It’s that time of year folks. The NFL league year is about to get under way in a short 22 days but today marks the first time that teams can start making decisions officially for their rosters. Teams were allowed to begin assiging franchise and transition tags today on free agents.
The league allows tags to be assigned until February 19th, 17 days from now. This is to allow teams to use all efforts to resign significant players that they wish not to lose to free agency or in the hopes of recouping draft pick compensation. Much in the way that New England is trying to cover themselves with Matt Cassel.
Cassel became the first NFL player to have a tag placed on him as the Patriots handed him the franchise tag. The Patriots can keep Cassel by matching any offer he receives on the FA market or will be given two 1st round picks in exchange for him should the decline to match. They could also trade him.
For Cassel, and any other “franchised” player, he will receive a guarantee of the top 5% at their position. In Cassel’s case, that is a 14.65 million dollar one year payday. Conversely, incumbent starter Tom Brady will receive a cap hit of 14.62 although his actual salary is closer to 5 million. The Patriots will tie up 25% of their salary cap on two players at the same position, should they keep both QB’s. There is a lot of speculation that Cassel will be dealt to another team for players and/or draft pick compensation. The hottest rumor has him headed to Kansas City.
No other teams have yet to use any of their tags. For the Miami Dolphins, the question has been debated as to whether Safety Yeremiah Bell, OT Vernon Carey, or LB Channing Crowder were worth a franchise tag. Most agree that Carey would be the only one who would warrant such a pay raise, but some speculate that would be to only tie the team to Carey for one more season as they seek a replacement.
In any case, the 2009 season has begun.