Yesterday, the 2014 Franchise Tag numbers for the NFL were released. The Franchise Tag is an optional designation that a team can use on one impeding free agent. The tag is a one-year contract of which there are two types - "exclusive" and "non-exclusive".
A player designated with the "exclusive" franchise tag cannot negotiate with other teams. He either signs a contract with his current team, or sits out. The contract is worth the average of the top five salaries of the player's position in that current year, or 120% of the player's previous year's salary - whichever is greater. As you can see below, this isn't chump change.
The "non-exclusive" franchise tag carries the same amount of money, but allows the player to negotiate with other teams. If he agrees to terms with another team, the player's original team can match that offer. If the team decides against matching the offer, the player's new team must send over two first-round draft picks as compensation.
2013 & 2014 Franchise Tag Numbers by Position
|Position||2013 Franchise Tag Number||2014 Franchise Tag Number||% Increase|
As you can tell, players are getting paid a good amount of guaranteed money for just one year of football. Also, despite receiving the tag, players can still negotiate contracts with their team before signing. So why do so many hate the franchise tag? Two reasons: it limits the player's ability to get more guaranteed money for a longer period of time, and it forces the player to assume all of the risk for his potential future.
We'll look at Saints TE Jimmy Graham, who given the Saints' 2014 franchise tag this week. At the worst, he'll make $7.035 million this year. Looked at as one of the top TEs in the game, he could have signed a deal with the potential to make over $30 million, with over $16 million guaranteed (his contract would better the one Dennis Pitta signed this week). If he signs the tag, he's giving up over 50% of guaranteed money and 75% of potential earnings. The risk falls on Graham because if he gets injured, he has no guarantee beyond this year. The Saints have zero responsibility to pay him, and he doesn't count towards their 2015 cap.