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Will Finley Sing A Different Tune About The Franchise Tag?

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Will Finley Sing A Different Tune About The Franchise Tag?

A few weeks ago, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was asked about the prospect of getting hit with the Franchise Tag this upcoming offseason.

Said Finley:

If they do that, I’m down with that. I ain’t going to be (ticked) off. I just love the game, and I was just blessed to be making money. I’m just taking it all in.

Well this morning, an interesting wrinkle has been thrown into that possible discussion courtesy of Andrew Brandt over at the National Football Post.

From Brandt:

Now more than three months since it was signed, we are still learning about the nuances of the new ten-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFLPA.

The Tag designation not only continues, but now with a much more favorable twist for NFL teams. Under the previous CBA, the nonexclusive Tag – the vast majority are nonexclusive – was calculated by taking the average of thetop five salaries for the previous year for the position. And due to the transitional rules this season, Tags in 2011 were based upon this old calculation. However, beginning in 2012, Tag calculations are changed dramatically.

The new and complicated formula for the nonexclusive Franchise Tag is described in Article 10 of the new CBA as follows:

(A) Average of the 5 largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position, calculated by: (1) summing the amounts of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the 5 preceding League Years; (2) dividing the resulting amount by the sum of the Salary Caps for the 5 preceding League Years (using the average of the amounts of the 2009 + 2011 Salary Caps as Salary Cap amount for 2010 League Year); and (3) multiplying the resulting percentage by the Salary Cap for the upcoming League Year (e.g., when calculating the Tender for the 2012 League Year, dividing the aggregate sum of the Franchise Tags for players at that position for the 2007-2011 League Years by the aggregate sum of the Salary Cap for the 2012 League Year); or (B) 120% of Prior Year Salary, whichever is greater.

for tight ends -- pay attention, Jermichael Finley -- the 2011 Tag number of $7.3 million is projected to be reduced to a 2012 number of $5.4 million with a flat Cap and $5.6 million with a $125 million Cap.

Of course, as noted in (B) above, if a player is coming off a season as a Tag player or had a very high salary number in his previous year, he is still protected, as the Tag will be 120% of his previous year’s number. And, although if a player is tagged three consecutive seasons he must have the highest Tag number available, there is no limitation on the number of consecutive uses of the Franchise Tag on the same player.

The effect of this new provision, which was strongly pushed by the NFL in its negotiations with the NFLPA, is to create a couple of advantages for NFL teams: (1) the Tag numbers will be lower, pulling from a more dated pool of numbers, and (2) teams can now use the Tag designation as a greater leverage point in negotiations that is stronger than it was previously.

That last part in particular gives the Packers a pretty big hammer to wield in negotiations with Finley's agent, Blake Baratz.

Coincidentally, today is the last day NFL teams can resign players and have money count toward the 2011 cap. While I suppose we could have a surprise announcement later today, it seem much more likely that the Packers are going to wait out the year, put the franchise tag on Finley and try to work out a long term deal sometime over the offseason or next year. However, knowing they can continue to put the tag on him at the end of every offseason hardly gives them any incentive to get a deal done quickly.

It will be interesting to see if Finley changes his tune about the tag, knowing it will most likely keep him from a Antonio Gates/Vernon Davis-type contract,  potentially for several years.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (19) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

hobot's picture

I was wondering the same thing when I read that article. Finley has been following the team line and saying all the right things. However, something tells me he is capable of spouting off if his frustration grows and things aren't going the way he thought. Time will tell, but I am very curious how this all plays out...

CSS's picture

Teams have so much leverage at this point I actually find myself empathizing with a budding star like Finley (just a bit). The pay-day for being tagged will lessen, the security of a long-term payday against injury (security I would want in a violent game) is gone, and the only tool players really have/had against the tag was holding out of camp.

Under the current agreement they're fined $30,000 a day for doing so, and the Packers have so much depth at the TE position they would hardly blink anyway.

I realize it's easy to get fatigued by Finley's brash and outspoken nature, but he's in a tough spot in a profession where injury can end your career on the next snap. Will be interesting to see how the Packers proceed.

markinmadison's picture

Plus 1.

bryce's picture

A year ago I wouldn't have agreed...but now, yes I agree. The team is making money off of his performance, he should be paid fairly.

