Dismissed by some as a one-shot phenomenon with little relevance to other players, the Drew Brees’ grievance ruling that stacks franchise tags could have broader application than many realize.
And the biggest beneficiaries could be kickers.
Given the importance of having a reliable kicker and the relatively low cost of using the franchise tag to maintain a kicker’s rights (this year, the number was only $2.6 million), more and more teams have been tagging kickers. This season alone, five kickers found themselves frozen by the franchise tag: Mike Nugent of the Bengals, Phil Dawson of the Browns, Josh Scobee of the Jaguars, Matt Prater of the Broncos, and Connor Barth of the Buccaneers. (The Giants also tagged punter Steve Weatherford.)
Coupled with the fact that kickers can play deep into their 30s (and, for some, well beyond), it’s only a matter of time before one of them acquires permanent franchise-tag immunity after being tagged twice.
Actually, Dawson already has it. Tagged twice by the Browns, Cleveland would have to tender Dawson at the quarterback level if they were to use it on him again in 2013. But that issue already was resolved. Now, in the wake of the Brees ruling, no other team can tag Dawson.
Sure, he’s 38. The chances of him signing a contract with a new team in 2013 and then finishing that contract at the kind of level that would tempt a team to tag him are slim. But Nugent is 30, Scobee is 30, Prater is 27, and Barth is 26. Each tagged once, and each having the potential to hang around for another decade or longer, they can be limited by the franchise tag only once more during their careers.
And so, kickers of the National Football League, the next time you see Drew Brees, you should thank him. You know, right before he says, “Now, who are you again?”