UDPATE: According the NFLPA, and further showing the discord between both parties, the franchise tag can NOT be used this season. NFLPA union president DeMaurice Smith has informed all player agents that they are to contact the NFLPA offices if teams contact them regarding the franchise tag.
The NFL has announced that despite the ongoing feud between the Hatfields’ and McCoy’s, there will be a franchise tag to be used this off-season starting February 10th. There might not be a season and a lockout will not guarantee that any player franchised will receive the top 5 at their position. That won’t stop some teams from using the tag, while others may be reluctant with the current state of NFL/NFLPA affairs.
With teams now having that option, the free agency pool will thin somewhat but it really won’t change the landscape of this off-season without that coveted and much needed CBA.
The fact that the NFL has said there will be a franchise tag also does not speak one way or the other about whether there would be free agency or not.
Which of course all brings us to the Miami Dolphins and their list of free agents. Is there anyone worth the franchise tag?
Let’s start with the FA QB’s on Miami’s roster. Tyler Thigpen (Roster rewind coming soon) and Chad Pennington. Neither are worth the top 5 of their positions and there is a reason most QB’s never get tagged. The skyrocketing salaries of QB’s that are now anchored with the deals of Tom Brady and the soon to be re-signed Peyton Manning put that top 5 salary in unrealistic territory. So forget about Miami paying a QB that much, especially one already on the roster.
RB gets a lot more intriguing with Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Patrick Cobbs all slated to hit the open market. Recently Jeff Ireland said they would like to bring one of their RB’s back. Most speculate that it would be Williams who has distanced himself from the comments he made at seasons end. I tend to think it will be Cobbs who is a special teams contributor and a coaches favorite. Either way, do any of those runners deserve to be paid like a Michael Turner or Adrian Peterson? What about Chris Johnson? No, unfortunately, they don’t.
The offensive line doesn’t bare mentioning any more than free agen Paul Soliai on the defensive line does. They just are not worth that kind of money. In fact, Tony McDaniel and Quentin Moses are not either. So forget about the franchise tag in Miami and look to the other teams that may decide to use it.
The first name that pops into my mind is Logan Mankins of NE. The Dolphins reportedly had discussed a trade for Mankins prior to the 2010 trade deadline so they have a lot of interest in the All-Pro guard. New England knows Miami would go after him and thus tagging him would either A: keep him in NE or B: allow NE to choose who they trade him to if they decide t0 part ways with him.
At the LB position, names like Tamba Hali and Chad Greenway are players that could hit the market. Minnesota has a few FA’s that they will need to lock up and some of them would likely slip into the open market. Sidney Rice is a top flight WR who can stretch the field. The Vikings can only tag one.
Still, there is the possibility that very few teams use the tag at all. With a lock0ut looming, it’s possible that the owners inform their GM’s not to bother as there won’t be a free agency in which to lose those players. There is also a possibility that the NFL and the NFLPA come to an agreement shortly before the start of the 2011 season and thus there would be no time for an FA period. The rosters may be forced to remain the same for another season and then in 2012 there would be two seasons worth of prospective free agent players in the pool.
As I stated earlier, the use of a franchise designation does not implicate the outcome of a CBA ratification. Teams are on shaky ground and players are as well. No use of the franchise tag would however send the strongest message that teams are prepared to lockout the players and that any free agency this off-season is not likely. Outside of that, indications could still go either way.
For the Dolphins, it’s all about what happens between the owners and the players. A recent report/rumor (haven’t seen it with my own eyes) has said that Stephen Ross has informed the team that they have an open checkbook to get the players on the team to make them competitive. Will they follow the NY Jets mold of signing top line free agents?
That depends on the CBA and the cap structure that may or may not be in place.
It is all wait and see.