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10 things to know about the franchise tag

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The franchise tag is old enough to vote, and nearly old enough to drink.  The tag made its annual return more than a week ago.  Unlike the Great Pumpkin, the tool for restricting a player’s ability to move from team to team will indeed make an appearance, in multiple NFL cities.

Eventually.  We think.  Perhaps starting as soon as today.

So here are 10 things to know about the tag.  You may have already known them.  You may have known and forgotten.  Or you may not have known at all.

Or perhaps that you didn’t want to know.

1.  The formula has changed.

Under prior labor deals, the non-exclusive franchise tag was determined by calculating the average of the five highest-paid players at each position from the prior year.  Under the 2011 CBA, the franchise tenders come from a more complex procedure.

Under Article 10, Section 2 of the CBA, the number is based on the five-year average cap percentage for the tag at each position.

So it’s no longer driven by what players at the same position made in the prior season, but by the average cap percentage consumed by the franchise tender over five years.  Then, that percentage will be applied to the 2013 salary cap to determine the franchise tender at each position.

Already confused?  We’ve got nine more.

2.  In some cases, the formula doesn’t matter.

A player getting the non-exclusive franchise tag is entitled to the greater of the formula clumsily explained above (and that was the fourth draft of it) or 120 percent of the player’s cap number from the prior year.

That’s why, for example, the franchise tender for Dolphins tackle Jake Long would be much higher than the franchise tender for an offensive lineman.  Long made enough in 2012 to result in a 20-percent raise, trumping the franchise tender.

This dynamic often applies to players who were taken high in the draft before the implementation of the rookie wage scale.  As rookie contracts expire under the new labor deal, franchise tenders for many of them will be lower.

3.  The transition tag has become meaningless.

Teams can use, in any given year, one franchise tag or one transition tag.  The transition tag gives a team the right to match an offer sheet, but no compensation if the team chooses not to match.

At one point, the transition player’s contract was not fully guaranteed once it was accepted by the player.  It now is.

The fact that the guaranteed pay on the one-year transition tender isn’t much less than the guaranteed pay for the one-year franchise tender, coupled with the lack of draft-pick compensation, has made the transition tag largely meaningless.

4.  Franchise tags can be withdrawn.

The amount of the franchise tender becomes fully guaranteed once the player signs it.  Since signing the franchise tender puts the player under contract, requiring him to show up to all mandatory offseason activities and training camp, some players choose to wait deep into the preseason before inking the offer.

The risk is that the franchise tag can be withdrawn, at any time, before it has been signed.

It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unprecedented.  Especially in Philly.  In 2002, the Eagles pulled the franchise tag from linebacker Jeremiah Trotter in early April.  Three years later, the Eagles removed the franchise tag from defensive tackle Corey Simon in late August.

The move immediately converts the player to an unrestricted free agent.  But if it comes after the big money has been spent, the player will have a hard time getting the pay day he would have realized on the first day of free agency.

5.  Franchise tender is guaranteed, with one exception.

Once a player signs the franchise tag, the one-year salary becomes fully guaranteed.  But there’s a little-known exception.

Under Article 10, Section 2(c) of the CBA, the contract can be terminated if the player fails “to establish or maintain his excellent physical condition.”

Any effort to do so would result in a review of the situation by a neutral physician and, eventually and inevitably, arbitration.  Still, the franchise tender technically isn’t fully and completely guaranteed.

6.  No non-quarterback will be tagged more than twice.

Former Seahawks tackle Walter Jones once spent three straight years under the franchise tag, pocketing a total of $20 million and then signing a long-term deal that paid him $20 million more guaranteed, back when $20 million was a very big deal for NFL purposes.

Jones rolled the dice on bearing the injury risk for the three franchise years, and he won.  Most players prefer the certainty of a long-term deal.

That’s why the 2006 CBA changed the formula to pay a non-quarterback the quarterback franchise tender if he’s tagged a third time.

