Who Got The Franchise Tag?
The Franchise tag can be used once per year by each team. The Franchise Tag takes the average of the top-5 contracts that year per position and uses that as a baseline. For instance, if the average salary of the top-5 quarterbacks this year is approximately 20 million, which it is, if a team elects to use the franchise tag on their quarterback, they have to pay the quarterback that amount. Each position varies how much it is worth for the franchise tag, of course, because the top-5 salaries per position varies. Also, there is a “non-exclusive” franchise tag which allows teams to negotiate with players that received the non-exclusive franchise tag, but if a team gives the franchise tagged player an offer and the original team declines to match that offer, the new team must give up two first-round picks to the original team. The transition tag is similar to the non-exclusive version of the franchise tag. With the transition tag, the player gets paid the average of the top-10 positions for his position. However, the player is allowed to sign a contract with another team after signing the transition tag. That being said, the original team then has a chance to match the offer the player has signed with a different team in which case the player is forced to sign with his original team. Now that you hopefully have a good understanding of what the franchise tag is, we’ll take a look at which teams “won” or “lost” the franchise tag.
Denver Broncos: LB Von Miller (Exclusive) $15.7M
The Broncos wisely elected to use the franchise tag on Von Miller. Miller made a case throughout the season, and especially in the playoffs, that he is the best linebacker in the NFL. Miller’s pass rushing abilities propel him to the elite status he has. This was an expected decision by the Broncos, however, that being said, it is the first time a team since 2007 has used the exclusive franchise tag on a player that is not a QB. Miller could have possibly made upwards of $20M, but he will only make $15M thanks to the franchise tag. WINNER: Broncos
Washington Redskins: QB Kirk Cousins (Non-Exclusive) $19.5M
Cousins will make the highest base salary for a NFL quarterback in 2016. Cousins definitely showed in 2015 that he can be a $20M quarterback, however, in years passed Cousins has showed he isn’t even worthy of being a starter. In my opinion, one season will not define Cousins as a player. The quarterback position has become such an exclusive position that the Redskins didn’t have much of a choice but to tag Cousins. Had Cousins been smarter, he would have realized that chances are last year will be as good as he will ever be, which is pretty damn good considering last years numbers, thus signing a long-term contract when you are coming off of an elite season would have been the better option. Although the Redskins may not be happy they were able to secure their franchise quarterback for years to come, they are ultimately winners in my book considering chances are Cousins won’t have as miraculous of a season in 2016 and thus they will not need to pay him what they would have had to pay him had they signed a long-term deal this year. WINNER: Redskins
Carolina Panthers: CB Josh Norman (Non-Exclusive) $13.9M
The situation for Josh Norman and the Panthers is very similar to the Redskins situation with Kirk Cousins. Norman had the best season he will likely ever have. He should have been smart enough to try and realize that and get a long-term big money deal signed. The Panthers play a zone on defense so in my opinion a zone corner just isn’t worthy of money like Norman wants and probably will get. Guys like Revis who can shut down a receiver is worth big time money but when you play a zone you are responsible for your area thus teams that don’t play a zone won’t value you as highly as teams that do play a zone. The Panthers won this deal since Norman will no way no how have the season he did in 2015 again. WINNER: Panthers
Chicago Bears: WR Alshon Jeffery (Non-Exclusive) $14.6M
Alston Jeffery moved himself into the top-10 list of wide receivers this year. I questioned whether or not he would become better or worse with the departure of Brandon Marshall, but he clearly showed he can serve as the 1 option for the Bears. I like the move on both sides, but $14.5M for a receiver is remarkable considering Julio Jones, the leagues top receiver, is making $14.3M. WINNER: Alshon Jeffery
New York Jets: DE Muhammed Wilkerson (Non-Exclusive) $15.7M
Muhammed Wilkerson has emerged as one of the leagues best defensive ends. It was not a surprise to see the Jets use the franchise tag on him, but it also would not be a surprise to see the Jets trade Wilkerson at some point this offseason. The Jets have Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams who are both younger and reliable options at defensive end. They should definitely trade away Wilkerson’s rich contract for either some picks or a star at a needed position. Overall, both the Jets and Wilkerson won this deal as he will be making nearly the same as what JJ Watt is making, and the Jets have the value to trade for another 1st round pick. WINNER: BOTH
Baltimore Ravens:K Justin Tucker (Non-Exclusive) $4.5M
Although this is a very rich contract for a kicker, Justin Tucker is a top-3 kicker right now and he is just 26 years old. This is a good move for the Ravens as Tucker was uncooperative in signing a long-term deal. The Ravens should be able to work something out with their “franchise kicker” at some point this season/offseason. WINNER: Ravens
Buffalo Bills: OT Cordy Glenn (Non-Exclusive) $13.7M
Solid move by the Bills. They cut Mario Williams in essence because of his negative work ethic as well as his talent, but also to clear up room for the franchise tag. Glenn is one of the top offensive tackles in the league making this a good move for the Bills. I don’t see much changing between now and next season in terms of the amount of a long-term contract for Glenn so there is no winner in this deal. WINNER: Both
Kansas City Chiefs: S Eric Berry (Non-Exclusive) $10.8M
Another great defensive move by the chiefs. Berry is in my opinion the leagues best safety (yes, over Kam Chancellor). Berry was fantastic in his “comeback” season earning himself the franchise tag. He deserves to be making the most money for a safety in the league so the Chiefs franchise tagging him allowing another year to work out a long-term deal was a great move. WINNER: Chiefs
Los Angeles Rams: CB Trumaine Johnson (Non-Exclusive) $13.9M
Great for Trumaine Johnson, not so much for the Rams. Johnson not worth more than $10M in my view. This was a desperation move by the Rams as their other cornerback, Janoris Jenkins, is set to hit the market. Johnson will enjoy his $13.9M and he should be able to work out a deal with the generous Rams one the course of the season. WINNER: Rams
Miami Dolphins: DE Oliver Vernon (Transition) $12.7M
The Dolphins placed the transition tag on Oliver Vernon. This was a bad move by the Dolphins in my opinion. Vernon is worth about $14M, and the franchise tag is $15.7M. Chances are Vernon will sign a contract with another team and whether the Dolphins match or not will be seen, but if they don’t match they receive nothing in compensation and lose the transition tag for 2016. Had they placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Vernon, they would have most likely secured Vernon for 2016 and if another team decided to sign him off of the non-exclusive franchise tag, which is extremely rare, the Dolphins would be owed two first rounders. So although Oliver Vernon for $12.7M is cheap, they likely will lose him to another team of have to match a higher contract. WINNER: Neither
As for the Giants, there are three positives from all of this. First off, the Redskins owing Kirk Cousins $20M is laughable. Cousins showed he has the ABILITY to be a very good QB, but he has also showed that he has the ABILITY to be a very bad QB. Hopefully for Giants fans, Kirk Cousins will go back to his old normal self and lose games for the Redskins. Next, the signing of Muhammed Wilkerson was a positive even though the Giants were a front-runner to sign Wilkerson. Had Wilkerson hit the market, he would have made more that $15.7M per year. If the Jets do plan to trade Wilkerson, the Giants are a likely spot considering they have a highly coveted 10th overall pick and a need for a defensive end. Expect to hear the Giants linked with trade talks for Wilkerson over the next few months. Lastly, Oliver Vernon receiving the transition tag was the best news of all. I expected the Dolphins to franchise tag Vernon which would have kept him a Dolphin, but using the transition tag still keeps the possibility of Vernon being a Giant alive. The Giants would love to sign the 25 year old to a long term deal and add some pass rush to the defensive line.