Grantland’s Robert Mays has an interesting article about why it’s time to end the franchise tag in the NFL.
As he points out, it was none other than Pat Bowlen who created the idea, done to ensure a team’s top player couldn’t sign with another team that easily (in the Broncos’ case, John Elway). But while it made sense to use the tag on the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant and Justin Houston, it hasn’t always benefited players.
The two players Mays cites:
* Henry Melton, who the Chicago Bears franchised in 2013, who then tore his ACL, had to accept a one-year, low-cost deal from the Cowboys, and is now on a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
* Anthony Spencer, who was tagged two straight years by the Cowboys, then underwent microfracture surgery. As Mays points out, Spencer did collect a lot of money, but might not have had his surgery happened during the first year he was on the tag.
Thus far, under Elway, the Broncos have tagged three players (Ryan Clady, Matt Prater, Demaryius Thomas) and all were signed to long-term deals. Clady was certainly top-five at his position when he was tagged, and the same applies to Thomas now. Prater being top five at his position when he was tagged, though, is up for debate. Some teams may have opted to let Prater play under the tag, using it simply as an excuse to avoid a long-term deal, on the argument that the tagged player is getting compensated well for one season.
Mays has valid points about doing away with the tag, but it’s not likely to go away any time soon. Still, the NFLPA may want to argue in the next round of negotiations that a player cannot be tagged in consecutive seasons by the same team, and that if a tagged player is traded to another team, the team acquiring him must sign him to a long-term contract.
And there may be something to say about tagging players who aren’t considered top five at their position, who might be better off getting a long-term deal elsewhere, even if they average less money per year than what the tag would be. After all, had Melton signed a long-term deal, he would have likely received injury-only guarantees in the second, or even third, season and have some financial security, despite his ACL injury.
(I was going to bring up Jason Pierre-Paul, but given that his injuries happened because of an off-field incident, that may not be a situation in which he’d collect on any injury-only guarantees.)