Earlier this month, Bears G.M. Phil Emery discussed the challenges associated with using the franchise tag on quarterback Jay Cutler. Many interpreted Emery’s comments as reflecting a decision to not use the tag on Cutler.
On Monday night, Emery made it clear that the tag isn’t off the table.
“I would say ‘disregard completely’ is an oversimplification of what the franchise tag is in relation to contracts and caps and player contracts overall,” Emery said in an appearance on WSCR radio in Chicago. “What I had said before was that just make sure when you look at the franchise tag [you know] what that means from a quarterback’s contract perspective and the amount of room and space that it eats up. It’s not necessarily a solution. It’s not the first thing we would think about. The first think we’d think about if we wanted to sign a player is a long-term contract. That fits better in our cap situation.”
The bigger problem is that the franchise tag provides the starting point for a long-term deal. With the ability to make $16 million guaranteed in 2014, why would Cutler wants anything less than $30 million guaranteed in the first two years, or less than $50 million guaranteed in the first three?
Not using the tag gives Cutler the ability to let the market set his value. And it gives Cutler the ability to take less money from another team (like the Vikings) if he wants to stick it to the Bears.
That’s the real risk for the Bears. If they don’t use the tag and try to let the market set his value, Cutler could choose to ultimately take less than the Bears have offered because they refused to make an offer driven by the franchise tag.