Fixing the Franchise Tag

By: Joe D.

Every year a player gets the franchise tag, and every year we hear how players resent the tag.  Broken record style, we are told that originally the tag was supposed to be an honor.  Players are forced to wait at least one more year (occasionally 2) to achieve financial security they rightfully earned by their quality of play.  They risk their financial well being 23 times in games plus countless practices where they could be irrevocably injured.  Sure they earn 2.6 to 14.5 million dollars for one season, depending upon their position, but if they sign a long-term contract, they would have received a substantial portion of that in a signing bonus plus their season salary.  If they are significantly injured, they risk all of their future earnings, let alone being on a NFL roster for the following year.  In past years, it is easier to be cut when there aren’t cap implications.

NFL teams have all the power in the current arrangement and players rightfully resent it.  Changes can be made with the financial arrangements involving the franchise tag.  Maintain the status quo of establishing a franchise players salary by averaging the top five salaries at the players position. In 2009, a problem arose when Terrell Suggs and the Ravens had a dispute of what position he played.  If he was tagged as a defensive end, he would receive a larger salary than being tagged at OLB.  Therefore, if a player plays multiple positions over the course of a season, the ratio of the top two positions the player played snaps at will be calculated into the  salary (40% DE v. 60% OLB).  This would also eliminate having to make an average of 11 possible positions, like the year Adalius Thomas played at least one snap at ever position when he was with the Ravens.

In addition to the above, rather than the franchise tag being only a one year contract, it should be constructed as a 3 year arrangement. The first year being the contract as established above, and with 2 subsequent years becoming active if the tagged player is significantly injured in that first year.  The 2nd and 3rd year would be a percentage of the first year contract, let’s say 70%, that will be paid entirely, or the difference of what is signed by the player the following year.  As an example:

Year 1:  10 Million with the player sustaining a significant knee injury in week 16.

Year 2: Player is not on an NFL roster and receives 7 Million from the team that franchised him.

Year 3: Player signs a 1 year contract for 2.5 million from a new team and receives 4.5 million from their original team.

I realize that this is a bit convoluted (but we are talking about the NFL – just look at the convoluted landscape of 2010’s free agency) and the NFL would be reluctant to accept such a risk.  A minority of players are burdened with this risk yearly.  It isn’t a stretch to believe that a franchised player should be able to earn 24 Million over 3 years (at most positions).  In this scenario, a team’s cap space (presuming there will ever be a cap again) isn’t destroyed by a player not on their roster, while the player maintains some financial security.  Also, teams will be more reluctant to tag players and consequently will be encouraged to workout longterm contracts.

While the NFL and NFL Players Association may address the franchise tag, I doubt they will make such drastic changes.  I fully encourage ya’ll to give your thoughts on whether the Franchise Tag even needs to be addressed, and if so, how you would alter the system.

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Tags: Baltimore Franchise NFL Ravens Suggs Tag Terrell

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