An item from Sunday suggested a strategy for receiver Dez Bryant, if the Cowboys apply the franchise tag — and if they don’t offer him a long-term deal with sufficient fully guaranteed money at signing.
Some Cowboys fans believed this advice was exclusive to Bryant, aimed only at helping him play (and win) the tag game with owner Jerry Jones. But this advice applies to any player who: (1) gets the franchise tag; and (2) doesn’t get a long-term offer with sufficient guaranteed money. Bryant was the only one mentioned, because it seems likely that he’ll get the tag — and won’t be happy about it.
Whether it’s Bryant or Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas or Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul or Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, a long-term deal that doesn’t fully guarantee two years under the franchise tag (i.e., 100 percent of the 2015 tag plus 100 percent of the 2016 tag, which is 120 percent of the 2015 amount) should be rejected. Too many long-term NFL contracts have become year-to-year propositions with a little extra protection against career-ending injuries. If that’s all that’s going to be available for Bryant and other tag candidates, players restricted by the franchise tag should do exactly what Dez Bryant should do.
The only potential glitch comes from application of the exclusive franchise tag, since that would prevent other teams from signing the player to an offer sheet. In most cases, the exclusive tag will result in more money for the player in 2015 — making him eligible for even more in 2016.
So here’s how the advice to Bryant changes if the exclusive tag is used. The player should: (1) sign it right away; (2) boycott voluntary offseason workouts; (3) consider skipping the mandatory minicamp and paying the fine; (4) buy a disability policy for 2015; (5) show up for training camp and have a huge season; (6) do it all again in 2016, if the tag is applied for a second straight year.
Given the whopping 44-percent raise that applies when the tag is used a third time, the player will hit the market in 2017. And if that’s the case, he will have made the two years of significant money that the team isn’t willing to fully guarantee at signing.
Actually, there’s an argument to be made that a franchise-tagged player should want even more than the first two years fully guaranteed. But that would require players to think like owners. But when players think like owners, the fans often think of them as greedy and selfish.
Players should still think like owners — owners who place their future ability to earn on the line every time they go to work.