Last week hope remained that Bowe would be offered a multi-year contract before Monday’s deadline, and I took upon myself to answer a few questions regarding NFL contracts and the salary cap that may have been on fans’ minds.
This week we know that Bowe and the Chiefs didn’t reach a multi-year deal. In the wake of this news it’s apparent that pretty much every fan knows that Bowe has the option to sit out the year or sign a contract to play the 2012 season, but there are a few questions/misunderstandings on the finer points that have cropped up in discussions across the web that could use some clarifying.
If Bowe opts to sit out this year, will he be penalized?
It depends on how you define “penalized.” The Exclusive Franchise Player tag means he can only sign a deal with the Chiefs to play this season*; however, it does not mean he is under contract. Not being under contract, Bowe should expect that by not playing football he won’t earn a paycheck, and probably doesn’t view it so much as a penalty as it is a necessary evil if he decides not to play. If Bowe elects to sign the tender and enter into a contract to play this season before the first regular season game, he’ll be due the entire sum of $9.5 million. If Bowe elects to sign the tender and enter into a contract to play after the first regular season game, the $9.5 million figure will be reduced proportionately. At no point would Bowe be expected to give up more than the amount of the franchise tender. So if you want to call it a penalty, just be aware that it’s more of a passive penalty than a proactive penalty. Basically, full play = full pay, partial play = partial pay & no play = no pay (there is no no play = no pay + additional penalties). Personally, refusing to give something to someone who has yet to earn it isn’t really a penalty in my book.
* The CBA expressly forbids the assignment or transferring of this exclusive negotiating right to another team**.
** Yes, this means that the rumor that Bowe was on the trading block during the Draft back in April is totally baseless, as Pioli and the FO would certainly have known that he couldn’t be traded.
If Bowe sits out the season, can he be franchised next year?
Yes. However, the CBA requires that such a tag be a Non-Exclusive Franchise Player tag. Under such a tag, Bowe would be free to negotiate a deal with other teams, but the Chiefs would maintain a Right to First Refusal. In this scenario, if the Chiefs would elect to not match the other team’s offer they would have the right to be compensated with a first-round draft pick and a third-round draft pick in the upcoming draft.
What happens to the salary cap if Bowe decides to sit out the full season?
If by 3 p.m. (CST) on the first Tuesday after Week 10 of the regular season arrives, and Bowe is still not under contract, two things happen:
1) Bowe will be prohibited from playing football for the remainder of the League year.
2) The entire $9.5 million currently earmarked for Bowe through the franchise tag will be released back into the team’s available funds.
So, if Bowe doesn’t play this year, he doesn’t get any money, but the team doesn’t lose its money either (they’d get it back and could roll it over into next year’s cap if they so choose).
What can happen with the franchise tag if Bowe does play this season?
There would be no restrictions on the type of franchise tag (Exclusive Player or Non-Exclusive Player) that the Chiefs could use if Bowe plays under the tag this season. In this scenario, if the Chiefs extend Bowe the Non-Exclusive Franchise Player tag and another team makes Bowe an offer the Chiefs don’t want to match, draft pick compensation would come to the tune of two first-round draft picks in the upcoming Draft.
The argument can be made, and I’m making it now, that if Baldwin, Breaston & Co. show enough progression to make Pioli comfortable with risking the loss of Bowe altogether, this may mean very great things for the future of our franchise. Yeah, we’d lose perhaps one of our greatest receivers in franchise history, but we’d be gaining much more ammunition for making a move towards one of the greater QBs coming out in the draft, and we wouldn’t quite be “trading the farm” like the ‘Skins did this year for RGIII. That’s a temptation that absolutely has to be considered, and I don’t think we should blame Pioli one bit for taking it into account (which I’m sure he has).
Are multi-year negotiations totally off the table until free agency begins next offseason?
No. Though it is off the table for the time being, the CBA allows negotiations for a multi-year contract to resume following the team’s final game of the regular season. So even if the franchise tag is unavailable for use on Bowe next year (i.e. if it’s being used on another player such as Albert or Dorsey) given the length of time between the playoffs and when free agency begins, Bowe and the Chiefs will have about two months to work out a long-term deal before other teams could begin negotiating with Bowe.
All-in-all, it looks like not signing Bowe to a long-term deal now is not the end of the world. In fact, between the compensatory picks we could potentially gain by letting Bowe go through a Non-Exclusive Franchise tag next season, and the compensatory picks we’ll get for the FA losses we incurred this season (Carr, Orton and the like), we’re looking at the possibility of having a MASSIVE draft next season, and I’m almost already salivating at the thought of what that could mean. We’re on the brink of greatness, Addicts, and one way or another Bowe will be a key component in how we get there: be it as a Chief, or a bargaining chip.