AS of last week teams can now apply the franchise tag to keep their star players in uniform for season 2017-18. The franchise tag allows teams to avoid losing big time players by paying them a one year salary, worth the average of the five highest paid players at that position, or 120% of their previous year’s salary, whichever is higher. Still with me? I will explain franchise tags in a bit more depth, and examine which names are most likely to get tagged before the March 1st deadline.
Franchise Tags Explained
THINGS are about to get a bit messy, I appreciate your patience. As discussed above the franchise tag is a short time expensive solution to keep talented players from leaving in free agency. There are two different types of tags ‘exclusive rights’ and ‘non-exclusive rights’. Exclusive right tags mean that the player can’t field offers from any other teams and can then try to workshop a long term deal before the July 15th deadline. The second, non-exclusive tags (sometimes known as transitional tags) allow the player to still sign an offer sheet with another team. The team who applied the tag can then either match the offer, or let the player walk for the price of two 1st round draft picks.
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ONCE a tag is applied the player can immediately sign a tender, which effectively guarantees their big payday. Sometimes this increases leverage for players who may be in a tight cap scenario, encouraging the team to offer a long term deal for less money instead. It can also backfire if teams are happy to take the cap hit. Either way both sides have until July 15th to work out a long term extension or any deal they make can only be for a max of one year. Being tagged doesn’t always guarantee you a spot on the roster next year though. The Carolina Panthers rescinded their tag on cornerback Josh Norman last year who then signed with the Washington Redskins.
This Years’ Candidates
WHICHEVER path the front office goes down, once the tag is applied, varies from team to team depending on a number of things. And although most players hate it, it does allow smaller market teams to keep their big superstars instead of losing them to big name franchises. Here is the likelihood of this years free agents being tagged.
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About To Get Paid
Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots LB – The hero on defense for the Patriots from Superbowl LI isn’t going anywhere this offseason, no matter the cost.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins QB – Cousins played under the tag last year after the Redskins were reluctant to commit to him long term. He has proved he deserves a multi-year deal.
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs SS – Perhaps the most important free agent this off-season, the Chiefs can’t afford to mess around here. Berry is adamant that he won’t play under the tag this year, but by tagging him Kansas City has the chance to workshop a long term deal.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers RB – He would be the most coveted free agent in the league if he hit the open market, but Pittsburgh isn’t going to let Bell walk, despite all his past issues and injury woes.
Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals LB – After all that the Cardinals forked out to get Jones last off-season it seems highly unlikely he won’t be in Arizona for the next season at least.
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Melvin Ingram, Los Angeles Chargers DE – Expect the Chargers to splash out for Ingram and pair him with another dominant edge rusher in Joey Bosa, giving Gus Bradley one of the leagues best front seven line-ups.
Jason Pierre Paul, New York Giants DE – Jason Pierre Paul is ADAMANT that he doesn’t want a one year contract, however the Giants may have no choice but to tag him. After devoting a ton of money to their defense last year, a long term deal would take some time and patience to create.
Kawann Short, Carolina Panthers DT – A year removed from all the drama surrounding Josh Norman’s departure, the Panthers can not afford to let Short sign elsewhere. Part of the reason Norman isn’t on the team is because they needed to money to sign their star defensive tackle this year.
Dontari Poe, Kansas City Chiefs DT – If Eric Berry is the most important free agent piece for the Chiefs then Poe is second. In a perfect world they would resign both to long term deals, but a tag may be needed initially.
Flip A Coin
A.J. Bouye, Houston Texans CB – Stepping up in the playoffs for the injury stuck Texans might lead to Bouye getting a significant pay rise. He doesn’t have the body of work to secure a long term deal and if the Texans choose to keep him, tagging him seems like the right move.
Terrelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns WR – Much like Cousins in 2016, the Browns are hesitant to give Pryor a big multi-year deal. Tagging him for season 2017 let’s them re evaluate the decision a year from now, while the wide receiver earns some serious coin.
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Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots TE – The impending return of Rob Gronkowski shapes the entire scenario here. If he is back and healthy New England may not have a need for Bennett, even though he was a great performer for them in 2016. Hightower’s contract is more pressing to resolve for the Patriots then Bennett’s as well.
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears WR – Injuries and suspension are deterring the Bears from tagging Jeffery, but they do have the cap room to pull off a deal. They seem like they won’t be offering Jeffery a multi-year deal, so tagging him is the only way he would be in a Bears uniform next year.
Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills CB – Buffalo has limited cap space already and tagging Gilmore might not make much sense given new head coach Sean McDermott’s track record. He likes to put the focus of his defense on inside players, meaning Gilmore will likely be in a new uniform in 2017.
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