Last year, 10 of the NFL’s 32 teams applied the franchise tag to block players from becoming free agents.
And, yes, before we go any farther, let’s pause to review what the franchise tag really is. Despite the implication that the player is a “franchise player” and that there’s some sort of honor that flows from the title, it’s an affront to the player. An insult. A deliberate delay in his opportunity to realize the financial reward he has earned — and an effort to minimize the total value of the long-term deal he eventually accepts from his current team. (For more hard truths about the manner in which the system sticks it to players, and in furtherance of my own efforts to make a little walking-around money, order Playmakers. Please. Thank you.)
This year, no tags have been applied, 12 days into the period for doing so. Teams have two days until the window closes.
The fact that no tags have been applied so far underscores a point we’ve made in the past. There’s no reason to have two weeks to apply the tag. All that’s needed is one day. From 8:00 a.m. ET until 4:00 p.m. ET on one specific day, the tag can be applied.
Some teams in the recent past have dropped the tag before heading to the Scouting Combine, either to get the matter handled without procrastination (and risk of a screw-up) or to put teams inclined to tamper with those players during the Combine gathering on notice to back off.
It’s not as if no tags will be applied this year. While there may not be 10 of them, there will be some. The Bengals reportedly plan to tag safety Jessie Bates. The Chiefs likely will use it on tackle Orlando Brown Jr. The Browns reportedly are considering the use of the tag on tight end David Njoku. Packers receiver Davante Adams seems destined to be tagged. Titan linebacker Harold Landry could be tagged, too.
No team is currently facing the dilemma of having two players rocketing toward free agency, creating an urgency to sign one and tag the other. Thus, as to the players who may be tagged, here’s some get-your-money’s-worth free advice. Force the team to tag you. It’s always better to be tagged once because the next tag, whenever it’s applied, sets the stage for the cost-prohibitive third tag and, as a result, unrestricted and unfettered free agency.
Four years ago, Packers receiver Davante Adams agreed to a four-year deal after the regular season ended, in a rare year that didn’t result in a postseason appearance. He should have waited, at least for the tag decision to be made. If the Packers had tagged him then, he’d be getting his second tag now. And he’d be guaranteed to become a free agent in 2023.
Thus, while it’s a bad thing to have the franchise tag applied, it’s a good thing to force a team that has the tag in its back pocket to put it on the table. One of the essays in Playmakers focuses on how players can beat the tag. But it’s not a complex recipe. Force them to use it twice, because it’s very difficult to use it a third time.