Tag, You're It!

NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 24: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints in action during the game against the Cleveland Browns at the Louisiana Superdome on October 24 2010 in New Orleans Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Drew Brees

This past summer fans of the NFL had to endure several months of uncertainty as they waited to see if the players and owners could work out a new CBA. Thankfully, and with almost no time to spare, a new 10 year deal was signed. And while some things changed, such as the owners getting a slightly larger cut of the pie...wait. Why is the division of revenue always compared to a pie? Why not a fruit tart or a tub of ice cream? Let's try that again. And while some things changed, such as the owners getting a slightly larger cut of the bundt cake, other things remained the same. One of those things that remained was the dreaded franchise tag.

This past week 21 players were slapped with the franchise tag. Some of the players stuck with the tag said all the right things and didn't make a fuss, such as DeSean Jackson who said he was "honored" to wear the franchise tag, while others "cough" Drew Brees "cough" were not so honored.

Some fans will look at Brees and sarcastically say, "Oh boo hoo! It must be tough knowing you'll earn only $14 million next season without a new deal. How will you ever survive?" While others living in the slums of India might look at that fan living in America and sarcastically say, "Oh boo hoo! It must be tough trying to get by on only a $50,000 a year salary living in a house that has a roof not made of tin and doesn't leak and floors that aren't made of mud. How will you ever survive?"

Really, wealth is all about perspective. I've often said being born in middle class America is a bit like winning life's lottery. I know no one here at Niners Nation has ever heard me say it but trust me, I've often said it. But even the wealthiest person in the world still wants more money, so I have a hard time being upset at a player who's mad about being given the franchise tag and told they may not make as much as they could have made if they were a free agent. But I also have a hard time feeling overly sympathetic towards them just as someone living in a shanty town probably has a hard time feeling sympathetic towards a middle class American who has only one car and basic cable.

More after the jump...

Opponents of the franchise tag will often call it un-American. They might say, "Being able to choose a place to live and work is a simple American concept - this isn't Cuba...except in the NFL." Actually, that last part was a direct quote from Howard Bryant over at the Entertainment Sports Programming Network, or more commonly referred to as, "That over conglomerated sports network that's trying to turn the sporting world into vanilla." At least that's what I call it.

On the surface that argument seems to make sense. But the argument starts to fall apart when you start analyzing it a little closer. Are NFL players being told where to live and work? No! They chose to enter the NFL draft and they can chose to sign the franchise tag or turn it down and sit out a year.

Plus, while each team is separately owned, they're still all part of the same company. No one is saying that players can't go and try and play in the NBA or the NHL. Each team is more like a franchise. If McDonalds, for example, set up restrictions stating what needs to be done for one McDonalds franchise to hire away an employee from a different McDonalds franchise, they can do that. Could you imagine the McDonalds free agent market if they didn't have those rules? But nothing says they can't just quit McDonalds and go to Wendys.

I encountered a similar thing in my own career. Company A had contracted Company B to do some work for them. My paychecks came from Company B even though I was actually doing work for Company A. Eventually Company A offered me a lot more money to work directly for them and when Company B found out they took Company A to court. So if Company B was traveling on a train going 50 miles an hour and Company A was traveling on a train going 30 miles an hour, how long would it take Company B to win a lawsuit against Company A if Company A ignored Einstein's theory of relativity?

Then there's one more thing to consider and in the end it's the only argument that matters. The players agreed to the franchise tag when they signed the new CBA. I understand why some players are frustrated when they've been franchised. If I were fortunate enough to be in their position I might be upset about it as well. But life's full of things that aren't fair.

Is it fair for someone to be born into a home with an abusive parent? Is it fair to become paralyzed because of a drunk driver? Is it fair that even today women earn, on average, less money than men doing the same job? Is it fair that people are discriminated against all over the world for things they have no control over? Is it fair that some people are stuck with cable packages because of the building they live in that still don't carry the NFL Network? Is it fair that I can't buy a jetpack or a flying car even though this is the future and we were supposed to have these things already?

The CBA allows owners to put the franchise tag on one player every year. Both sides agreed to this. A lot of players who are franchised will still sign a big contract with the team that franchised them before the season even begins. Others will play out the year and sign a big contract at that time. Still others will be stuck with the franchise tag again the following year and possibly even the year after that, although it becomes increasingly more expensive to do that as in the second year they get paid 120% of their previous contract and in the 3rd year they get paid 144%. That means if Brees got franchised 3 straight years he'd get paid $14 million, $17 million, and then $23 million.

Considering the number of players who are in the NFL, only a little over 1% will even be affected by the franchise tag and almost none of them will finish their careers without signing at least one lucrative long term deal. Knowing that owners have the ability to use the tag might persuade some players to sign for less than they might have if there was no tag but they're by and large already earning well beyond what the average player earns. Some players might find that unfair but try telling that to the family who just watched their home ripped away by a tornado.

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