All franchised players should play the tag game, absent fair long-term deals

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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.

22 responses to “All franchised players should play the tag game, absent fair long-term deals

  1. I am not sure I understand your animus againsy owners. Let’s say that Jerry offers Dez 35 million guaranteed and he tears a Achilles or develops a life threatening condition the first year. The owner gets nothing for his $35m. Playing under the tag means that the player gets millions without any further obligation. It is a win-win for the player. Personally I think all contracts should be 1 year contracts with a franchise option. The players would get more per year and the teams would not be saddled with dead money for years.

  2. I’ve never understood boycotting workouts and mini-camp. That makes the odds of a great performance decrease. Since the team knows that the player will report to camp there is only a minor inconvenience to the team really.

  3. I’d sign that tag every year. Guaranteed money is the only way to go. The only other deal I’d consider would be like Revis’ contract in TB. 5 1 year contracts. Both sides can walk at anytime w/o cap penalty for the team and huge bucks for the player.

  4. So Florio would like to raise ticket prices and television fees paid by the readership base. That’s understandable. Florio works for NBC and will get paid higher if fans (including PFT readers) pay more.

    Florio’s interests align with players. Nothing wrong with that. Sports news personnel need to keep good relations with players. Front office personnel are much more forgiving of “bad” media coverage than players.

    Fans interest aligns with owners. Not because owners are saints (not at all), but because the more that owners have to pay players, the more owners will turn around and raise prices on fans (tickets, TV rights). If players are paid less, then there is less cost pressure on owners to try to raise prices on fans.

  5. I never understand why fans always seem to side for team/owner against players. You’re rooting for the billionaires to beat the millionaires. Why?

  6. When the new cba was signed that capped rookie contracts and also prevented rookies from holding out one of the rationals the league used for implementing this was that there would be more money on the table to sign veteran players who have proven themselves.

    Bryant signed a 2010 rookie contract that paid him $11.8 million over five years or about $2.4 million per season

    Durin that same time frame the franchise tag number for wide receivers has averaged about $10 million per season.

    In 2010 and 2011 Bryant averaged 744 receiving yards and 7.5 receiving TDs so you can argue he was sufficiently compensated for those 2 seasons at $2.5 million per.
    From 2012 to 2014 he averaged 1311 receiving yards, 13.6 TDs. Those are all pro numbers the Cowboys were getting at a vastly reduced discount. Using the $10 million dollar franchise tag average as a base and subtracting his $2.5 million anual salary the Cowboys got an average discount of around $7.5 million per season for Bryant’s production the last three years.

    Now despite owners saying the rookie salary cap was needed specifically to help sign proven vets like Bryant the Cowboys are claiming they can’t offer him market value because of the cap. Reports have them offering him a 10 year contract that only guaranteed $20 million. The franchise tag alone this year and next guarantees Bryant about $28 million. So if the reports are true why in the world would he give the Cowboys the rights to essentially cut or keep him for the rest of his career for only $20 million guaranteed. It can be argued that he could get upwards of $40 million guaranteed on the free agent market for a shorter duration contract than 10 years.

    He should do exactly like Florio suggested and any Superstar should do the same. It’s crazy for owners to claim cap issues are preventing them from offering fair market contracts just a few years after capping rookie contracts.

  7. Sign it immediately. Fully guaranteed top at position payday. If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, you still get paid. Don’t sign it, and you don’t get a penny. No brainer unless you’re greedy or an egomaniac.

  8. Of course we are again subjected to the four-letter f-word that bleeding hearts always invoke, “fair”.

  9. mdd913 says:
    Feb 23, 2015 9:28 AM
    I never understand why fans always seem to side for team/owner against players. You’re rooting for the billionaires to beat the millionaires. Why?
    ~~~~~~~~
    Rooting for the players to get huge contracts only benefits the player and usually stems from a union vs management or ‘stick it to the man’ mentality. I guess some fans have a similar pro management approach but I think most look at it a bit differently. Fans root for a team and the players on that team can and do change every year. I doubt many Colts fans changed their team allegiance when Peyton went to Denver. Most fans realize that overpaying a couple players weakens the team as a whole and lessens the chance at success. More money available means potentially better players can be had to make the team as a whole better. Some guys are worth more money but most of the ‘stars’ believe they deserve more and more. The holdouts and boycotts make sense from an individual self-preservation standpoint but they hurt the team and many fans view that as being lazy or wanting to do minimal work for high pay. Players want to be paid on potential but would never consider themselves overpaid when their production drops off a cliff yet they are still paid the same. The only thing that changes is the dynamics for the rest of the deal when the contract exceeds the production. It is a huge mess fueled by egos.

  10. I don’t have any issue with the theory of the strategy. The practicality of it would need to viewed closer. Sometimes age of a player 2 years down the line would factor into that next contract. Especially if the player was at or near 30.

    Also, the idea that all you need to do is (5) show up for training camp and have a huge season (6) do it again fails to consider that is easier written than done and that staying healthy could be a concern.

  11. And when they get injured or have an off year; the subsequent tags will not happen and no one will offer a top-end contract. Their next contract will incentive heavy or short term lower price.

  12. mdd913 says:
    Feb 23, 2015 9:28 AM
    I never understand why fans always seem to side for team/owner against players. You’re rooting for the billionaires to beat the millionaires. Why?

    =========================

    Because money that goes to players comes out of fans’ pockets in the form of higher ticket prices and higher TV fees for ESPN, NFL Network and the broadcast networks.

    The owners aren’t saints or special charities, but the less cost pressure they face the better it is for fans.

    Maybe your question should be why would any fan root for ticket prices and TV costs for fans to rise.

