In less than a week NFL clubs will have the opportunity to hang onto their most valuable players that are set to become unrestricted free agents. Effective Feb. 18th the Bills and the 31 other NFL teams can begin to make use of the franchise or transition tag on one of their most coveted players.
The decision on whether to use the franchise tag, from the outside, appear fairly straightforward. A club has a free agent that is also one of the best players on the roster. If negotiating a long term contract agreement proves difficult with said player it's simple, you tag him. But the fiscal ramifications of putting the franchise tag on a player very often have a ripple effect throughout the roster.
Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco is a perfect example. Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome has been adamant that Flacco will be playing for the Ravens next season, but if a long term agreement cannot be reached the franchise tag becomes a very realistic possibility.
For a quarterback the projected tag is $14.6M. Knowing Baltimore has just $12.9M of cap space it prompts other decisions to be made pertaining to the roster and the salary cap. Add in the fact that Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed is also a free agent and one quickly sees how making use of the tag can become a vexing situation.
The NFL draft can also impact franchise tag decisions. A team like the Miami Dolphins has an ample amount of cap room and could certainly afford to franchise free agent CB Sean Smith if they felt he was worthy. But the tag price for a cornerback is $10.66M and with what is considered a quality cornerback draft class Buffalo's division rival could choose to replenish the position through the draft or look at more affordable free agent options.
The Bills themselves have not used the franchise tag since 2006 when Nate Clements was tagged as the team's franchise player. Buffalo does have a pair of coveted players in FS Jairus Byrd and G Andy Levitre, who are set to become unrestricted free agents. Whether the franchise tag would be considered for either player should a long term contract extension prove tough to broker remains to be seen.
Here are the projected franchise and transition tag figures for 2013, with the numbers to be finalized by the league in March. The deadline to apply the franchise or transition tag is March 4th.
2013 Projected franchise and transition tag tenders
CB: Franchise: $10.668 Transition: $8.939
DE: Franchise: $10.984 Transition: $8.994
DT: Franchise: $8.306 Transition: $6.919
K/P: Franchise: $2.926 Transition: $2.654
LB: Franchise: $9.455 Transition: $8.216
OL: Franchise: $9.660 Transition: $8.560
QB: Franchise: $14.642 Transition: $12.845
RB: Franchise: $8.079 Transition: $6.851
S: Franchise: $6.798 Transition: $5.899
TE: Franchise: $5.962 Transition: $5.105
WR: Franchise: $10.357 Transition: $8.716