Uncertainty lingers regarding the franchise tag

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the players’ union expires on March 4.  The CBA permits each team to designate as a franchise player any player who otherwise would be an unrestricted free agent “each season during the term of this Agreement.”  The window for applying the franchise tender opens 22 days before the first day of the new league year, and it closes eight days before the first day of the new league year.

We attempted in 2010 to ascertain whether the two sides agree — or not — that the franchise tag may be applied in February 2011, even though there will be no new league year absent a new agreement.  Neither side would provide a definitive answer.

The question turns on the meaning of the phrase “each season during the term of this Agreement.”  The 2011 season isn’t a “season during the term of this Agreement”; however, the 2010 season is such a season, and the tag would be applied during the 2010 league year, for use in the 2011 league year.

We’ve now entered the final weeks of the 2010 league year, and uncertainty continues to linger.  ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio reported earlier today that teams have been advised not to use the tag in February 2011 until receiving further information and guidance from the league office.  NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Paolantonio that the situation is under review.

But why not simply apply the tag anyway?  If the Colts don’t apply it to quarterback Peyton Manning or if the Eagles fail to apply it to quarterback Mike Vick before the close of business on the eighth day before the first day of the 2011 league year, they may forfeit the ability to do so later.

If the Colts and Eagles apply the tag, there’s no real downside.  True, the union may file a grievance regarding the availability of the franchise tender for 2011, but if the franchise player concept remains in the next CBA, they’d surely still be able to use it.  If they fail to apply the tender before the expiration of the current deal, they’ll possibly forfeit that ability.

Of course, that raises the question of why the league would tell the teams not to use the franchise tag pending further communication from the league office.  Our guess is that the league prefers not to pick a fight that would be resolved under the current CBA by Judge David Doty.  Doty, whose jurisdiction over the league and the union will expire as soon as the current labor deal terminates, would potentially provide the union with more leverage at the bargaining table by ruling that the owners’ decision to allow the current deal to evaporate necessarily triggers the evaporation of the franchise player concept.

In the end, it’s likely that the franchise player concept will survive, but the union may seek certain concessions from the league.  By avoiding a fight before Judge Doty regarding the ongoing viability of the tag after the expiration of the CBA, the price tag for keeping the franchise tag could end up being lower.

13 responses to “Uncertainty lingers regarding the franchise tag

  1. “The window for applying the franchise tender opens 22 days before the first day of the new league year, and it closes eight days before the first day of the new league year”

    Applying the tag in February 2010 obviously applied to the 2010 league year.

    Does it say the tag must be applied during the last 22 days of the previous league year to be applied in the following league year?

  2. Your argument holds little water, in my opinion. If I’m the union, it doesn’t matter to me what a judge does or doesn’t decide about something that no matter what could be over in one year. Essentially even if the franchise tag would stand in 2011 when applied during the appropriate time frame of the 2010 season, the players could stand firm on their asking price knowing that no matter what the league will either fold or the franchise tag won’t be an option for the league at the end of 2011.

    The asking price may go up if a judge rules against the league, but it surely won’t go down even if the issue never gets raised.

    That is, if I’m the union…

  3. “The window for applying the franchise tender opens 22 days before the first day of the new league year, and it closes eight days before the first day of the new league year”
    Maybe it’s just me, but the wording of this clause exclusively references the new league year. That being the case, if there’s no new league year, then there is no time frame to apply the franchise tag. How does one act between 22 and 8 days before the start of the new league year when no new league year is scheduled to start? If the NFL and the players association had a deal in place to begin the next season by temporarily carrying over the current cba terms while the final terms of a new cba were worked out, then the league would have a leg to stand on. Without a cba (and therefore a known new league year), the franchise tag clause is like a fire that’s smothered by a lack of air. In fact, it’s very similar to the clause that forced Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins to return to their teams to avoid the real risk of being restricted free agents again. In both cases, contractual language meant to deal with a different circumstance could negatively affect one side because the language didn’t allow for an alternative in case the circumstances had radically changed. In the case of Jackson and Mankins, the clause never took into account the idea that a player could both be a free agent and have enough time in to be an unrestricted free agent the following year. In this case, the clause didn’t anticipate that there would be no scheduled next league year to franchise a player for.

  4. correction: the current cba never took into account the possibility that a player could both be a restricted free agent and have enough time in to be an unrestricted free agent the following year.