Quarterbacks are protected, too.  In the third year of the franchise tag, they get at least a 44-percent raise over their cap number in the prior year.

7.  Arguably, no player can be tagged more than three times.

Last year’s grievance filed by Saints quarterback Drew Brees established that, if a player is tagged once by two different teams, it counts as being tagged twice.  Which would have entitled him to a 44-percent raise in 2013, if he had played under the franchise tag last year for the Saints.  (He was tagged in 2005 by the Chargers.)

Based on the language of the CBA, there’s an argument to be made that no player may ever be tagged more than three times during the course of his career.

Of course, tagging a player a fourth time would entail paying out a second 44-percent raise one year after paying out an initial 44-percent raise.  Which would make it highly unlikely that any team would ever want to use the tag more than three times.

8.  It’s cheap to tag kickers and punters.

There’s a belief among some fans that the use of the franchise tag meant that the player was a “franchise player.”  And so, when a team uses the tag on a punter or a kicker, fans are confused and/or amused.

But the formula for calculating franchise tenders has made it cheaper to use the tag than to sign the player to a market-value deal.

At $2.9 million for 2013, more kickers and punters could find themselves being regarded as “franchise players.”

9.  Long-term deals can be negotiated, through July 15.

Previously, the window for a team signing its franchise player to a long-term deal closed not long after the free-agency period started and then opened again on July 15.  Now, the window remains open until July 15.

After July 15, the franchise player can sign only a one-year deal with his current team.  It can be for more than the franchise tender, and it can include other terms, like playing-time or performance triggers that would prevent the tag from being used again.

But the duration can be no more than one year.

10.  One offer sheet may be signed, through July 15.

For a player carrying the non-exclusive tag, he can negotiate with any other team.  Ultimately, one offer sheet can be signed.

Once it’s signed, the situation simplifies considerably.  The player’s current team will match the offer and keep him, or the player’s team will not match the offer and collect a pair of first-round picks from the new team.

The two first-round picks given as compensation must be the team’s original picks — not any picks obtained via trade or otherwise.

And there’s a loophole which, eventually, a desperate coach or G.M. may use.  The period for signing franchise players to offer sheets lingers beyond the current year’s draft.  Thus, for example, a team that wants to sign quarterback Joe Flacco (if the Ravens use the non-exclusive tag) could, in theory, wait until after the draft, sign Flacco to a front-loaded offer sheet that the Ravens can’t match, and then surrender not the 2013 and 2014 first-round picks, but the first-round picks for 2014 and 2015.

There’s nothing in the labor deal that prevents this from happening until July 15, after which date the player can sign only a one-year deal with his current team.

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey to have hip examined next week

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey will have his left hip examined next week with hopes of being cleared to join his teammates for the start of training camp July 27, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. But the Dolphins won’t make a decision on whether to place Pouncey on the physically unable to perform list until after the exam.

Pouncey has not practiced since last November, playing only five games last season.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase has joked this offseason about placing Pouncey in “bubble wrap” to protect the offensive lineman from injury. To that end, according to Salguero, Pouncey will not practice much in training camp or even the regular season as the Dolphins protect him against injury.

Pouncey has not played a full, 16-game season since 2012, his second season. He has required surgery on both hips.

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Is Simeon Rice a Hall of Famer?

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Warren Sapp long has campaigned for Hall of Fame selectors to recognize his former teammate Simeon Rice, whom Sapp has said is better than Michael Strahan. Now, the Buccaneers’ website has made a case for Rice to join Sapp and Strahan in Canton.

There is no doubt Simeon Rice should be a Hall-of-Famer,” former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, a 2014 Hall of Fame inductee, told Scott Smith. “Anyone that puts up 122 sacks and has eight double-digit sack seasons during a 12-year career deserves to be in the conversation. And he did this while going against the best offensive linemen—the left tackles. Sim is one of the best pass rushers of his time, and he played a big part in making us the dominant defense that we were in the early 2000s. Go talk to some of the great Hall-of-Fame left tackles that had to go up against Sim on a regular basis, and all you’ll hear is how hard he was to get in front of and slow down. For a left tackle out there on an island, he was their worst nightmare.”

