NFLPA wants to shed franchise tag, but what will it cost?

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Last week’s meeting between roughly 60 players and six agents resulting in a memo from the NFL Players Association that painted the session as acrimonious happened because the NFLPA wanted to give agents a voice in advance of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. As part of that, the NFLPA wanted the agents to provide some specific advice regarding things the players should offer in order to get things the players want from the owners.

As one source explained it to PFT, the players want to get rid of the franchise tag as part of the next labor deal, and they asked the agents how to get there. One agent suggested that the players should offer to expand the regular season to 18 games. Per the source, the players did not respond well to that suggestion.

But here’s the thing: That’s the kind of major concession that would be needed to get the owners to give up one of the most significant facets of the relationship with players. (Indeed, as another source suggested, 18 games may not be enough to get rid of the franchise tag.)

Baked into the CBA for 25 years, the franchise tag — aimed in name at allowing teams to keep “franchise” players who were critical to the team — gives teams far more power than the ability to squat on a single key player. Instead, it allows the teams to squat on a single free agent every year, keeping him from going to the open market and receiving the best deal that can be negotiated for him and then doing it all over again the next year.

The players have made gains regarding the device, making it harder to franchise tag a player a third time in 2006 and crafting in 2011 a new formula for calculating base franchise tenders, ensuring that the number will grow commensurate with the growth of the salary cap. More recently, individual players from Kirk Cousins to Trumaine Johnson to Le'Veon Bell have shown that the players have rights under the franchise tag, either by refusing to sign long-term deals and forcing their way to market or sitting out a full year and forcing their way to market.

Still, the franchise tag prevents the natural growth of the market at all positions by keeping the best of them from stretching the rubber band to its limit and then allowing others to use their contracts as benchmarks or upper limits for their own. While some would say that getting rid of it would help only a small handful of players, it would help far more than that by ultimately forcing teams to exceed the rolling minimum expenditure of 89 percent of the salary cap (which allows the owners to pocket, at the current cap of $188.2 million, more than $20 million in raw profits each year) and perhaps return to the days when so much was being spent on players that the term “cash over cap” had relevance.

29 responses to “NFLPA wants to shed franchise tag, but what will it cost?

  1. Rather then eliminate the Tag…change the Tag.

    1. Tag can be applied three times but cannot be applied in successive years
    2. Tag pays average of top 3 salaries instead of Top Five CAP Numbers not straight salary
    3. Compensation change from 2 first round picks to one first round pick for signing a Franchise player
    4. Exclusive Rights Franchise Player, offer cannot be made to but is entitled to average of top 5 salaries in all of football.

  2. I think the Franchise Tag should only apply to QBs.
    Having said that, there aren’t that many non QBs that get tagged, maybe a handful of top end players a year.
    If I were the NFLPA this wouldn’t be a priority.
    I’d rather address issues that affect everyone.

  3. I’ve always thought the solution to the franchise tag was relatively simple. The beef has always been that the salary is only for one season, and that players don’t get security playing under the tag.

    As part of the new deal, the players should ask that for future franchise tags, the team should be required to buy an insurance policy against injury that would pay the player salary at the franchise tag level for four years after the tag in case the player gets injured playing on the tag.

    This insurance policy would not count against the cap, and just provides a fail safe in the event of catastrophic injury. If they did something like this, I don’t think there would be as much of an issue with the tag.

  4. Is the issue that the Franchise tag doesn’t pay enough? or that it has no longevity?

    What if Franchise tagging meant you match the deal of the highest paid player at that position in year one (As calculated by either the average value of the life time of the highest paid contract at the position, or the highest 1 year within the deal, and automatically guarantee a contract for 2-3 years at 80-90% of that next two years Top Player? (For those wondering a 2 Year deal would be at 90% fully guaranteed, where as 3 year could be 80%) This would perhaps provide some security to players in case of Injury, and prevent them from falling too far from the going rate. So for Running backs, you’d have a lot more money potentially, I think in that time period. I could also see making it so that the Franchise Tag cannot be used on another player during those 2-3 years, unless the player is released and paid the remaining value Guaranteed. (I doubt any team would do that), but it would mitigate things a bit I think. (Language could be tweaked a bit maybe.

