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