Franchise tag window opens tomorrow


Starting Monday, the two-week window opens for application of the franchise tag.  The device, launched two decades ago with the commencement of true free agency, gives each team the ability to apply some restriction to one otherwise unrestricted free agent each year.

Any player who receives the nonexclusive version of the tag may still negotiate with other teams.  An offer sheet may be signed.  The franchise player’s current team has seven days to match.  If the current team doesn’t match, the contract becomes effective and the new team gives two first-round draft picks to the player’s former team.

Before 2011, the nonexclusive franchise tag was determined by calculating the average cap number of the five highest-paid players at the same position in the prior year.  The current labor deal determines the tender by calculating the average salary-cap percentage of the franchise tag in five prior years, a device that keeps the growth of the tag from outpacing the growth of the cap — and likewise from not fully reflecting any growth of the market for the position that surpasses the growth of the cap.

In English (or close to it), this means that, for some positions, the franchise tag may not track the top of the market.  As to quarterbacks, for example, the tag will remain in the mid-teens for the next few years, even as the top of the market pushes higher and higher above $20 million annually.

Teams also may use the exclusive franchise tag, which prevents the player from talking to another team and from signing an offer sheet.  This heightened restriction carries an additional cost; the player receives an amount equal to the five highest-paid players at the position in the current year, as of late April.  The exclusive franchise tender typically is much higher than the non-exclusive tender.

Regardless of the franchise-tag calculation, a player is entitled to a 120-percent raise over his most recent cap number, if that’s greater than the base tender amount.  A player tagged a third time gets a 144-percent raise, or the average of the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the prior season.

The franchise salary becomes guaranteed the moment the offer is accepted by the player.  Until the player signs the tender, it may be withdrawn.

Players often choose not to sign the franchise tender because, if not under contract, they can withhold services without consequences.  On multiple occasions, a franchise player has shown up days before the start of the regular season, signed the franchise tender, and earned the full amount of the franchise salary.

Still, some franchise players have the tender withdrawn, making them free agents well after the big money from other teams has stopped flowing.

Even though the window opens Monday, it’s unlikely that teams will rush to use the tag.  Most teams will use the period to attempt to negotiate a long-term contract, which will allow the franchise tag to be used on another player.  Or not at all.

Last weekend, we took a team-by-team look at the players who could be tagged.  In 2012, a record 21 players were tagged.  In 2013, the number plummeted to eight.  The reduced tags became obvious once the free-agency market opened, and spending was much lower than expected.

This year, tag use could hinge on the extent to which teams believe other teams will be poised to spend money to sign away their free agents.  If a spending spree is anticipated, more tags will be used.

The biggest name to watch over the next two weeks will be Saints tight end Jimmy Graham.  He’s arguably the best player eligible for free agency, and Graham and the Saints seem destined for a fight over whether he should be tendered as a receiver, which would result in more than $4.5 million in additional salary for 2014 alone.

15 responses to “Franchise tag window opens tomorrow

  1. Jimmy is a stud, but he’s a TE. If you don’t want the right end tag don’t play the position, I don’t care if you lineup at WR.

    Players are fine being labeled at their position until they can get greedy when money rolls around. Stupid loophole.

  2. If he wants to be tagged as a WR, then he needs to move to WR permanently. No more getting covered by linebackers or nickle cornerbacks, you gotta go against the big boys and run actual routes. That’s valuable cap space we don’t have.

  3. Whoever thinks Jimmy Graham isn’t worth the WR franchise tag money is out of their minds. Seattle GAME PLANNED against Jimmy Graham, same way teams game plan against AJ Green, Calvin Johnson, and Josh Gordon. Whoever doesn’t think the Saints true #1 WR is Jimmy Graham must not be watching them play.

  4. If the Saints can find another deep threat receiver in FA or the draft, Jimmy would drop the wide receiver designation to be classified as a tight end.
    D backs wont be able to contain everyone which would open Jimmy up more against the tight coverage DB’s aka……Sherman

  5. to the gents above, do you think jimmy gets to choose where sean payton lines him up?

    is there a form he fills out to declare himself only a wide reciever? no. see above. its where payton lines him up…..

    more often than not, as a wideout.

  6. Jimmy Graham was shut out by the two of the top corners last season in big games, Richard Sherman and Aqib Talib. He wants wide reciever money right? Then he needs to stop getting punked by probowl corners. Jimmy is a tight end who makes his plays against linebackers. He may line up in the slot often but he gets beat by physical corners who match up size wise with him. Pay him like the tightend end that he is until he proves he can beat probowl corners consistently. He is asking for a lot of dough even if he is one of the best tightends in the league.

  7. Bottom line for Jimmy Graham, and why this argument is not going to work for anyone that tries it:

    On every snap he is in the game, he is an eligible receiver. Just like running backs, and wide receivers. Larry Centers would not have won an argument to be viewed as a wide receiver, but he almost never ran the ball, and always caught balls out of the backfield. He would have been tagged as a running back, not that he was tagged, but that’s the best comparison I could come up with.

    Utilization does not dictate position. Position is a definition, and strategy and utlization are just game-planning tools.

    Now I will say I have a much harder time with the OLB/DE designation between 3-4 OLB and 4-3 DEs. Technically, the same rules apply, and linebackers should be treated like linebackers, but it is a little harder when guys like Clay Matthews rushes 90%+ of the time, and doesn’t spend much time in coverage.

    But I am ok with the idea of creating a separate position group for 3-4 OLBs that differs from the LB position group when it comes to the franchise tag. Maybe that’s the solution for Graham as well. Won’t get resolved this offseason, but perhaps in future seasons this can be reconciled.

  8. @Joefelicelli

    Bottom line, your argument is full of holes, and here’s why
    #1) Centers was drafted in 1990. Rules on and off the field have changed since then.
    #2) Though Centers may have had more passes than runs, he ALLWAYS lined up behind the QB, in the FB position. Graham lined up as WR and in the slot 67% of the time he was in there. Of the 86 passes he caught this year, only 18 came when he lined up as a TE.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!