A player who has not signed his franchise tender is not under contract, which means that he can stay away from offseason workouts, training camp, and the preseason as part of an effort to get a long-term deal.
The only risk is that the tender will be rescinded.
This year, agent Jordan Woy counseled two tagged clients, Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer and Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, to sign their franchise tenders in the hours before the opening of the three-day, pre-free-agency negotiating period.
Though this reduces the players’ leverage when it comes to trying to get more, since they now can be fined for boycotting mandatory activities, it protects them against the possibility that their team will find a cheaper long-term option elsewhere.
With the Cowboys desperate to create cap space (and quarterback Tony Romo not inclined to sign a new contract that would reduce his $16.8 million number), persuading a 4-3 defensive end to sign a multi-year deal with a favorable 2013 cap number would have allowed the Cowboys to yank the tag from Spencer and create a bunch of cap space.
Ditto in Chicago, where for example a deal with Chiefs defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey at a favorable 2013 cap number could have made Melton vulnerable.
The other six franchise players would be wise to think this one through, then, before the Broncos find a new left tackle or the Bills find a new safety or the Bengals find a new defensive end or the Chiefs find a new left/right tackle or the Dolphins find a new defensive tackle or the Colts find a new punter.
Though the removal of the tag would make the player an unrestricted free agent, stripping the tender after the first few days of free agency would make it much harder for the player to get paid big money.