January 29, 2010

The "Franchise Tag" in the NFL

By: Sonny Bunch

Allow me to get a little sports bloggy for a minute, would you? Thanks.

One of the enduring mysteries of the NFL to me is how harshly players react to getting slapped with a franchise tag. Our most recent example of this is Vince Wilfork, defensive tackle for the New England Patriots. Now, I’ll be honest: I have no real appraisal of Wilfork’s skills. He’s pretty good from what I remember. Made two Pro Bowls. Decent stats. Etc. But he feels disrespected by the mere possibility that the Pats might use their franchise tag on him:

“[The franchise tag] is decent money for most people out there. What I do, it’s OK,” Wilfork told WEEI. “But I don’t look at myself as an OK player. Like I said, it’s just basically a slap in my face and an insult to me to basically tell me I’m an OK player.”

Um, what? Here’s an explanation of how the franchise tag works. In summary: A team offers a player a long term deal (as the Pats did Wilfork) which the player declines (as did Wilfork), which then gives that team the option of placing the franchise tag on said player. The franchise tag then binds that player to play for the team for one more season at a salary that is either the average of the top five players at the same position or at 120% of his salary the previous year, whichever one is greater.

So basically, the Patriots are saying that they consider Wilfork to be one of the top five defensive tackles in the game and are willing to pay him as such. Top two or three, really, since the average salary would be higher than numbers four and five on the list. How is this a “slap in the face”? The Pats offered him a long term deal and, should he pass on that, plan on making him one of the highest paid players at his position.

You see this season after season, players chafing at receiving the franchise tag. It kind of blows my mind.