  13. I continue to be amazed that people still to this day do not know how the NFL salary cap works. The NFL cap is a fixed cost that’s tied to revenue. If the league has the cap at $100 million for the year that is all the owners allocate for player expenses. The only way that player salaries can even remotely do what you suggest is if this were like MLB where teams can spend far above their cap. But the NFL has a hard freaking cap. If I had hair I would be pulling it out because I see this post over and over from posters on here that are supposedly more knowledgeable about the league than the average fan.

    If NFL player salary were a pizza pie, the owner would say I’ve budgeted $15 for the pie you Mr. GM figure out how to split it amongst the players but that $15 is all the league allows me to spend and not a penny more. It makes it virtually impossible to blame player salary for increases tickets.

    Secondly

    This is the same NFL that charged people to stand and watched the Superbowl on TV when it was in Dallas..They routinely squeeze taxpayers into building them multi million dollar stadiums..do you honestly believe that somehow if they could squeeze money from players they would pass along the savings to the paying customers when those same customers are willing to pay more.

    Alright enough ranting but the naivety of some on here is astounding.

  14. dcapettini says:
    Feb 23, 2015 9:03 AM
    I am not sure I understand your animus againsy owners. Let’s say that Jerry offers Dez 35 million guaranteed and he tears a Achilles or develops a life threatening condition the first year. The owner gets nothing for his $35m. Playing under the tag means that the player gets millions without any further obligation. It is a win-win for the player. Personally I think all contracts should be 1 year contracts with a franchise option. The players would get more per year and the teams would not be saddled with dead money for years.
    —————-

    Fully DISagree. If a team is in a bad cap situation it is their own doing. Let them rot until they figure it out. That’s the way the NFL ebbs and flows and the way that the best perform the best. Don’t like the idea of the league legislating cap management in any way.

  15. Why would he need to buy a disability policy for 2015? If he signed the franchise offer then that money is already guaranteed. Those policies are ridiculously expensive for football players. Should this have read, “buy a disability policy in the amount of the 2016 franchise tender?

  16. Great advice for players who want to make an enemy of their employer. Not everyone has to turn a negotiation into a completely adversarial process.

  17. @nflviewer

    Because money that goes to players comes out of fans’ pockets in the form of higher ticket prices and higher TV fees for ESPN, NFL Network and the broadcast networks.

    The owners aren’t saints or special charities, but the less cost pressure they face the better it is for fans.
    _________________________________

    That’s not how the salary cap even works. It’s a hard cap, that doesn’t affect the owner’s bottom line. This isn’t the MLB or English Premier League.

    And secondly, just look at historical precedent. For example, Mike Brown owner of the Bengals has been incredibly frugal on a historical level with this player’s contracts, and his team operations (i.e. employing the fewest team scouts in any NFL organization). But his ticket prices always went up. One of the reasons tickets go up, is to account for the fancy new stadiums owners want, which is the biggest scam of all. Owners want tax-paying counties to front “half” the costs of the stadium, where the owner will cover the other half. But once that stadium’s built, the owners recoup their costs through increased ticket fees. And the owners continue to scam us all.

  18. The piece that everyone misses as they run down owners is not the risk of injury that scares them its the off the field stuff that terrifies them.

    The reason Dez hasn’t been signed for tons of money (that he deserves) is that he is an off the field liability. If Dez wants to be “fair” then he should sign a deal that pays him guaranteed money to be on the field even against injury which the cowboys would gladly do as long as they have protections from off the field suspensions.

    The other side of that guarantee coin is if Dez A) gets suspended because of NFL drug policy or B) gets suspended because of their personal conduct policy then the contract is voided and he owes back a percentage of his signing bonus congruent with his time on the field once he signed the contract. It provides incentive for the player to not act like a fool off the field and it protects the player against injury. Willing to bet that Jerry is offering Dez all the money in the world but that Dez’s reps are balking at any incentive money tied to off the field trouble.

  19. I have trouble with any of you that side for the owners when they’re franchises value are doubling and the amount of money they pay to the players is a fixed amount as it relates to the total income of the league. So the owners get 53% of all revenues off the top then get to keep merchandising and parking and other fees. They are raking in the dough and you want the players to feel sorry for the owners and negotiate “fairly”. On top of that they get free stadiums or they whine like babies and say “i’ll take my ball to another city” if they don’t. All the while the players are the ones risking injury to life and limb. SMH

  20. Mr. Florio,

    I don’t always agree with you but you’re 100% correct here.

    I can’t fathom how many on here disagree.

    Franchise tags limit the risk to the owners to just one season, or two if a player gets tagged.

    Pro football player careers are very short and if an owner is able to tag a player for even 1 season, let alone two seasons then he greatly reduces the chances that he’ll have to pay the player via a longer contract as many times (not always) the player’s skills will begin to decline or they’ll be another year (or two) older and therefore get a lesser long term deal than they would have had gotten before the tag.

    If a player gets tagged at 28 and 29 yrs old… good luck getting a 4 or 5 yr contract at 30 years old (unless he’s a QB)…

    Sure, most contracts allow the owners an out as they may simply cut a player but players and agents know this and they try to get more guaranteed money in these 3, 4 and 5 year deals…

    The owners have always known they could just cut a player but now the trend is for them to get more (not all of the contract money, but more of it) dollars guaranteed.

    The owners do NOT want that. To avoid this or to shorten their risk, they franchise certain players.

    Also folks, those being considered for the franchise tag are very good players so while the franchise tag is for big bucks, the owners are getting good play the majority of the time for players under the franchise tag.

    It’s a better bang for their buck and when that player is another year or two older, he’ll get less of deal and less guaranteed dollars and the owners are happy because of that but also because as each year goes by in these players career the less likely it is they’ll have an outstanding season and the owners like paying less this way when they’re older.

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