NFL.com news: 2012 franchise tag figures will be down across the board
New 2012 franchise tag rules could hurt Forte, Brees and others
While little was made of it at the time, the change in calculating procedures for franchise tags could have major implications on several negotiations this offseason, including those with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Bears running back Matt Forte.
The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association includes a new formula for the franchise tag, and league sources have said franchise tags will be considerably lower this season as part of the new CBA.
League sources have provided figures that will be extremely close to what those salary totals look like, by position, when teams being placing those tags on players in February.
In the past a franchise tag was derived from averaging the top 5 salaries at a particular position from the previous season. The new formula is much more complicated and is formed by determining the franchise tags at that position over the last five years as a percentage of the overall cap figure in each of those five years.
The yearly cap itself now plays a bigger role -- the 2012 cap projects to be very close to the 2011 cap of roughly $120 million -- thus these tags will not go up much.
Furthermore, with 2010 being an uncapped year, a number of teams threw massive years of spending on particular deals into that contract year, which in turn drove up 2011 franchise tags. Years like that will no longer be the case, and despite all the record contracts given out just after the lockout -- like ones signed by Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, linebacker Jon Beason and San Diego safety Eric Weddle among others -- figures in most position groups will drop by several million dollars and in some cases upwards of 20 percent, according to the figures we have obtained.
So at a time when Eagles quarterback Michael Vick averages $16.6 million per season, and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning earn $18 million a season, Brees could be franchised for just $14.5 million. The NFLPA and NFL Management Council still are going back and forth over the salary numbers used for some of these calculations, sources said, but the QB tag will be between $14.4 to $14.5 million.
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez also earned $14.75 million in 2011 alone, while Manning is in line to collect $35 million in total for 2012 if the Colts pick up his options, making Brees an extreme bargain.
The Saints could franchise Brees in 2012 and 2013 and end up paying him about $32 million total. The goal is a long-term deal, but these tags are more than affordable. The QB tag in 2011 was over $16 million.
According to league sources, Forte is looking to get $20 million guaranteed or more, but the running back tag is just $7.7 million, down from $9.6 million in 2011. If Forte is franchised, expect a lengthy holdout as he refuses to sign the tender.
Baltimore's Ray Rice is a candidate to be tendered as well. And at a time with ends like Johnson getting more than $30 million guaranteed, the Texans could franchise Mario Williams, coming back from his season-ending surgery, for just $10.6 million. That amount would be a dramatic decrease from the $13 million figure in 2011 for defensive ends. Given Wes Welker's age, 30, a $9.4 million franchise tag -- for wide receivers -- might make the most sense there, as well.
No doubt the new formula will impact several negotiations, and teams could end up using the franchise or transition tag in abundance this offseason.
Below is a list of the recent figures by position, as well as players who could be impacted:
»Offensive line: 2010 ($10.7 million); 2011 ($10.1 million); 2012 ($9.4 million). Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs could be impacted.
»Quarterback: 2010 ($16.4 million); 2011 ($16.1 million); 2012 ($14.4 million). Drew Brees.
»Running back: 2010 ($8.2 million); 2011 ($9.6 million); 2012 ($7.7 million). Matt Forte and Ray Rice.
»Wide receiver: 2010 ($9.5 million); 2011 (11.4 million); 2012 ($9.4 million). DeSean Jackson, Wes Welker, Stevie Johnson and Vincent Jackson (but he would make more because it would be his second time in a row franchised).
»Tight end: 2010 ($5.9 million); 2011 ($7.3 million); 2012 ($5.4 million). Jermichael Finley and Fred Davis.
»Defensive end: 2010 ($12.4 million); 2011 ($13 million); 2012 ($10.6 million). Mario Williams and Jason Jones.
»Defensive tackle: 2010 ($7 million); 2011 ($12.5 million); 2012 ($7.9 million). Paul Soliai (but he would make more, as it would be his second year in row).
»Linebacker: 2010 ($9.7 million); 2011 ($10.1 million); 2012 ($8.8 million). Stephen Tulloch.
»Cornerback: 2010 ($9.6 million); 2011 ($13.5 million); 2012 ($10.6 million). Cortland Finnegan, Brent Grimes.
»Safety: 2010 ($6.5 million); 2011 ($8.8 million); 2012 ($6.2 million). LaRon Landry.