Of the defensive linemen voted into the Hall since 1981, only five played all or most of their careers at right end as Rice did.

Selectors have never voted Rice — now in his fifth year of eligibility — a finalist. The top-11 all-time sack leaders have made the Hall of Fame. Leslie O’Neal, who ranks 12th with 132.5 career sacks, and Rice, who ranks 13th with 122, have the most career sacks without a bust in Canton. (Sacks became an official statistic in 1982.)

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who was Rice’s position coach in Tampa, long has pushed to get Rice in Canton.

“Simeon was always big in the big games from the Super Bowl to all the playoff games,” Marinelli told Smith. “He was the missing piece for our defense because he was a guy that could take the game over. Some of the biggest games he had were against the very best players. He helped drive us to our Super Bowl championship. To me, that is what the Hall of Fame is all about. It’s not just the numbers. It’s about the guys that can get you to a world championship and that’s what Simeon did.”

The problem for Rice is that he played on a defense that already has two Hall of Famers in Sapp and Brooks. Safety John Lynch has been a finalist. Cornerback Ronde Barber becomes eligible in the Class of 2018. As great as the Bucs defense was, they won one Super Bowl. (Yes, I realize who the Bucs quarterbacks were as I covered the team then.) With Lynch, Barber and Rice likely among nominees this year, the question for selectors becomes: Who was the next most important part of that defense?

Rice can take solace in Charles Haley’s journey to Canton. It took Haley, who had 100.5 sacks and five Super Bowl rings, six years to become a finalist and 11 to earn election.

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David Irving a no-show as Cowboys report

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Defensive lineman David Irving was a no-show as the Cowboys reported to training camp Friday, sources confirmed. ESPN’s Todd Archer first reported Irving’s unexcused absence.

The Cowboys held a conditioning run and physicals at their training complex in Frisco, a day before leaving for Oxnard, Calif.

Receiver Dez Bryant arrived late, and the Cowboys are expected to fine him. Irving, though, is subject to a $40,000 fine for missing the reporting date, according to the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement.

Last month, the NFL suspended Irving for the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He had four sacks and four forced fumbles last season and was expected to play a big role as a pass-rusher this season.

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Agent: Adam Jones considering options after receiving one-game suspension

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The agent for Adam Jones said they are considering “all options” after the league suspended the Bengals cornerback for one game for violating the personal conduct penalty. Jones has three days to appeal.

“We are reviewing the ruling and assessing all options,” agent Peter Schaffer said, via Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal. “Any decision we make will be in the best interest of Adam, the Bengals and the NFL.”

Jones pleaded guilty to obstructing official business after a January incident in which he spat on a jailhouse nurse.

In the league’s letter to Jones, they said the “extensive video documentation of the tone, tenor and nature of your interactions with law enforcement at the site of your arrest, during transportation to the jail, and during the booking process. As you acknowledged, your post-arrest words and actions reflected poorly on you and your family, the Cincinnati Bengals football club, and the NFL. While it is our understanding that appropriate apologies have been publicly extended, they do not completely negate your behavior and admission of culpability for the underlying conduct.”

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Deone Bucannon only Cardinals player on PUP

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Cardinals linebacker Deone Bucannon will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. Coach Bruce Arians said Friday, after the team’s conditioning run, that Bucannon is the only player on PUP.

Bucannon had surgery on his right ankle in May after a lingering problem caused him to miss the final three games of last season.

The Cardinals hope Bucannon can return in time for the season opener.

