The Broncos and left tackle Ryan Clady apparently didn’t want to risk a late-afternoon fax machine faux pas. For the other seven franchise-tagged players, the last grain of sand falls through the hourglass at 4:00 p.m. ET on Monday.
After that point, franchise players can sign only one-year deals to remain with their teams. Six of them already have signed their one-year franchise tenders: Chiefs left tackle Brendan Albert, Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson, Colts punter Pat McAfee, Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer, and Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks. One — Bills safety Jairus Byrd — remains unsigned.
Byrd can boycott training camp and preseason games without financial consequences, since he’s not under contract. As long as he shows up within a few days of the team’s first regular-season game, he’ll get his full guaranteed salary. (Unless, of course, the Bills rescind the franchise tag, which is highly unlikely but not unprecedented.)
While the Bills after today won’t be able to sweeten the pot by adding more than one year to the deal, the Bills can enhance the terms of the franchise tender, paying Byrd more money for 2013 (unlikely) or including a path to free agency in 2014 without fear of a second straight application of the team (more likely). Teams have in the past persuaded franchise players to sign one-year contracts that contained an agreement not to use the tag again if the player and/or the team reaches a certain level of performance.
The Bills may be very willing to do that, since Byrd would be entitled to a 20-percent raise in 2014, if he’s tagged again. Already, the franchise tags are out of whack with the open market. That’s the biggest reason why only eight players were tagged this year, and why only one was able to leverage a big one-year guarantee into a comparable multi-year contract.