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The future of the franchise tag could be bleak, for players


We explained earlier today that the franchise tags will be lower in 2012 than they were in 2011.  The difference comes from a new formula for calculating the franchise tenders.

And while many believe that the new CBA sticks it to young players in the name of ensuring that more money will be available for veterans, the new formula for calculating the franchise tenders will consistently stick it to some of the most desirable veteran players in the game.  Indeed, the franchise tender under the new CBA will have no direct connection to what the five highest-paid players in the game earn.

With the franchise tender determined by the average franchise tender for the last five years, the number will settle into a fairly narrow range that adjusts each year with the salary cap.  As the top end of the free-agent market at each position grows in a given year, it will be diluted by the four years preceding the new high-water mark.

The only saving grace for some players is that the 120-percent clause still applies, which gives men like Mario Williams and, next year, Calvin Johnson the ability to earn well over twice what the franchise tender otherwise would be, thanks to the large cap numbers at the tail end of their top-five rookie deals.

And that’s where the process of sticking it to rookies and sticking it to franchise players will eventually collide.

When the 2011 draft picks become unrestricted free agents, guys like Cam Newton won’t have ridiculously high cap numbers in the final seasons of their contracts, thanks to the dramatic reduction in the value of the first-round rookie deals.  Thus, in time, no player wrapping up his rookie deal will benefit from the 120-percent rule.

The only thing that protects franchise players from a career of the year-to-year franchise tender is that the procedures for using it a third straight time on the same player have changed.  At that point, the player gets the average of the five highest-paid players at the quarterback position in the prior year or 120 percent of the average of the five highest-paid players at the player’s same position or 144 percent of his franchise tender for the prior year, whichever is greater.

Still, players who receive the franchise tender are in for some disappointment that will start in 2012 and continue each and every year of the 10-year labor deal.

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29 Responses to “The future of the franchise tag could be bleak, for players”
  1. flyerscup2010 says: Feb 19, 2012 10:26 AM

    And with players making less money as the current CBA progresses over the next decade, teams will then begin to reduce ticket prices seeing as that’s less money they have to pay to the players. Right?

    Didn’t think so either.

  2. malekmj says: Feb 19, 2012 10:32 AM

    Wow as a Lions fan this really really stinks. Its like Millen will be screwing with us for another 4 years. We won’t be able to Franchise Stafford and Suh like Carolina will be able to do with Cam Newton. I actually think the numbers will be so different that it will create a serious competitive disadvantage for my Lions as such. We will literally be FORCED to hold 10-20 million more in cap space on players only because we took players HIGH a few years before the New CBA. I don’t think any team has 3 elite top 5 players that were taken in the previous 4 years that will constantly bump their heads against the Franchise tag like us. More work for Mr. Mayhew. At least if we are paying Stafford BIG TIME MONEY it looks like he will be earning it with a high level of play.

  3. reed20ravens says: Feb 19, 2012 10:36 AM

    the franchise tag is kinda dumb…

  4. gergie1957 says: Feb 19, 2012 10:40 AM

    A labor deal they signed onto.

    And I’m with flyerscup, holding my breath until those ticket prices go down.

  5. porkcarrot says: Feb 19, 2012 10:42 AM

    It seems to me that this is a good thing. Now maybe players will have an incentive to actually work on a deal rather than sitting on it knowing that they are going to get a fat paycheck.

  6. mhohmann says: Feb 19, 2012 10:43 AM

    Ticket prices are an attrocity but player salaries are out of control. Should they really be that much more than a high level executive? NO

  7. Insomniac says: Feb 19, 2012 10:49 AM

    “As the top end of the free-agent market at each position grows, none of that will matter to the franchise tender calculation.”


    The 2011 #s for the top 5 at each position will be used as part of the calculation. In 2012, the 2007 franchise #s/salary cap will be removed and replaced with the top 5 at each position in 2012 and the 2012 salary cap.

    They won’t comprise the entire calculation, but will be a part of it.

  8. istuppingyourwhiteewe says: Feb 19, 2012 10:55 AM


  9. ghjjf says: Feb 19, 2012 10:56 AM

    Money aside, the fact that they’re stuck on usually a losing team for another year is bleak enough.

