Starting today the Kansas City Chiefs and the rest of the NFL can tag any player they deem worthy as their “franchise player.”
There are two types of franchise tags.
The exclusive franchise tag, can be applied once per off season by each NFL team. The tag is placed on a player set to become an unrestricted free agent. In the past, if given the tag, the player would be given a one-year contract no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position or 120 percent of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. However, under the terms of the new CBA, the tag offer will be the average of the top paid player at the respective position over the last five seasons, which will lower the financial value of the tag as player salaries tend to inflate each season. There is a more complicated explanation of the formula that you can read at Pro Football Talk if you so desire. Under this scenario, the player can’t negotiate with other teams. They must either sign with the team that franchised them or sit out.
The non-exclusive franchise tag is a little more interesting. If a team designates a player with the non-exclusive franchise tag, they must offer the player a contract that will be an average of the top five salaries at the player’s position in the previous year or 120 percent. The interesting aspect here is that the player can still negotiate with other clubs. If the player receives an offer from another team, the team that franchised the player is allowed to match the offer. If the franchising team refuses to match the offer, the player can sign with his new team, however the new team must compensate the franchising team to the tune of two first round draft picks.
It is possible but unlikely the Chiefs will use the franchise tag on either Dwayne Bowe or Brandon Carr today. They have a two-week window in which to make their decision, which means they will likely continue to negotiate with their players.
So what would it cost to franchise Bowe or Carr? According to some numbers from NFL.com, a franchise tag on Dwayne Bowe would cost the Chiefs $9.6 million in 2012. Using the tag on Brandon Carr would cost $10.6 million. Tagging either player would put the Chiefs on the hook for the salaries listed above unless the team could work out a long term deal with the player sometime this offseason. You may remember the Chiefs tagged Tamba Hali last season before the lockout to protect him from becoming a free agent. Shortly after the lockout was lifted, the Chiefs and Hali came to a contract agreement thus freeing the team from having to pay Hali the big one-year salary.
It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. The key to it all could be free agent CB Stanford Routt. The Chiefs met with Routt for two days last week but he also met with the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals. Word around the net is that Routt will be choosing a team soon. Should he pick Kansas City (if the Chiefs even made him an offer that is) it would likely spell the end of Carr’s time as a Chief. It would signal to me that the team was able to land Routt for considerably less than what Carr is asking for. If the Chiefs feel that Routt is a comparable player to Carr and they can get him for less money, then they are like to do it. If that is the case, then it is likely the team would chose to franchise Bowe should they not be able to reach an agreement with the WR before the deadline.
If Routt signs elsewhere, however, the Chiefs will not have a guaranteed replacement for Carr. That means they will have to decide which player, Bowe or Carr, is more valuable to their 2012 chances. Allowing Bowe to depart would mean the team would be taking a bold leap of faith in favor of second year player Jonathan Baldwin. Though it is clear Baldwin has talent, I’m not sure he showed enough in 2011 to make me feel comfortable with his being the only legitimate receiver on the roster save Steve Breaston.
If Carr is allowed to leave, the Chiefs will be rolling the dice a bit, betting that they can find a suitable replacement in free agency or the draft.
In the end, the Chiefs have the money to pay both Carr and Bowe whatever they are asking. That doesn’t mean it makes sense for them to so but it is something we need to keep in mind in the coming days.
What do you think, Addicts? Bowe or Carr? Or Routt? And when?