Deone is close,” Arians said, via Darren Urban of the team website. “He’s getting there. I think he’s a little bit ahead of schedule. We have our fingers crossed. The first game is his due date, so to speak. Hopefully we’ll have him ready to play.”

Haason Reddick, the team’s first-round pick, has taken first-team reps in Bucannon’s spot next to veteran Karlos Dansby.

Linebacker Jarvis Jones tweaked a quadriceps muscle during the conditioning run Friday, Arians said, and could miss a few days of work.

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Dez Bryant arrives late to conditioning test, physicals

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Dez Bryant threw a free barbeque for his hometown of Lufkin on Thursday, but he likely earned a fine from the Cowboys after showing up late to the team facility Friday.

Bryant told Jane Slater of the NFL Network that he had a sinus infection and headache, so he spent the night in Lufkin, which is 175 miles from Frisco. Per Slater, Bryant said he should have informed the coaching staff earlier, but that he has talked to coaches, takes full responsibility and is prepared for the consequences.

Bryant arrived three hours late for physicals and the team’s conditioning test. Bryant told Mike Fisher of 105.3 The Fan that he wasn’t scheduled to run because of the sinus infection.

Although Bryant has a history of tardiness, he reminded Slater that he has “laid low” this offseason.

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Falcons still hoping to sell out their PSLs

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As the Falcons prepare to open their swanky new stadium in Atlanta, the bad news is that they still have nearly 6,000 PSLs to sell. The good news is that they’ve sold more than 55,000.

Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons have sold 55,113 Personal Seat Licenses. The PSLs have generated $256.3 million.

Roughly 10,000 seats are excluded from the PSL process. The PSLs range from $500 to $45,000 per seat.

So, basically, the food at the stadium will be cheap. But not much else will be.

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Dolphins place two undrafted rookies on PUP

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The Dolphins placed running back De’Veon Smith and tackle Eric Smith on the physically unable to perform list.

Miami signed De’Veon Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. A two-year starter at Michigan, he played 49 career games with 26 starts. Smith had 495 carries for 2,235 yards and 22 touchdowns, while catching 38 passes for 251 yards and one touchdown.

The Dolphins signed Eric Smith as an undrafted college free agent on May 5. He started all four years at Virginia, playing in 45 career games. He was the team’s starting right tackle for every game from 2014-16.

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Michael Oher sued by Uber driver for assault

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Michael Oher’s bad week keeps getting worse.

According to the Associated Press, the former Panthers left tackle — who was released Thursday — has now been sued in connection with the Nashville incident in which he was accused of assaulting an Uber driver.

Oher faces misdemeanor charges from the April incident. The lawsuit, filed by driver Girma Berkessa said that Oher was “extremely intoxicated.” The suit also contends Oher pushed the driver to the ground, kicked him and called him a homophobic slur several times.

Oher was released with a failed physical designation. He’s been in the league’s concussion protocol since Week Three of last season, and visited a concussion specialist earlier this week.

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Malik Jackson predicts Super Bowl title for Jaguars

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The Jaguars’ 80-1 Super Bowl odds are better than only five other teams. But if Malik Jackson is to be believed, Jacksonville is a good bet.

Jackson, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos before leaving for the Jaguars’ six-year, $85.5 million offer last offseason, expects Jacksonville to win Super Bowl LII.

That’s what I believe and, until we lose, that’s when I’ll believe different,” Jackson told The Simms and Lefkoe Podcast, via NFL.com.
“The Panthers did it. If the Panthers can do it after the season they had [in going 7-8-1 in 2014]. . . But we’re going to win the Super Bowl. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

The Jaguars were a trendy darkhorse playoff pick this time a year ago, but after last year’s 3-13 season, few are willing to venture out on that limb again. Jacksonville has not made the playoffs since 2007 despite several high draft picks and high-profile free agent signings.