  10. sixburghrules says: Feb 19, 2012 10:59 AM

    flyerscup2010 says: Feb 19, 2012 10:26 AM

    And with players making less money as the current CBA progresses over the next decade, teams will then begin to reduce ticket prices seeing as that’s less money they have to pay to the players. Right?

    No because they still have the cap numbers that they have to meet. The minimum is 90+% of cap. This will keep some teams (like the Bucs) from way underspending.

  11. briggsisbrokeagain says: Feb 19, 2012 10:59 AM

    The salary cap is going to rise, so I don’t think we’ll need to pass the hat for NFL players.

  12. wizahdry says: Feb 19, 2012 11:08 AM

    The players should vote out De Smith for getting them this CBA. The only thing he got them was that there will be a real salary floor that doesn’t even go into effect until 2013! Inthe mean time all of the owners goodies from the deal are in play right now.

    If you are a stud rb coming into your own better get a really good endorsement deal. You’re never going to get a good long term deal. After the crap rookie deal expires the team will franchise you for 2 years at the lower rate and by the time the team has to franchise at the top 5 amount they will cut ties. At that point the rb is 28-29 years old with 6-7 years of wear and tear and past his prime. This is best case scenario for a player taken top 10. If you are a lower pick who blows up it gets even worse.

  13. malekmj says: Feb 19, 2012 11:09 AM

    flyerscup2010 says: Feb 19, 2012 10:26 AM

    And with players making less money as the current CBA progresses over the next decade, teams will then begin to reduce ticket prices seeing as that’s less money they have to pay to the players. Right?

    Didn’t think so either.


    Ohhh the POOR proletariat. Teams still have to USE their money…..just won’t all be going to one player. This actually makes the game itself BETTER….and the ticket prices more worth their tag.

  14. eagleswin says: Feb 19, 2012 11:23 AM

    flyerscup2010 says:
    Feb 19, 2012 10:26 AM
    And with players making less money as the current CBA progresses over the next decade, teams will then begin to reduce ticket prices seeing as that’s less money they have to pay to the players. Right?

    Didn’t think so either.


    Players are not making less as a whole. That is not what the article is saying. A greater percentage of the wages will go towards the rank and file. It’s being redistributed, not kept by the owners.

  15. mannynh says: Feb 19, 2012 11:32 AM

    those poor poor franchise players.. You really have to feel sorry for them and their future…

  16. skoobyfl says: Feb 19, 2012 12:04 PM

    How will these guys make it earnings millions a year ? My heart bleeds for them.

  17. dontouchmyjunk says: Feb 19, 2012 12:12 PM

    I wish the outlook for my future salary was so bleak…

  18. Patriot42 says: Feb 19, 2012 12:29 PM

    As most America’s are feeling the “Hope and Change” most don’t care if another bunch of athletes walk away richer.

  19. vikescry1 says: Feb 19, 2012 1:10 PM

    I love it when players say, I just want a long time deal for security… cuz they don’t want the tag. I wish I had this decision to make. Maybe take a little less of what your agent is asking, cuz if there gonna tag u I’m guessing it’s a difference of 50 million or 42 million? Wish I had that problem…

  20. hikohadon says: Feb 19, 2012 2:05 PM

    “Stick it to them.” Insert derisive snort.

    Eagerly awaiting your next article entitled “Top QB’s can no longer sprinkle platinum dust on their cereal – must settle for gold.”

  21. flyerscup2010 says: Feb 19, 2012 3:05 PM

    sixburgh has a good point. With that said, given that rookie deals as a whole are lower, I think it’s not out of the question to see the new CBA as a complete reorganization of compensation as a whole if it continues. Compensation could eventually be far outpaced by the salary cap, leading to meeting the cap becoming a virtual impossibility without vastly overpaying players simply to meet the floor.

    For example, if you’ve ever played a franchise in Madden for a good 20 or 30 years or so, the salary cap grows to astronomical levels, like the $500 million range, and it’s almost impossible to even get halfway there. Now I’m not comparing real life to video games, I’m saying that it happens on there because it’s based in plausible fact. Ticket prices and other prices won’t decrease because that goes against both any competent businessperson’s business models and against the owners’ CBA obligation to maximize revenue for both the owners and the players. But if players end up getting paid less gradually (salaries increasing but at a lower salary level as a whole than under the previous CBA), how can teams meet a salary cap that is based on revenue, not on player compensation?

