The first business day of the two-week franchise tag has come and gone with no one being tagged. Shockingly.
With fourteen days to go (yes, there are only 14 days in two weeks but when the window opens on a Wednesday and closes two Wednesdays later that’s 15 days), any player who may be tagged if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal should let it happen. Here’s why.
The analysis for valuing a long-term deal is no different before the tag is applied, if the tag is likely coming. As to Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones, for example, owner Michael Bidwill has said that the tag will be used if Jones doesn’t sign a long-term deal. This means that, before the tag is applied, a long-term contract should be based on Jones making $16.73 million this year (assuming that the salary cap is $165 million) and a 20-percent raise in 2018. After the tag is applied, the analysis is the same — and the availability of the 2017 salary cap will make the amount of the tag a certainty.
So Jones should simply wait for the tag to be applied. If it is, and if a long-term deal isn’t done by the true deadline of July 15, he’ll get a significant salary for one year, be entitled to a 20-percent raise if tagged again, and perhaps most importantly be able to check the franchise tag box once on a career tag scale that, if it ever gets to two, would likely never get to three, since a third tag would make him eligible for the quarterback tender or a 44-percent raise, whichever is higher.
For players on teams that have two players who could be tagged (e.g., the Chiefs with defensive tackle Dontari Poe and safety Eric Berry), the player who is approached to sign a long-term deal so that the other can be tagged should consider resisting unless that offer is better than what the player would get either on the open market or under the franchise tag. The player who agrees to terms under those circumstances lets the team use the tag on the other guy; it’s fair to expect extra consideration for helping the team out of a jam.
It’s also fair for any player facing the franchise tag to expect more for doing a deal sooner than later, since doing a deal puts the player under contract and allows him to fully participate in the offseason program. If the player waits until July 15, he can miss the full lifting, running, OTA, and mandatory minicamp cycle without financial consequence.
This wait-for-the-tag reasoning applies similarly to Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who’ll get $23.94 million if tagged again in 2017. He should let it happen, even if Washington is willing to pay him fully guaranteed at signing $23.94 million in 2017 and to give him a 20-percent raise (which reflects the possible use of the transition tag) in 2018. That same deal would be available after the tag is applied, and it would make it highly unlikely that Cousins, who is entering the sixth year of his career, would ever be franchise-tagged again by Washington or anyone else.
So even though the franchise tag, which some players mistakenly regard as an honor, diminishes a player’s options in free agency and prevents him from a big payday right out of the gates, players who are facing the franchise tag should decline to do a long-term deal until it’s applied.
If the team ultimately doesn’t apply the tag, that’s good news. If the tag ultimately is applied, then the player is one step closer to never being tagged again.
To summarize, it’s always better to not be tagged. But if the tag is coming, embrace it before signing a long-term deal and don’t be afraid to go year-to-year under the tag. You may end up like Kirk Cousins, who’ll potentially pocket nearly $44 million over 2016 and 2017 before getting a shot at the open market (or at worst a right of first refusal under the transition tag, or another $28.78 million if he accepts the transition tag) in 2018.