With the Patriots, Jets and Eagles using the franchise tags on Logan Mankins, David Harris and Michael Vick respectively, it got me to thinking about the viability of the Packers using the franchise tag on Cullen Jenkins.
What really piqued my interest was the memory of the Packers using the franchise tag on defensive lineman Corey Williams back in 2008 only to be subsequently traded to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round draft choice, and I wondered if that could happen again. But more on that later.
First some background information.
A player with a franchise tag must be offered a minimum of a one-year contract worth the average of the top five players at his position. I think there is also a distinction between an exclusive and non-exclusive franchise tags, the exclusive of which doesn't allow the player to negotiate with other teams.
A non-exclusive franchise tag allows the player to negotiate with other teams but would result in two first-round draft choices in compensation if that player leaves via free agency.
It should be noted that these are the rules under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that's set to expire on March 3. It's a bone of contention among the NFL and the Player's union whether the franchise tag rules will still apply once a new CBA is eventually agreed upon.
No matter the outcome, it isn't stopping teams from applying the tag now.
Cullen Jenkins is no doubt a valuable player to the Packers. I wrote yesterday, "As a player that can play both inside and outside in both a 3-4 and a 4-3, there should be plenty of teams knocking on his door."
The Packers would probably be happy to see Jenkins return in 2011, but do they have the means to pay him the amount he could command on the open market?
It's been said many times, all it takes is one out of 32 teams to fall in love with him and offer him a contract no other team is willing to match.
The Packers have the franchise tag at their disposal, but its value is expected to be in excess of $13 million this season. That amount of money is pretty steep, even for a player of Jenkins' caliber. But by tagging him, the Packers at least retain his rights.
Time to re-visit Corey Williams.
As stated earlier, the Packers tagged him and then traded him away for a second-round pick. It's conceivable the Packers could do the same with Jenkins, although there's a couple obstacles standing in the way.
Jenkins would first have to agree to and sign a contract before being traded away. When the Packers tagged Williams, they allowed the Browns to negotiate a contract with him, he signed that contract with the Packers, and was then traded.
For the Packers to be able to do the same thing with Jenkins, they'd have to find a trading partner that would be willing to not only pay Jenkins an exorbitant amount of money, they'd also give up a draft choice in exchange as well.
And if the Packers didn't find a trading partner, they'd be stuck paying around $13 million for at least one season. I suppose there are worse things. By signing a lot of front-loaded contracts during the uncapped season, they saved a lot of cap space moving forward.
While it would be nice for the Packers to guarantee themselves compensation for losing Jenkins instead of losing him flat out to free agency, one must also take into account compensatory draft choice the NFL awards for losing more players in free agency than they sign.
With Jenkins slated to sign a very lucrative contract, it's very possible the Packers could get as high as a third-round draft choice in compensation in 2012 for losing Jenkins given they don't sign a free agent of similar value (and with Ted Thompson's history in free agency, that's a very likely scenario).
So in order to tag and trade away Jenkins, it only makes sense the Packers would have to get at least second-round pick in return. Trading him for a third-rounder makes less sense because they could get that in compensation from the NFL, albeit in 2012 instead of 2011.
The transition tag shouldn't be ruled out entirely either. With a predicted value that's much more manageable at around $10.3 million, it's possible the Packers would be willing to pay that Jenkins for at least one more season.
Rules of the transition tag state that the player is still free to negotiate with other teams, although the tagging team has the right to match any such contract. The Packers could put the transition tag on Jenkins, and if he happens to sign with another team for an amount they're not willing to match, no big loss. They could still get a compensatory pick from the NFL for free agent losses anyhow.
There's also the possibility the Packers could use the franchise tag on kicker Mason Crosby too.
While I wouldn't rule the possibility of the Packers tagging Jenkins, I see it as unlikely.
Because of the uncertainty of labor negotiations, because of the risk of not being able to trade him, because of the high franchise number for defensive ends, and because they could still receive a compensatory draft choice for free-agent losses as high as a third rounder in 2012, I don't think the Packers will tag Jenkins.
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