Players facing franchise tag should let it happen

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The first business day of the two-week franchise tag has come and gone with no one being tagged. Shockingly.

With fourteen days to go (yes, there are only 14 days in two weeks but when the window opens on a Wednesday and closes two Wednesdays later that’s 15 days), any player who may be tagged if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal should let it happen. Here’s why.

The analysis for valuing a long-term deal is no different before the tag is applied, if the tag is likely coming. As to Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones, for example, owner Michael Bidwill has said that the tag will be used if Jones doesn’t sign a long-term deal. This means that, before the tag is applied, a long-term contract should be based on Jones making $16.73 million this year (assuming that the salary cap is $165 million) and a 20-percent raise in 2018. After the tag is applied, the analysis is the same — and the availability of the 2017 salary cap will make the amount of the tag a certainty.

So Jones should simply wait for the tag to be applied. If it is, and if a long-term deal isn’t done by the true deadline of July 15, he’ll get a significant salary for one year, be entitled to a 20-percent raise if tagged again, and perhaps most importantly be able to check the franchise tag box once on a career tag scale that, if it ever gets to two, would likely never get to three, since a third tag would make him eligible for the quarterback tender or a 44-percent raise, whichever is higher.

For players on teams that have two players who could be tagged (e.g., the Chiefs with defensive tackle Dontari Poe and safety Eric Berry), the player who is approached to sign a long-term deal so that the other can be tagged should consider resisting unless that offer is better than what the player would get either on the open market or under the franchise tag. The player who agrees to terms under those circumstances lets the team use the tag on the other guy; it’s fair to expect extra consideration for helping the team out of a jam.

It’s also fair for any player facing the franchise tag to expect more for doing a deal sooner than later, since doing a deal puts the player under contract and allows him to fully participate in the offseason program. If the player waits until July 15, he can miss the full lifting, running, OTA, and mandatory minicamp cycle without financial consequence.

This wait-for-the-tag reasoning applies similarly to Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who’ll get $23.94 million if tagged again in 2017. He should let it happen, even if Washington is willing to pay him fully guaranteed at signing $23.94 million in 2017 and to give him a 20-percent raise (which reflects the possible use of the transition tag) in 2018. That same deal would be available after the tag is applied, and it would make it highly unlikely that Cousins, who is entering the sixth year of his career, would ever be franchise-tagged again  by Washington or anyone else.

So even though the franchise tag, which some players mistakenly regard as an honor, diminishes a player’s options in free agency and prevents him from a big payday right out of the gates, players who are facing the franchise tag should decline to do a long-term deal until it’s applied.

If the team ultimately doesn’t apply the tag, that’s good news. If the tag ultimately is applied, then the player is one step closer to never being tagged again.

To summarize, it’s always better to not be tagged. But if the tag is coming, embrace it before signing a long-term deal and don’t be afraid to go year-to-year under the tag. You may end up like Kirk Cousins, who’ll potentially pocket nearly $44 million over 2016 and 2017 before getting a shot at the open market (or at worst a right of first refusal under the transition tag, or another $28.78 million if he accepts the transition tag) in 2018.

14 responses to “Players facing franchise tag should let it happen

  1. The players union should have done a better job of negotiating the last CBA. Franchise tags should have included a second year player option which would also include a 20% increase (in case of injury).
    Marvin Miller took the baseball owners to the cleaners while Gene Upshaw and DeMaurice Smith let the owners walk all over the NFLPA.

  2. Javon Walker was talked into signing a 1-year deal, tore up his knee in the 1st game, and was never the same.

    Players should do whatever they feel is in their best interest, whether that’s dollars, security, or being on a better team.

  3. So Cousins gets 44 mil over 2 years. Isn’t that roughly what he would have received in guaranteed money if he had signed a long-term deal? I get the injury risk. But the franchise tag is guaranteed money.

  4. Guaranteed money on a multi-year deal, especially if you can get a lot of it upfront as a signing bonus, would be the better deal for many players, even if slightly less than the tag amounts. Florio likes to keep making the argument as if injuries and poor performance never happen.

    And, depending on how much the player can get upfront, the time value of money can work in your favor and bridge some of what looks like a gap, if not quite as much per season.

  5. bills72284 says:
    Feb 15, 2017 8:53 PM

    How stupid is Washington?
    Report comment


    People have been asking that question since George Washington was there.
    The answer has always been some variation of “Extremely”

  6. I understand about players wanting to maximize their financial security and all that…but it’s hard to feel much pity for a guy who’s upset at the prospect of making $10-15M for a year’s work.

  7. bills72284 says:
    Feb 15, 2017 8:53 PM

    How stupid is Washington?
    obviously not as stupid as the Bills. Try winning a SB.
    not losing 4……….

  8. Please stop perpetuating this one-sided viewpoint on long-term contracts for tagged players. First, with, say, Chandler Jones, the inevitability of the 2017 tag does NOT require building in the raise that he would get if tagged again in 2018, because HE ISN’T THERE YET. The Cardinals might be fine with the first-time tag price but not the second-year tag price. You can’t assume that he would merit a second-year tag, period.

    Second, PLAYERS HAVE TO SACRIFICE FROM THEIR MAXIMUM POSSIBLE ONE YEAR SALARY FOR THE SECURITY OF A LONG TERM DEAL. Why is this CONSTANTLY lost on you? The franchise tag pays huge on a one-year salary because players take a HUGE long-term risk playing under it. Big risk, big reward. So the FIRST thing that happens in return for a player getting a long-term deal is to reduce that salary, because he is getting a lot more total money. It’s REALLY simple.

    And the risk is obvious. For example, Anthony Spencer was willing to maximize his year-to-year earnings under the tag, but then suffered an injury that left him a shadow of his former self and he didn’t have much of a career afterwards. If he had taken a reasonable long-term contract, he would have earned more total money and benefited overall in the end. So players get a choice: SURRENDER the tag-level salary and benefit with long term guarantees and bigger totals, or risk injury or decline but get a very high ONE YEAR salary. It’s a binary choice; you don’t get to demand the long-term protection and KEEP the big-time salary.

    Please, stop writing as if you work for the NFLPA.

  9. Florio, either I’m misunderstanding you, or you seem to think that the franchise tag amount sets the bar for whatever the minimum yearly compensation on a long term contract would be.

    It doesn’t – and for good common sense reasons as mentioned above by redsox. The best way to to say it might be that by getting the franchise tag, a player like Cousins is getting overpaid for one year – not setting his value in any long term contract way.

    It’s really kind of simple – think about it – I’m sure you’ll get it. No team is going to offer a long term contract using the franchise tag compensation as the benchmark for that contract.

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