Franchise players can still be signed by other teams

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None of the non-exclusive franchise players have signed offer sheets with other teams this year.  In theory, however, they still could.

Lost in the details regarding the operation of the franchise tag, the transition tag, and the various restricted free agency tenders is the fact that, while restricted free agents go off the market before the draft, franchise and transition players remain available to be signed into May and beyond.

And so, in theory, if a team decides to pursue one of the non-exclusive franchise players, like Bears running back Matt Forte, Ravens running back Ray Rice, Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe, and Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, it can still happen.  Specifically, the player would sign an offer sheet, the current team would have an opportunity to match it, and if the current team doesn’t match within a week, the current team would receive a first-round pick in 2013 and a first-round pick in 2014.

The process, based on the language of the CBA, continues even after the July 16 deadline for signing a franchise player to a multi-year deal.  That rule applies only to his current team.  A new team can still sign the player to an offer sheet, even after July 16.

So how long does a new team have to sign an unsigned, non-exclusive franchise player to an offer sheet?  The answer appears in Sections 14 and 15 of Article 10 of the labor deal.

Section 14(a) states that, if a transition player hasn’t signed a contract by July 22, only the player’s current club may negotiate or sign him thereafter.  Section 15(a) contains no similar deadline for franchise players, stating only that, if the player hasn’t signed a contract with “a Club” by the Tuesday following the 10th week of the regular season, the player can’t play for any team that year.  Read together, these provisions imply that an unsigned, non-exclusive franchise player can be signed to an offer sheet up until the Tuesday following the ninth week of the regular season, since the prior club must have one week to match before the contract is finalized.

The only potential caveat to this approach comes from the July 16 deadline restricting the prior team’s ability to sign a franchise player to a multi-year deal.  The correct interpretation of the CBA could be that matching the offer is different from signing the player to a multi-year deal.  Otherwise, the CBA as a practical matter allows a team to sign a non-exclusive franchise player to an offer sheet after July 16, with the player’s prior team having no ability to match.

Confused?  Good, because so are we.  The point is that unsigned, non-exclusive franchise players remain fair game, even now.  Which means that, for example, if any team decides for whatever reason that it’s not happy with its current depth chart at tailback, that team can still make a run at Ray Rice or Matt Forte.

If, of course, that team is willing to give up a first-round pick in 2013 and a first-round pick in 2014.

12 responses to “Franchise players can still be signed by other teams

  1. A team with a G.M. on the hot seat. If the team sucks, he won’t be using those picks anyway.

  2. The non-exclusive franchise tag is set up in such a way that no team with a reasonable front office would ever consider giving up that much for a player.

  3. No team will forfeit two first round picks for any of these players, but what the non-exclusive tag allows to happen is for a player and a team other than his own work out a tentative deal, which then could allow a trade to take place between the two teams. If a team knows it can agree on a long-term deal with a player, they’ll have more incentive to trade for him. The only part I’m not sure about is if the player first has to sign his franchise tag to be traded, and how that would affect a new deal.

    A player can also better gauge his value on the open market this way, being able to talk money with other teams.

  4. @44boz – Brees got the exclusive tag. No one but the Saints can negotiate with him.

    @ Everyone else – This HAS been done. Jerry Jones paid the two Number Ones to the Seahawks for Joey Galloway. It was pretty dumb and I don’t see anyone ever doing it again for any non-QB. A team with an extra first rounder could definitely rationalize their way into paying that price to get a great quarterback. Unfortunately, the great ones will always get the exclusive tag.

  5. ….Making the transition/franchise tag just a little better than tendering a guy with a 1st and 3rd round pick. thats what it sounds like to me.

  6. Seanje:

    To be clear, a franchise tag is not a contract. Players sign contracts, players do not sign franchise tags.

    Franchise tags designate restrictions that any subsequent contract must adhere to, though. The biggest restriction is a minimum salary that must be paid for a single year deal.

    As long as the contract adheres to the requirements of the franchise tag, additional clauses can be negotiated. For example, Rice can sign a 1-year deal with the Ravens for more than $7.749M. Rice can insist that a no-tag clause be included, etc.

    Players can only be traded if signed to a contract. So, to answer your question, a clause can be added to the player’s contract, specifying the trade. The player then signs the contract, and the trade is executed.

    Also, this is not a true measure of a player’s open market value. Open market value can only be determined with UFA’s. OMV cannot be determined if one team also must sacrifice two 1st round picks to the prior team.

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