  5. There are over 2,200 union members (includes practice squad players.). The franchise tag affects 5-10 superstar players a year that already makes millions more than the average player. 95% of them WILL not go to bat for the elite when it risks their next paycheque.

  6. Keep everything the same but only allow a player to be franchised by the same team once. This gives the player and team 1 year extra to work out a long term deal. Also, allow the player/agent to begin negotiations with other teams immediately after the franchise tag is signed. This gives as much clarity to the team and player as possible for their direction next year. No more multi year tags. Either sign long term or move on at the end of the year.

  7. Make it so that a team can’t tag a player twice, unless he leaves and comes back. I would be curious to know how many times a player was tagged twice and actually worked out a long term deal. If the idea is to buy time to negotiate a long term deal, one year of negotiating should be plenty. If a deal can’t be made in that year, he got a nice chunk of change for one year and is guaranteed a shot at the open market the next year.

  8. amurdora says:
    March 19, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Franchise tags are one of the most un-American things there is yet so many football fans love them. Sigh.
    They are a negotiated part of the CBA. I don’t understand how that is un-American. Furthermore, it is not much different than all the team option years that are prevalent in basketball, baseball, and hockey contracts. One big difference is that the Franchise Tag guarantees the player a big raise while most team option contracts do not!

  9. This is beginning to sound a lot like what MLB is going through this offseason, with big names unsignded…and they don’t have a hard cap like the NFL. I suspect teams will (and already are) going to tank, spend only to the floor, and the big name free agents and stars will end up taking those shorter deals, but for less money than the franchise tag would’ve given them.

    “Careful what you wish for, in case it comes true.”

  10. I think the biggest issue with the Franchise Tag is how it can be used multiple years which turns into a hostage situation and this 3-year period where we never know if players we like are staying or going. Limit it to 1-year.

  11. Teams may be willing to give up the tag in exchange for expanding restricted free agency beyond the 3 accrued years.

    Tweaking the tag might work better. The way high-end contracts are structured makes the formula wonky, and players get no long-term security. Having an additional year’s worth of salary “guaranteed for injury” would be possible, but probably opens up potentially nasty fights between teams and players.

    I would guess more players are interested in loosening the marijuana restrictions than fighting to remove something that really doesn’t get used that often.

  12. I would think the new school risk taker owners might be more inline to do away with the tags so they could go get a year 4 or 5 QB instead of trying to draft a QB with about a 55% percent fail rate for 1st round QB’s.

    The players starting point for the CBA should be:
    1. Fully guaranteed contracts, like the other major sports, for any player that makes a squad. Practice squad players no and expand the practice squad.
    2. Elimination of all tags. But teams would be able to buy out contracts that would spread out something like 5 to 15 years for both payments and cap hits.
    3 Better healthcare for current and retired players. Any severe injured players that have to retire because of the injury are fully covered for life including full-time care. Players give-up right to sue for CET.
    4. Pot okay in legal states. NFL can’t in non-legal states, but change the punishments.

  13. If the Franchise tag goes, the vast majority of players will LOSE money. There will be about 15 significant winners playing in the league at any time (five years after the tag disappears) and maybe another 40 other minor winners. Everyone else loses.

    So why, exactly, do we think that the union is willing to make major concessions to get rid of the tag. This isn’t credible, and it’s even less credible that they would risk a play stoppage to get rid of the tag.

    So isn’t this just a waste of everyone’s time? Only superstars and super agents should want the tag removed.

  14. Players: “give us suggestions on what we need to negotiate into the deal to get the franchise tag out of it”

    Agents: “a 18 game season”

    Players: “we hate that idea”

    Agents: “sigh”

    The players, as a whole, aren’t that bright, are extremely short-sighted, and easily distracted by irrational economic choices driven by ego and perceived value. Whatever it is they want, they need to tread carefully. Because it may not end well for them.

