Posted on July 9, 2016, by Travis Pulver
NBA fans are likely still processing the insanity that was the free agency moratorium period. Around 73 contracts were agreed to with about $3.1 billion dollars promised to players over the next five seasons (average contract length–three years). Now that the excitement has pretty much died down, it is time for NFL fans to get a little excited again.
Why? It is coming down to the wire for the players that were hit with the franchise tag who have yet to sign a long-term deal. Will they sign? Will they hold out? Will they play? Oh, the drama!
When NFL free agency opened up, there was an explosion of activity, much like the NBA. Most of the major players were snatched up and signed to new deals pretty quick—except for ten of the league’s best. They were hit with the dreaded franchise tag.
While the NBA gives players a financial reason to stick with their current team, the NFL forces players to stay by allowing teams to place the franchise tag on them. In doing so, they agree to pay him whatever the average salary of the top five at his position or 120 percent of his previous season’s salary—whichever is higher.
It’s a great tool for the teams, but it sucks for the players since they have no security playing under a one-year deal. Teams are aware of this, and many try not to use it, but sometimes it is unavoidable. You can’t let one of your best walk if you can help it. Sometimes you just need more time to negotiate.
Two teams ended up rescinding the tag, and both players ended up signing somewhere else (former Carolina Panthers defensive back Josh Norman, now with the Washington Redskins; former Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Olivier Vernon, now with the New York Giants).
No one else is expected to rescind their tag, but it doesn’t appear as if the seven who have yet to sign long-term deals are going to by the deadline (July 15):
Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, franchise tag value-$4.572 million: If anyone is going to sign a deal in time, it will be Tucker. He has referred to signing an extension with the Ravens as a matter of when not if. The Ravens know they have one of the best in the business and will do what they need to lock him up.
Los Angeles Rams DB Trumaine Johnson, franchise tag value-$13.952 million: The Rams were stuck this year. They had two defensive backs they really wanted to keep, but could only keep one and don’t have the room to pay him what he probably wants. So they tagged Johnson and ended up having to watch Janoris Jenkins walk.
Johnson seems to be okay with playing under the tag, and it appears the team is fine with letting him do so.
Kansas City Chiefs S Eric Berry, franchise tag value-$10.806 million: Berry made a successful return to the field last year after missing the season before because of cancer. The Chiefs are aware of his value and at one time during the offseason, there was a reason to believe he was going to become the highest-paid safety in the game. But another report says the two sides have barely talked since he was hit with the tag.
You can’t come to an agreement if you don’t speak, but with little cap room this year, you would think the Chiefs would be a bit more motivated to sign him. However, there have been no reports of progress being made.
Chicago Bears WR Alshon Jeffrey, franchise tag value-$14.599 million: Talks have not gone well between the two sides, and the recent rumor is that a deal is not going to be made in time. However, if there was anyone that could sign a last-minute deal, it is Jeffrey. He is one of the best in the game and a vital part of the Bears offense.
New York Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson, franchise tag value-$15.701 million: Talks between Wilkerson and the team have been public and not very good. The Jets have made it no secret that they wanted to trade him, but no one was willing to make a deal they would accept.
Even though he has been a great player, the Jets are not expected to make him an offer he likes because of how well Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams have played.
Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins, franchise tag value-$19.953 million: This is the one player it made perfect sense to franchise tag. Cousins was fantastic in the second half of the season. But how do you sign a quarterback to a high-dollar, long-term deal based off of a handful of games?
You don’t. So you make sure the player sticks around for another season and pay him next year—if he earns it.
Denver Broncos LB Von Miller, franchise tag value-$14.129 million: Miller wants to be one of the highest-paid players in the game, and the Broncos are willing to pay—but they are not prepared to guarantee him what he wants. Talks had shut down but started up over the last couple of days. Rumor has it they have upped what they are willing to guarantee, but that it is still not enough.
Miller has said he will not play under the tag, but it is hard to imagine him skipping a year while he is in his prime.