Five players have received the franchise tag from their respective teams so far, but until now, we hadn’t had a transition tag sighting yet this season. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the Dolphins are the first team to make use of that tag this season, assigning it to tight end Charles Clay.
The transition tag typically isn’t used as often as the franchise tag, since it allows the player to sign an offer sheet with another team and leave without any compensatory draft picks, assuming his previous club chooses not to match the offer. However, we saw it surface a couple times last year — the Steelers assigned it to Jason Worilds, who played the 2014 season on the one-year tender offer, and the Browns used it on Alex Mack, eventually matching an offer sheet from the Jaguars.
By placing the transition tag on Clay, the Dolphins are extending a one-year offer worth $7.071MM. The tight end can sign that tender offer anytime, as long as the team doesn’t withdraw it, and he’ll also be free to explore the open market as of next week. Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets that three or four rival suitors are interested in Clay – the Bills have been mentioned as one interested party – but the transition tag may diminish the enthusiasm for him on the open market.
Clay, who turned 26 last month, saw his numbers dip a little in 2014 after he set career highs with 69 receptions, 759 yards, and three touchdowns in his breakout 2013 season. However, Clay isn’t alone at the top of this year’s tight end market as a player whose stock slipped a little as he neared free agency. A sprained ankle derailed Julius Thomas‘ 2014 season, and an injury-plagued campaign for Jordan Cameron ensured that his numbers fell off even more precipitously than Clay’s.
If the Dolphins do bring Clay back, either at the $7MM+ transition price, or on a long-term deal at a slightly lesser number, they should have no problem fitting him into their 2015 cap plans. The team has already parted ways with Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Cortland Finnegan, and Nate Garner, and there could be more cuts on the way, including perhaps Mike Wallace.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.