  15. This is ridiculous. There are about 2000 jobs in the NFL and the Franchise tag applies to about TEN of them. And those POOR poor babies are being “forced” to either take FU money for one year, or take a SLIGHTLY discounted contract that will give them even more FU money on a multi-year contract. OR take even more FU money if another team gets involved.

    So much hand wringing over a VERY few players who are going to get more money than they can spend in a lifetime regardless of the outcome. So much hand wringing on an issue that applies to less than 1% of the NFLPA’s membership.

    The focus SHOULD be put on issues that apply to the vast majority of the membership, not the very few.

  16. Boy I would have a tough time living on $14.5 Million the rest of my life……Give me a break!

    When the average person goes to there job everyday, there are risks that could happen from the moment one wakea up until the time they get home. There are risks….in anything we do. If the risks are greater in certain jobs versus others, then find a different job. They get scholorships to go to college, so if you get hurt, ends your career, go back to college finish your degree, and move onto the next chapter of your life. Yes, football could be career, maybe life ending….however, the stress that anyone goes through with at there job could end their life sooner than later…. Point is….when your making the abscene amount of money they do, and if their good enough, enough to buy pieces of franchises when they retire…..they are already making to much. Ask the 90% of average Americans who knows what it is like to struggle everyday of their life and their family. I bet they only wish if they could get $100,000 one time, it could heel many things for them, and start freash. Deal with it, or move on….I can’t stand hearing players/ people cry about “The market” free given money to play one more year. Heck, most don’t even play up to their potential once they “GET PAID” becaue they now know they can skate until the league doesn’t want them anymore.

  17. Here is a deal that I think the majority of players would jump at:

    The league gives up the franchise tag and agrees to guarantee the first three years of all contracts with a 25% buyout of remaining guarantees available to the team at anytime in the contract (with the buyout applying to the salary cap in the year that it the guaranteed salary would have been paid.). Teams agree that any money of the salary cap that is not spent each year goes into the player pension and medical plans.

    The players give up all bonuses. No signing bonuses, roster bonuses, pro-bowl bonuses or anything similar. All compensation from the teams is strictly in the form of annual salary. All contracts include offset language in favor of the team. The season gets extended to 18 games.

    More players get more income guarantees and all of the salary cap goes to the players each year in either salaries or benefits. The owners get a longer season, an easier cash flow, and league wide offset language.

  18. The players must be required to honor their contracts that they sign and work under the terms of that agreement; if they do then the players should automatically be classified as free agents and go where they want. Any player who seeks to modify his contract during its terms should be required to pay back all guaranteed money paid to date and then be automatically made a free agent. If a player cannot pay back the guaranteed money he is bound to the terms of the contract.

    The teams should be given full restitution for losing players at the end of the term once they go to free agency just as now – and extend compensation picks to all levels to give the teams their due.

    Teams that choose to hold the line on spending will not be extorted like they are now and will get full compensation.

    If teams seek to renegotiate contracts during the term of a contract, then the player should be automatically made a free agent and allowed to get what he can since the team is breaking the contract. This would end the disgusting process of pushing cap hits into perpetuity.

    And since the NFL is making so much money, the NFL should provide insurance to all of its players for career ending injuries; players would be required as part of their employment to pay 10% of the cost of that insurance so they have skin in the game or to improve the insurance to satisfy their own personal needs.

  19. And let me guess somehow the fans should support the removal of the tag because you know the fans should applaud players that deserve more money instead of staying in the city that they have groomed their skill in front of fans that have supported them for years most likely to jump to a big market team that if they are lucky will play against 2 times a year.

  20. The Franchise Tag should only apply to QBs.
    There are maybe 4-8 non QBs who are tagged each year, thats not very many and shouldn’t be a priority for the NFLPA.

    While I don’t like teh tag, I’d aim for other changes first.

  21. The impact of the franchise tag is overrated. Players should be focused on increasing their piece of the pie and maybe other benefits. This would help both elite players and the rank and file. I hope they give back contact practices because the execution of blocking and tackling have taken a serious hit over the years.

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