Corry On The Franchise Tag

After a flurry of low-key but significant signings, the night has suddenly grown quiet. While we wait for the next piece of news concerning DeSean Jackson, let’s take a look at a typically excellent piece from Joel Corry of the National Football Post. Corry describes how the rules surrounding the use of the franchise tag have become a bit antiquated and do not necessarily reflect how the league has evolved. Some snippets are provided below, but the entire piece is certainly worth a read.

On how to avoid the issues created by “tight ends” like Jimmy Graham:

A new classification differentiating between tight ends who take a majority of their snaps in-line and those who don’t could be created. One possibility could be for tight ends that function similarly to wide receivers to receive a franchise tag with the average of the tight end and wide receiver franchise tags. This hybrid tag would be $9.593 million this year.

Personally, the only problem I would have with this would be that it seems to create a new issue of what players qualify as “tight ends that function similarly to wide receivers.” As the league continues to evolve, there will be fewer and fewer players who play the majority of snaps as the traditional in-line end, and those that do are unlikely to have to worry about the franchise tag anyway; they will simply be end-of-the-roster players summoned in certain short-yardage or max protect packages.

As such, the term “tight ends that function similarly to wide receivers” will increasingly become a redundant one; almost all of them will function similarly to wide receivers. At that point, the only justification for labeling certain players as a tight ends will be their body type (i.e. are they built more like Tony Gonzalez or Jacoby Jones?), which is certainly an undesirable outcome.

Nonetheless, Corry is certainly right in theory, and a hybrid tag containing a tiered compensation system based upon how much time a player spends as an in-line tight end and how much time they spend in the slot or split out wide is probably the best bet. And if a player spends little to no time as an in-line tight end, then teams will simply have to bite the bullet and pay them like the wideouts they are.

On separating offensive linemen by specific position:

Offensive line should be split to reflect the three main positions (center, guard and tackle). Typically, the franchise tag is composed of tackles, so guards and centers get a financial windfall when franchised. For example, New York Jets center Nick Mangold had the only center salary cap number over $7 million while the 2013 franchise tag for offensive linemen was $9.828 million.

This is a common sense proposal and it is baffling as to why the NFL has not adopted it yet. Browns center Alex Mack, who was given the transition tag by Cleveland this offseason–the transition tag, of course, has similar compensation rules to the franchise tag–will be paid like a top left tackle, not a top center, which is nonsensical.

On eliminating the July 15 deadline for multiyear contracts:

Prior to the 2006 CBA, there was a 30-day period immediately following the franchise tag designation deadline to agree to a long-term deal with a franchise player before what essentially amounted to a four-month signing moratorium began. During this four-month period, if a franchise player signed a long-term deal, his designation lasted for the duration of the contract, which prevented teams from franchising another player until then. The restriction didn’t apply for long-term deals signed after July 14.

The 2006 CBA eliminated the rules—which led to the signing moratorium—but created a July 15 deadline for long-term deals. In 2013, Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady was the only one of the eight players given a franchise tag that got a multi-year contract. The deadline has led to Cliff Avril, Dwayne Bowe and Jairus Byrd missing parts of training camp and the preseason over the last two years to either protest their franchise tags or as an attempt to minimize the risk of injury before regular season play began. The best of the past and current CBA rules on franchise tag signings can be achieved by abolishing the July 15 negotiating deadline.

No problems here. For a league that ostensibly would like to put the highest-quality product on the field and protect its players’ long-term security, one would think that an arbitrary deadline limiting the possibility of a long-term deal would be eliminated.

On decreasing franchise tag compensation

Franchise players rarely switch teams because the compensation on an unmatched offer sheet is two first round picks….The current CBA eliminated the highest restricted free agent tender, which required first and third round picks as compensation for unmatched offer sheets. This level of compensation may be more appropriate for franchise players than two first round picks.

Although I tend to agree with this proposal, and although it would create more excitement as teams would be more hesitant to use the tag and other teams that covet a certain player might be more willing to pony up a first- and third-round pick rather than two first-rounders, it’s not necessarily a proposal that impacts fairness to the player or improves the quality of the game.


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