you play on a franchise tag deal, the less and less the probability that you really get to cash in for a long-term deal. It may seem silly for some in terms of not wanting to get franchise tagged each year, but the risk is not as great as the reward of potentially more guaranteed money in a long-term deal.

Speaking of long-term deals, the probability of those can go away during a franchise tag season. Let’s just say you are having a good season playing under this tag when an unforeseen injury happens. The injury is so bad that you are never the same player again. And that, my friends, is how you missed that opportunity on getting that big payday that may never come due to an injury during a franchise season. This is part of the risk a player has when taking the short-term money over the length long-term potential money. The future is never for certain and that is why some players wish the NFL would make it where a player can only be tagged one year and not multiple years in a row. In all actuality, that was a big mistake by the players in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations the last time a new deal was struck between the NFL and the NFLPA. Now owners can continue to make sure and keep their best players on these short-term deals so they don’t have money tied up for years in regards to their salary cap.

But the players are not the only ones that could see long-term effects from the franchise tag. When a player is wanted so much by an organization that the franchise tag is needed, ownership and management are forced to make a decision. Does the team pay the player the average salary or do they move forward with other options? When the team chooses to give the player the franchise tag, they are essentially committing to not being able to add some things they may need. Paying that one player the average salary of the Top 5 players at that position is something that can eat at your salary cap and keep you from having some players that you essentially need. That is why sometimes this decision of using the tag or not can become so difficult. It can force any number of dominoes to have to fall for a team like asking players to take salary cuts, restructure their deals or cutting players that the team really wants but cannot keep due to refusal of salary restructure.

One good thing for the owners that have to pay the franchise tag is the price that comes with trading for a player that has been signed under the franchise tag. If the interest is there from another team to poach a franchise player from a team, they will have to pay and pay heavy. The cost is two 1st round picks and along with that, the team trading for the franchise player has to sign him to a new deal. To some that may not sound like much, but for a rebuilding team, that gives them so many options. They can keep the picks and use them to add more pieces to their current team. They can also make take those picks and potentially package them to move up for a player that they want. Or the team can take those picks and package those for a player they want to get immediately for help. All three options come into play when you have two additional 1st round picks and that makes your future that much brighter should you use those picks wisely. And what would make the deal you make for your franchise player even better is if the team he is traded to is not very good that season, it could make your picks that much better in the NFL Draft. The decision is a difficult one for owners that are willing to give up the two 1st round picks. But some have done so and helped their teams while others have ended up coming to terms on a deal with a franchise tag guy, only to not get the help they thought they were getting when they signed the franchise player to a new deal.

There are some pluses, but there are also some minuses with the franchise tag in the NFL. Of course the franchise tag will probably always be around and there is no problem with that at all. And it is a great thing that teams only have one player to do this with each and every year. But the NFL may want to examine a few bits and pieces of the deal when it comes to the players and when it comes to the owners in terms of being fair to both.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter @General_MP or check me out on Facebook at Mike Patton-The General .

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