If Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, signed through 2010, is traded to a new team without a contract extension, his new team would be able to retain his rights for 2011 via the franchise tag, right?
The final answer depends on the interpretation of Article XX, Section 1 of the current CBA. Here’s the full text: “Except as set forth in Section 10 below, each Club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement. The player so designated may be one who would otherwise be a Restricted Free Agent. Except as set forth in Section 2(a)(i) below, any Club that designates a Franchise Player shall be the only Club with which such Franchise Player may negotiate or sign a Player Contract, during the period the player is so designated, notwithstanding the number of his Accrued Seasons. The period for Clubs to designate Franchise Players will begin on the twenty-second day preceding the first day of the new League Year and will end at 4:00 p.m. New York time on the eighth day preceding the first day of the new League Year.”
Here’s what it potentially means: Since the CBA doesn’t expire until March 2011 and since the deadline for designating franchise players expires in February 2011, before the CBA ends, the franchise designation may be used for the 2011 season.
The key language, arguably capable of multiple interpretations, is this: “[E]ach Club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free agent as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement.” (Emphasis added.)
The league, which declined to provide its position on this matter beyond merely citing Article XX, Section 1 as the operative clause, would likely argue that, because the deadline for use of the tag in 2011 applies “during the term of this Agreement,” franchise tags are available for 2011. The union, which has not yet responded to our request for its own position regarding this issue, likely would claim that the qualifier “each season” makes the franchise tag inapplicable during 2011, since 2011 is not a season that falls within the “term of this Agreement.”
It’s yet another high-stakes battle that will be waged between labor and management over the coming year — and it’s an important factor that any team interested in trading for McNabb needs to keep in mind, if he declines to sign a new contract.