Exploring A Compromise To Reforming The Franchise Tag

Mike Florio wants to eliminate the franchise tagJason Fitzgerald wants rookies to demand a no-tag clause to their contracts.  From the perspective of Broncos fans, we have some base happiness in that the franchise tag is aiding in their efforts to retain Von Miller–and we also have to admit that the tag is preventing Miller from achieving full value on the open market, be it with the Broncos or someone else.  He, and other players, have the right to be grumpy about its existence.

However, the NFL isn’t simply going to abolish the franchise tag out of the goodness of their hearts.  They would instead want to collectively bargain a concession out of the NFLPA to ensure they get something favorable in return.  Thus, I came up with a quick idea to possibly help franchise and transition tagged players participate more fully in free agency, while at the same time protecting teams from possible losses of elite talent.

And as you might expect coming from me, the key that I use lies within compensatory draft picks.

This proposal does not completely eliminate the franchise and transition tags. (Though, it would require eliminating the exclusive franchise tag, of which ensnared Miller this year.)  Teams are still allowed to use one or the other on one pending Unrestricted Free Agent, at tenders based on the same calculations as now.  And the original team is still allowed to match whatever offer sheet the player can sign in free agency.

The difference comes with the compensation for not matching the offer sheet.  Instead of being awarded two first round picks directly from the signing team for the franchise tag (and nothing for the transition tag), the original team instead gets a first round compensatory pick for not matching an offer sheet from a franchise tagged player, and a second round compensatory pick for not matching the same from a transition tagged player.  These compensatory picks would not be subject to cancellation by UFA signings unless the team acquired their own respective franchise or transition tagged player via an unmatched offer sheet.

In exchange for this concession from the NFL, the NFLPA agrees to add another round of picks to the NFL Draft, expanding the number of drafted rookies from 256 to 288, less forfeited picks.  Furthermore, the limit of total compensatory picks is raised from 32 to 64, and the maximum number of four compensatory picks per team is abolished.  After all compensatory picks are awarded, an 8th round of normal picks is added, based on the order of what the 8th round would be, to cap off the number of picks at 288, less forfeited picks.

To use 2016 as an example, at least 46 compensatory picks would have been awarded instead of 33 (Denver had one CFA lost over four, and New England had two), and as many as 51 could have been awarded if all franchise tagged players in 2015 changed teams.  In the case of the Broncos, they could have been awarded a 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and two 7th round picks if they declined to match a hypothetical offer sheet signed by Demaryius Thomas and other team.  That’s some serious ammo for a GM as talented as John Elway to make some noise.

What the NFLPA wins is a way for tagged players to realistically participate in unrestricted free agency, and to allow the upper bounds of contracts to grow higher.  What the NFL wins is subjecting 32 more rookies to not being able to choose their team, and to give teams more protection and ability to rebuild their free agency losses through the draft.

As always, there may be an angle that I’m missing, and additional and possibly unrelated concessions from either side may be needed to seal the deal.  Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section.