On Sunday, we posted a couple of items regarding the realities of the franchise tag under the new CBA.
To summarize, there’s a new formula for calculating the franchise tender. Instead of taking the five highest cap numbers at a given position from the prior year, the new CBA starts with the average franchise tender for the last five years, determines the percentage of the tender under the overall salary cap over that five-year period, and the average percentage then determine the franchise tender for the current year, based on the new salary cap number.
In English, this means that if, over the past five years, the average franchise tag for a given position equaled five percent of the total salary cap, the franchise tender for this year will be five percent of the $120 million cap, or $6 million.
The problem is that, for the non-exclusive franchise tender, any growth in a given year will be diluted by the prior four. If the top of the market for a given position grows in a given year at a faster rate than the cap, the franchise tender will reflect something less than what the top five players at a given position currently receive.
But there’s good news, at least for the players who receive the “exclusive” version of the franchise tag, which prevents the player from talking to other teams and/or entertaining an offer sheet that, if not matched, would yield two first-round picks as compensation. For the “exclusive” franchise player, the franchise tender continues to be determined by an average of the five highest player salaries at the same position as of the expiration of the restricted free agency signing period in April.
This means that, for a guy like Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the “exclusive” tender could be much higher than $16.4 million. It will eventually depend on, for example, whether Matt Flynn signs a front-loaded contract with a big cap number in 2012, whether Peyton Manning stays in Indy under his current deal (unlikely), and whether Manning signs with a new team for big money by the middle of April.
The final number won’t be known until those deals are done; thus, the Saints and Brees will be operating in the dark until those numbers are set. Which could make it difficult to have any meaningful negotiations until the end of April. Which could make it more likely that Brees won’t be available to the Saints when the offseason program launches, unless he signs the one-year franchise tender and reports for duty.