NFL CBA Series: Franchise Tag
Peyton Manning. Haloti Ngata. Drew Brees. Ray Rice. Dashon Goldson. Michael Vick. DeSean Jackson. Vincent Jackson. Logan Mankins.
These are some of the names teams have utilized the Franchise Tender on since the new CBA has been in effect. As one can tell, teams apply the tender to players that are, well, franchise players. If a team has failed to reach a contract extension with one of its upcoming free agents (typically UFAs though CBA allows RFAs to receive the tender as well) as a Franchise Player.
Teams can use this tag beginning on the 22nd day and ending on the eighth day before the start of the new League (Art. 10, Sec. 1, 44). Even if a team uses its franchise tag, the team and player can still agree to an extension.
In 2012, he Philadelphia Eagles signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson to a long-term contract on March 16 after the team placed the Franchise Tender on Jackson.
However, a team and a player can only negotiate a long-term deal until July 15. After this date, the team can only contract a player for no longer than one season. This one-year tender can’t extended until the end of the team’s regular season finale (Sec. 2, (k), 46).
So for a players like Anthony Spencer of the Dallas Cowboys the clock is ticking on securing the long-term contract he wants. Dallas could also benefit this season from the salary cap relief a long-term deal can provide. This is the alternative to the entire Franchise Tag counting against cap ($10.638 million for Spencer.)
When a player signs a Franchise Tender as Spencer has, it becomes fully guaranteed for skill, cap, and injury. He is also required to begin attending mandatory team activities and/or training camp. This is one reason that Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd will wait until after the offseason to sign his tender.
Only a failure by the player to maintain “excellent physical condition” can enable a team to terminate an accepted franchise tag.
However, the offer can be withdrawn at any time prior to the player’s acceptance of the tender. In the event that a tender is taken off of the table, the player automatically and immediately becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent.
If a player signs the contract, that player can be traded to another team, but the right to use the franchise tag on a player cannot be traded. The Chiefs flirted with trading tackle Brandon Albert knowing they would select another tackle with the first-overall selection (Eric Fisher). If Albert had not signed his Franchise Tender, the Chiefs would not have eligible to trade him.
If the player has not signed the tender before the Tuesday following the tenth week of the regular season, he will be deemed ineligible to play in the NFL for the remainder of the League Year.
Though it may seem like a last resort for a player who wants a long-term contract or to leave his prior team, sitting out the season causes the player to lose an Accrued Season. His previous team, therefore, retains the same right to use the franchise tag on the player in the following League Year.
There are also two types of Franchise Tender—Non-Exclusive and Exclusive.
The Non-Exclusive Franchise Tender is a one-year contract with a salary set at the greater of either a calculation* of the average cap percentage of the five highest Prior Year Salaries for players at his position (a list that will be compiled by the NFL and provided to the NFLPA on or before February 1) or 120% of the player’s Prior Year Salary (Sec. 2, (a) (i), 44).
Sometimes, as Pro Football Talks Mike Florio points out, a player’s Prior Year Salary does outweigh the average of the top five players’ cap percentage. Though this is rare, former Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long would have received a 120% increase in his salary over the top-five average for offensive lineman. The new CBA will make it very unlikely that a player drafted after 2010 will ever receive this option again due to the Rookie Compensation Pool.
When a player receives a percentage increase in salary over an average of top salaries, all the other terms of that player’s previous Player Contract are transferred to the new deal, including but not limited to guarantees, incentives, and performance bonuses.
Salary (for both types of franchise players) is defined as total P5 Salary, roster and reporting bonuses, pro-rate portion of signing bonus, and other payments for playing in the NFL.
Non-Exclusive Franchise Players are free to negotiate a contract with any team, but the player’s prior team has the Right of First Refusal and will receive two first-round picks from the player’s new team.
Byrd and Kansas City offensive tackle Brandon Albert were designated as Non-Exclusive Franchise Players in 2013. If Byrd signs, he will receive the $6.9 million dollars under the tender for the safety position. Albert will get $9.8 million for this season, unless he and the team agree to a long term deal before July 15.
The Exclusive Franchise Tender is a one-year deal for the greater of either the average of the five-largest Salaries at the player’s position as of the conclusion of the Restricted Free Agent Signing Period (a list that will be compiled by the NFL and provided to the NFLPA no later than ten days after RFA Singing Period) or the amount of the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tender (Sec. 2, (a) (ii), 44).
An Exclusive Franchise Player is not allowed to negotiate or sign with any other team, and no team can negotiate with or sign such a player.
In the 2013 offseason, Spencer, Chicago’s Henry Melton ($8.45 million for interior defensive linemen), Cincinnati’s Michael Johnson ($11.175 million for defensive ends), Denver’s Ryan Clady ($9.828 million for offensive lineman), Miami’s Randy Starks ($8.45 million), and Indianapolis’ Pat McAfee ($2.977 million for kickers or punters) all received the Exclusive Franchise Tender this offseason.
The new CBA also increased the compensation for players who receive any franchise tag more than twice. If any player is tagged for a third time, they will receive a wealthy payday. The contract will be for one-year at the greater of either the average of the top five players at the position with the highest such average, 120% of the salary for the average of the top five Prior Year Salaries for player’s at his position, or 144% of player’s Prior Year Salary.
The CBA even uses the example of a kicker receiving the Franchise Tender for the third time. He would receive the average of the top five quarterback salaries, 120% of the salaries for the top five kickers, or 144% of his Prior Year Salary.
Last season, Drew Brees successfully fought to have tags from any team count as a tag towards this tally. This means that this three-tag rule applies to a player’s entire career and not his tenure with a specific team.
*Calculation (an example chart is in Appendix E of the CBA):
(1) Adding the amounts of five previous years Franchise Tenders for player’s at the same position
(2) Dividing this number by the sum of the salary cap for those years
(3) Multiplying the resulting percentage by the salary cap for the upcoming League Year.