Zeke's picture

I still have a hard time envisioning Thompson letting Finley go. Yes, they have depth at TE, but no one who is a proven difference-maker. Staying healthy + producing + saying right thing + being a "Ted guy" = long term deal, I think.

Evan's picture

I agree. I, for one, would feel pretty nervous if we went into 2012 with Quarless as the #1 TE.

TedTheSledge's picture

Pack reworked both Grant and Collins deals prior to the season to free 2011 cap space so you have to believe someone is getting a new deal by today or they would not have bothered especially with Collins. Used to be under the old CBA they could load a large amount of unlikely to be earned incentives into some players contract which would go unspent and move that amount into the next season. Anyone know if that is still possible under the new CBA?? If that avenue is no longer possible I can't see them doing nothing with the remaining dollars ... we should be hearing about a happy Packer today or tomorrow.

maxginsberg's picture

There's no limit to the number of times a team can use the franchise tag on the same player? Whoa.

But I don't see Ted Thompson and Russ Ball abusing the tag; Ted wouldn't do anything to damage the repoire in his locker room.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be drafted by A.J. Smith's Chargers. He might franchise Vincent Jackson forever...

Norman's picture

How much cap room do the Packers still have in 2011? I'm assuming it's enough that somebody will get an extension, even if it's not somebody we expect.

CSS's picture

It's also having internal discussions about necessity vs. luxury. It's a necessity to extend Raji, Wells, Matthews and even Rodgers in very short order.

Finley, though young and dripping with upside, feels like a luxury for what's already the most precise QB in the NFL. Great player, drags a ton of coverage over the top helping some of the great production we see in Nelson and Jones this year, but at what price?

NoWayJose's picture

Brandt's comment that "we're still learning about the nuances of the CBA . . ." strikes me as a little odd. Even given that there was last-minute "horse-trading," the thing was signed in July and its not like the players couldnt view the terms then.

We, as the public with other things to do, may still be learning about it, but agents (including Finley's agent) should have known about this long ago. I can't think of any reason why they wouldnt have done their due diligence by reading the CBA backwards and forwards and advising their client appropriately.

So, if this is news to Finley, I would suggest he might need a new agent.

wgbeethree's picture

This is exactly what I was coming to say. The change to a percentage of the cap was mentioned months ago. Any agent worth his salt knew this already. Don't think this affects Finley's "attitude" one bit.

markinmadison's picture

As a lawyer I get it. It can take time to see how the whole works in practice. Yes, ideally you would know it all, but the words sometimes take on new or unintended meanings when you start to apply fact scenarios.

AJKUHN's picture

It will come down to Finley and what he wants, if he just wants to get paid somebody will come up with way more money than Ted would ever, but if he really wants to stay with Arod and the team, they will find a price that everyone can live with. Must remember, some cap room needs to be saved to add players to the roster if anyone else goes on IR.

Ken's picture

This really wouldn't be that bad of a deal for him. If they franchise him three years in a row, he'll have made $20 million by the first day of the third league year (since franchise tag salaries are guaranteed). Year 1: $5.6m, Year 2: $6.7m, Year 3: $8m. I realize there is an injury risk, but $20 million for 3 years of TE play isn't bad. Plus, he'll presumably get his long-term contract after that point with another guaranteed $20m or so.

Mr. Bacon's picture

I don't believe it has anything to do with Finley, or his outbursts. Hardly a locker room poison.

This just has to do if Finley is worth that amount of money with his sometimes spotty injury record.

Mr. Bacon's picture

I forgot to add, in terms of Thompson resigning him

TM's picture

I know PFT brought this up today, but Finley's agent could ask for WR money since he is being lined up outside more than 50% of plays. Having said that, WRs line up close to 100% outside and Finley still is inside a good deal. Maybe he will form a new salary range for players utilized similar to him (Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernadez come to mind). I do not know the specifics, but in a similar case Terrell Suggs was paid like a 4-3 DE rather than a OLB.

Having said all of this, Nagler said it best: If Finley wants to stay with GB, Ted will pay him. But if he wants to be the highest paid TE in the league, he will have to find another team to do so. But not both.

CSS's picture

You can't blame either he or his agent for taking this tact, it's really the only leverage they can attempt to manufacture considering the emerging details of the new CBA.

That being said, it's a pretty unfavorable comparison if he and his agent make his peer group the WR group. Finley's numbers rank him at around #50 in overall production within that group; top 5 among TE's.

That would be my Russ Ball counter argument.

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