“I’m very confident,” Jackson said. “It truly feels different. . . .I think it’s a lot of guys coming in here and coming to Jacksonville saying, ‘I’m going to change this. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that,'” Jackson said. “We have leaders. We have a lot of great players. We just need to be consistent, and that’s on all three sides of the ball: offense, defense and special teams.”

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Vikings sign Chunky Clements, release Caleb Kidder

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The Vikings signed defensive tackle Chunky Clements on Friday. They released defensive end Caleb Kidder to make room for Clements.

Clements went undrafted after starting 20 games and playing in 26 others at Illinois. He finished his college career with 99 tackles, six sacks and four forced fumbles.

Clements missed the final game of the 2016 season after undergoing surgery to repair a Lisfranc tear in his right foot.

The Vikings now have 89 players on their roster.

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Jim Harbaugh hires ex-49ers executive Tom Gamble at Michigan

Shortly after John Lynch was hired as the 49ers’ General Manager, Assistant G.M. Tom Gamble left the team. Now he’s reuniting with a former 49ers coach.

Jim Harbaugh is hiring Gamble to work at the Michigan football program, Tim Kawakami of TheAthletic.com reports.

Gamble and Harbaugh worked together during Harbaugh’s time as the 49ers’ head coach. It’s unclear exactly what Gamble’s role will be at Michigan, but it’s believed he’ll work in football administration, not as an on-field coach.

Harbaugh has built a large and expensive staff at Michigan, with three assistant coaches making $1 million a year.

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Report: D’Onta Foreman tests negative for marijuana, according to attorney

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Soon after D’Onta Foreman’s arrest in Austin, his attorney released a statement expressing confidence evidence would prove the running back was not guilty of the charges. On Friday, attorney Chip Lewis told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle that Foreman tested negative for marijuana at a Houston lab.

Foreman, a third-round pick of the Texans, was arrested early Sunday morning by University of Texas Police for possession of marijuana and possessing an unlawful weapon. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Lewis said in a statement Sunday that the handgun was legal, recently purchased by Foreman, registered in his name and properly secured inside Foreman’s vehicle. The attorney said the marijuana belonged to the passenger in Foreman’s car.

The Texans drafted Foreman in the third round to backup Lamar Miller.

 

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Ravens make moves, including officially signing Griff Whalen

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The Ravens announced the signing of receiver Griff Whalen among a number of roster moves Friday.

Baltimore also signed rookie cornerback Reggie Porter. Porter signed with the Colts after going undrafted out of Utah. Indianapolis released him June 12.

The Ravens placed receiver Michael Campanaro (toe) and cornerback Tavon Young (ACL) on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor, a fifth-round pick from Texas A&M, came off the non-football injury list after passing his conditioning test.

The Ravens waived/injured cornerback Aaron Bailey and placed safety Daniel Henry on injured reserve.

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Landon Collins predicts Giants’ takeover in the NFC East

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The Giants are talking the talk. Now can they back it up?

On the heels of Jason Pierre-Paul calling the Giants a Super Bowl contender and Dwayne Harris’ reminder that the Giants swept the Cowboys last season, Landon Collins insists the Giants are ready to “take over” the NFC East.

Giants players have responded with defiance after Dak Prescott declared at the ESPY Awards earlier this month that the Cowboys would defend their NFC East title.

Collins, who had already responded on social media to Prescott’s claim, fired back Friday after his youth football camp.

“I commented right underneath his picture [on social media] and said, ‘I highly doubt that,'” Collins said, via Art Stapleton of The Record. “They will not control the East. It’s over with. We’re going to have a run for it. I mean, they’re not going to win, I tell you that much. We’re definitely going to take over.”

The Giants handed the Cowboys two of their three losses in the regular season in 2016, giving them a three-game winning streak over their rivals. The Giants have not won the division since 2011, but the NFC East has not had a repeat division champ since the 2004 Eagles.

The Cowboys, who went 13-3 last season, have not posted back-to-back winning seasons since 2008-09.

So until the season opener, let the debate continue.

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