To elite players in the NFL, this is a term that usually instills anger, fear, or even resentment toward the organization. Though, not used frequently, it is a potent weapon for the NFL teams to coax star players into signing longer-term contracts. Since the labor agreement of 1993, NFL teams have had the ability to “tag” a to-be unrestricted free agent, often keeping their best players on a team for less than the player would demand in free agency.
There are two types of franchise tags. The first is an “exclusive” tag. These types mean the team must offer the player a one-year contract. This contract must be equal to the average of the top five salaries at the “tagged” players positions. For example, if Peyton Manning doesn’t get a new contract structured and the Colts decided to tag him, he would make the average of the top five QBs in the NFL ($16,405,000 in 2010). In his shoes, he’s getting taken to the cleaners. He should be making much more than the average of the top five, seeing as he is (arguably) one of the top two or three.
The second type is a “non-exclusive” tag. This acts similar to the status a player and team have in restricted free agency. In this scenario, the team can make a player a tender offer, again equal to the top five salaries at that position. Then, the player may negotiate with other teams. If the player receives an offer from another team, the original team then has the right to match that offer before losing the player.
There are additional rules that pertain to the NFL, but that’s not the purpose of this post. I’m a basketball guy, like Basketball Jones. This is interesting because a franchise tag in the NBA would cause even greater angst from the players than the NFL’s.
As we’ve all read from yours truly, there are currently some serious negotiations going on in the NBA. If the owners, as has been reported, will consider adding a franchise tag as part of their negotiations, expect the players to push back even harder. Owners, such as Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert’s argument is this: when LeBron James left, he not only took the Cavs’ future away, but diminished the value of the organization by an estimated $200 million. Carmelo Anthony’s “Melo-Drama” has seen him refuse to sign Denver’s $65 million extension this season. With 2012 on the horizon offering Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight (Superman) Howard, free agency, many small market teams are going to lose their star players for nothing. This doesn’t make the owners all that happy.
On the flip side, no player wants the stress attached to playing on a one year guaranteed contract, often signing more team-friendly contracts to avoid a franchise tag. Applying this concept to the NBA would be even more devastating for players. Why, you ask? An NFL roster has 53 players, usually stars at multiple positions. An NBA roster has 15, with typically only one or two stars (save the cHEAT, who have 2.5). If a team can hold these players hostage, regardless of how the successive years of a franchise tag are treated, they may never get the chance to exercise their “right” to test the waters of free agency.
To bring us full circle back to lockout discussions, one anonymous NBA player-agent is quoted:
The franchise player tag has been devastating for NFL players. It has penalized players for being great by limiting their right to change teams when their contract expires. Why should 90 percent of the players in the league be free to move, while the best players aren’t afforded the same right? And the very threat of using the tag has served to stifle negotiations with a much larger group of players. In the NBA, with smaller teams, the impact would be paralyzing. You can pretty much kiss free agency goodbye. There’s no way the players will agree to it. If the NBA owners push for it, there won’t be a season next year.
Nobody likes the F-word; NFL, please keep your tags to yourself.