  5. This “Judge David Doty” is another reason the NFL wants the CBA to lapse. Doty has been completely Pro-Union and the NFL will insist after this CBA, Doty is out.
    As far as the Franchise Tag – if a team puts it on a player now, it is signaling to all the other teams – if you sign him we will raid your roster next.
    The Owner do not want a Lock-out. That would be foolish. They want the Union to de-certif. Then I see them agreeing to extend the current terms including a Rookie Salary Cap for the next year. That would keep Congress off their back and make the fans happy with them.

  6. @mightyraven ngata’s?!?!?! There’s more then one? Who are u Dan dierdorf mispronouncing halotis name like that lol hope that was a speaking error and u don’t really think there’s a s at the end of his name

  7. The tag is done. They will try it anyway.
    Add this to the long list if reasons for no agreement.

    We need some owner polling Mike? I have seen zilch feedback on the sides? There has to be some disagreement there?

    lets see, Jones over there, Kraft over here…

    Don’t care.
    BB will run through the league with a bunch of walk-ons. Be a couple of 60+ point games. Maybe break the 74-0 record.
    No way I stop watching football.


    Advantage, old wrinkled rich guys.

    So what else is new?
    The Asterisks year.

    Go west young Manning!

  8. Along the same lines, but affecting more teams…..

    What about being able to cut players without cap consequence during that time?

    I’ve been searching for the answer to this for a while now and it doesn’t seem that anyone has reported on it.

    I’ve suspected that a reason for the owners to drag their feet on an agreement is to take advantage of this, and get out from under some bad player contracts without taking huge cap hits.

    Anything on this Mike?

  9. Is there another professional league in the world that has player contracts that a team can void at any time? Players sign a 5 year deal and then later the team can decide it is too much and void the remaining years without paying the player anything. In other sports a contract is a contract. 5 years is 5 years. NFL contracts must include something they call guaranteed money. I thought a contract meant that. Not in the NFL. As long as contracts like this are written it cannot be stated that the players are getting a good deal. Notice that coach’s and all other team personnel contracts are different. All money is guaranteed.

  10. @themightyraven

    They don’t have to tag Ngata. He’s a restricted FA, so they just have to tender him. Good news for you.

  11. Listen guys

    There is alot of double talk here. Let me explain some details of the franchise tag, why it was implemented in the first place.

    The franchise tag was put in place for the owners to get value back from a star player who didn’t want to re-sign or didn’t agree with their current contract status or current contract offering. If the Colts Franchise Peyton, it could mean he refuses to sign a long term contract, or Polian dragging his feet to sign. Going by this article though, why hasn’t he franchised him now then? HUH, Now he’s already on RECORD stating back during their bye week Manning did not want to sign anything until after the season was over. Thats not good, I’ll tell you why.

    It sounds like to me with all the evidence that I can gather from the media, Peyton Camp, Bill Polian and Jim Irsay. Remember, Irsay wanted to sign him during the bye week. If you remember back in 2003 he was franchised again, then re-signed. But this team is on the decline versus 2003 when they were on the up, he’s also going to be 35. We all know Bill Polian isn’t afraid to spend BIG money on old players AKA Marvin Harrison, but the collective bargaining agreement is a conflict of interest for fat ass Polian, thats whats really going on here. And we know how stubborn he is, this man thinks he changed the NFL folks and without him the NFL doesn’t exist. He has an oath to the owners, NFL Commitee to side with the owners.

    This is a HUGE conflict of interest here, I can’t see Manning getting signed before the two sides meet in an agreement. That came straight out of Polian’s mouth and BELEIVE it. Bill Polian will RISK losing his most prominent player at 35 for the sake of his own ass and legacy. TRUST ME. If the two sides don’t come to an agreement, Manning will be an unsigned free agent in 2012. Polian will take it THAT far. You want to know why the Colts sucked this year….Bill Polian….Why sign players to big contracts when there is no season next year, that should tell you inside information right there folks. No football next year…Sorry.


    My opinion is, Indy fans get ready to your get hearts ripped out. Peyton Manning is not going to re-sign with the Colts. If the Colts franchise him, it won’t matter because the Colts will have to trade him or they get nothing for him, IF he wants to leave. Look at his friggin body language…Does it look like he’s happy? And if there is no season then franchising him is the best both sides can do at this point. Bill Polian won’t sign Manning until the TWO SIDES MEET AN AGREEMENT. Teams could still offer the house for a soon to be 36 year old Quarterback who took a year off…..Bill Polian is the worlds biggest egotistical son of a bitch, he better hope the franchise tag is available and is re-negotiated or he has no leverage.

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