    It’ll be interesting to see how everything shakes out going forward.

  22. stevez51 says: Feb 19, 2012 3:14 PM

    Not only the players in contracts, the agents will need to do a better job and not ask for the moon. Or bragging rights to say I made the biggest deal.

  23. cannonballdookie says: Feb 19, 2012 4:02 PM

    Gonna be seeing a TON of guys wash out and be out of the league after their rookie contracts. This may sound harsh, but becoming a pro football player is going to become a less attractive option in time.

    While obviously you still get paid well as a first round pick, it’s significantly less that it was in the past, and teams are very cutthroat and you’ll probably have to show a lot to get a good contract after the rookie deal runs out or just go year to year on one year deals unless you’re elite.

    Sam Bradford is the luckiest man in the NFL, the last of the bonus babies.

  24. bigjdve says: Feb 19, 2012 4:31 PM

    Well, I guess it goes to show that DSmith and his toadies didn’t do as well as they tried to make everyone believe that they did.

    The players should be kicking themselves that they let themselves get talked into a decertification that allowed for the owners to do so much better than they were offering below the lockout.

    When are athletes going to realize that on the average, they aren’t going to beat big business like they are led to believe by the ambulance chasing lawyers that run them?

  25. krfrieds says: Feb 19, 2012 5:20 PM

    Let me help some of you with the concept of ticket prices. Its call supply and demand. Not players salaries. If you have 100000 seats to fill and you can fill 99% of them at $100 each compared to 100% at $75 each what would you as an owner do. Stop whinning about the cost of a beer or how much a player makes put donw your occupy sign and take a class in economics.

  26. 6thsense79 says: Feb 19, 2012 5:41 PM

    The Franchise tag is one of the most anti capitalistic tool in professional football. It doesn’t seem right in any business to honor a contract to the end and then have to be held to an additional below market 1 year contract. Whether that contract is $10,000 or $10 million as a capitalist it’s a deplorable tool.

    What’s worse is the fact that a team can do this 3 years in a row. 1 year should be more than enough.

  27. deadeye says: Feb 19, 2012 6:20 PM

    One upside of the lower tag values is that it encourages the players to extend their contracts prior to the tag needing to be used. The long term effect should be that more high calibre players play their first two contracts for the team that drafted them. That in turn makes it easier (theoretically) for a team to rebuild keeping it’s best talent along the way. From a fan’s perspective the increased parity will be fun to watch.

  28. t1mmy10 says: Feb 19, 2012 7:35 PM

    way to be overly dramatic. They are clearly just taking the franchise tags and are making it based off the salary cap (the way it should be)….instead of off of the previous franchise tag amounts & the highest paid salaries in the league. the old system was out of control.

    the highest the cap has been since 2007 was 12.8% increase from 2007. EVERY position tag amounts have increased far above that since 2007.
    punter/kicker: 24% increase
    saftey: 115% increase
    CB: 137% increase
    LB: 41% increase
    DT: 119% increase
    DE: 55% increase
    TE: 121% increase
    RB: 56% increase
    WR: 82% increase
    OL: 44% increase
    QB: 25% increase
    By doing it this way they’re also taking money away from the handful of vets that get franchised tagged and giving it to the other vets on the team.

  29. klunge says: Feb 19, 2012 8:33 PM

    Timmy10 is correct…the old system for figuring franchise tag amounts was as silly as the rookie pay scale. Every time a player got the tag as an average of the top 5 at his position, he bumps Player #5 off that list and raises the position average for the next person tagged. A player might not be a top 3 at his position, but just important enough to his team that they want to keep him, and if noone else is in free agency or draft to fill their shoes they are forced to overcompensate him. They every player better than that guy demands to make more than him and the average skyrockets. Very flawed.

    Really not so different a system from the inflated overpriced housing market a few years ago. How’d that work out for the economy? Can’t work for the NFL’s microeconomy either.

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