At this point in the offseason we’re usually preoccupied with more than just the NFL draft and the looming beast of free agency. The use of the franchise tag usually provides us with a few noteworthy story lines, but this season has been nearly silent on the tag’s front. Why are teams turning away from the franchise tag more and more each year?
In short, the franchise tag is expensive, and it flies in the face of building a team that can persist for years to come. Tagging a player is a simple way of keeping him out of free agency for an additional year, but it’s seldom used not only because of the huge dollar figure associated with tagging a player, but it often has the secondary effect of disgruntling a player that the given team wants to keep.
In fact, beyond the potential franchise tagging of Jimmy Graham, the Saints’ tight end that plays more like a big wide receiver, teams have largely shied away from the process of tagging players at all.
With the process of tagging a player apparently on its way out, when will teams use the franchise tag in today’s NFL?
As previously mentioned, the Saints will likely slap Graham with their franchise tag to keep him from hitting the open market. This may be a temporary measure intended to buy the Saints more time in negotiating a long-term contract with Graham, negating the necessity for the tag.
In fact, there are now few reasons beyond buying time that teams have to apply the franchise tag. If they upset a star player, he’ll likely leave at the end of the season anyway, and we’ve seen toxic players tear teams apart from the inside out. Teams, in general, don’t want to have players in their locker rooms that don’t want to be there themselves.
Below is a simple chart giving us the value of franchised players by position as provided by Bleacher Report.
Franchised players are essentially high-risk investments that teams increasingly stay away from. These players impact their respective teams’ salary cap figures in a big way, and because the deals don’t guarantee anything long-term, neither the team nor the player involved is offered any protection from the onset.
In 2013, we saw eight teams use their franchise tags, and at the moment, it appears that even fewer will be using their tags this offseason. The money saved by either negotiating long-term contracts with players or letting them go in free agency is better used on the open market and in the draft than on one player. Essentially, teams are putting their eggs in more than one basket, and because of that simply fact, we’re seeing the franchise tag diminished to the point of irrelevancy.