Last year, every franchise-tagged player with 10 fingers ended up signing a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline. This year, there may only be a handful who do long-term deals.
The problem is simple. The amount of the franchise tender is the starting point for a long-term deal. In most cases, the player gets his franchise salary plus a 20-percent raise (or a little more) for the next year fully guaranteed at signing. This year, several teams aren’t willing to make that kind of a commitment.
The players, to their credit, seem to be willing to take a year-to-year approach to the tag, carrying the injury risk and setting the stage for the 20-percent raise next year or a shot at the open market. That’s why Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins won’t be signing a long-term deal, and it will be the primary reason for the absence of a long-term contract for Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, Chiefs safety Eric Berry, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson, and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, if none of them sign.
As to the Jets and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, the team has shown no inclination to keep him beyond this season, making a long-term deal irrelevant.
As to the Broncos and linebacker Von Miller, the team has opted to offer a deal that pays out more than what the tag would give Miller over the next two years. Indeed, the Broncos already are willing to fully guaranteed by March 2017 more than what Miller would receive under three years of the tag. Miller has the skill and the leverage to demand something closer to true market value than a contract based on the tag.
For the rest of the tagged players, the calculation is easy. This year, however, the negotiation isn’t.