The 2013 NFL free agency event is slowly but surely creeping up to us all in 9 days. Teams will have from now until March 9th to negotiate with any players on their team that are going to be unrestricted free agents. That period could prove quiet interesting since the salary cap is going to be at around $123-$125 million. Before you all go crazy and start worrying whether or not your team is going to kick off one of your favorite players or one of their star players, each team has the ability to designated one player on the team with the Franchise Tag.
Now there are probably some of you who are scratching your heads and wondering just what a franchise tag is and what does it do. Well not to worry, yours truly will teach you. First off, the franchise tag started up all the way back in 1993, the first year of true free agency in the NFL. Since then teams have been using it to designate a player within their own franchise with the tag in hopes of keeping their services for another year.
All 32 NFL teams have the capability of using the franchise tag. However, they can designate to just one player and one player only. Now here's where the fun begins. There are two kinds of franchise tags: 'exclusive' and 'non-exclusive'. When a player gets the 'Exclusive Franchise Tag', that means that they can only conduct negotiations with their team only. But when a player receives the 'Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag', it's the complete opposite. That player can go out and negotiate with any team that want to sign him. However that player's old team will be allowed to match any contract offer that is given. But if the player's old team decides to allows him to walk, they would receive two 1st-round picks from the other team. Very rarely does this happen.
Now we get into the juicy bits of this franchise tag talk. Basically the franchise tag is a one-year contract. However it is different from a regular contract. With a regular contract, the team decides what kind of salary the player would receive. With the franchise tag, that player would receive the minimum of the average of the top 5 salaries of players in the same position as them or receive 120% of his salary from the previous season depending on which is more. A Perfect example would be Wes Welker of the New England Patriots. During the 2012 off season, he was given the Franchise Tag with the team. Now Wes Welker made approximately $2.15 million in 2011. By the Minimum Average of Top-5 Salary Average principle, Welker earned approximately $9.515 million. By the 120% increase principle, he would have made approximately $2.58 million in 2012. And here's the kicker, all that money is guaranteed. That means any player who receives the franchise tag and signs for it will receive all that money for the entire year and it will count against the cap.
But most players are not happy when receiving the franchise tag. All though they receive X amount of money, all guaranteed, they would be earning less money then they would if they signed an actual contract. Second, as stated earlier the franchise tag is a one year contract. Most players would want to have a long term deal with their current team (if they are happy with the team) instead of having to go through the hassle of contract negotiations. Finally, it gives the owners more power to decide the fate of the player rather the player himself. The ultimate goal for some players is to reach free agency in hopes of securing that long term, big payday contract. By being franchised ,the player loses that ability for one more year.
It is a necessary and confusing business, that Franchise Tag. Though minimal in importance to some, the tag is one of the small cogs in the giant machine of the NFL that helps keep it moving.
-Ryan L. Fox
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