When franchise-tagged players sign long-term deals, the franchise tag then becomes available for the team to use on other players in the following year. And so, with the Ravens locking up running back Ray Rice on a long-term deal, they now have the tag available to use on quarterback Joe Flacco in 2013.
It’s a fair point, and plenty of folks are now pointing it out. But having the tag available for Flacco and using it on Flacco are two different propositions.
Even though the Ravens can tag Flacco, doing so would require them to pay him the average of the five highest-paid players at the quarterback position, a number that likely will exceed $15 million in 2013. Apart from whether the Ravens think he’s worth that much on a one-year contract, franchise-tag tango lays the foundation for negotiations on a long-term deal premised on what Flacco would earn under a second season of the tag (i.e., 20 percent more than what he makes in 2013) and the third season of the tag (i.e., 44 percent more than what he makes in 2014).
So while the franchise tag secures dibs on the player, it also gives the player dibs on a new universe of contractual expectations.
If they can’t sign Flacco to an acceptable multi-year deal by March, the Ravens possibly would let him hit the market. Or maybe the Ravens would opt for the transition tag, which would pay him the average of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks and give the Ravens the right to match any offer sheet he signs.
Regardless, the availability of the tag may be irrelevant to the Ravens, if they ultimately won’t use it. Thus, the more significant development from Rice’s contract flows from the extra $2.7 million in cap space that hits the team’s salary cap.
They now have $3.3 million in 2012 cap space, and with a few restructurings or an Ed Reed extension, the Ravens would have enough to ink Flacco for the long term before having to resolve the tag-or-no-tag dilemma.