The folks at Pro Football Talk wrote about this earlier today, and it was useful enough that I figured I would share it here. Starting Monday, February 17, NFL teams can place franchise tags on unrestricted free agents. Teams have until March 3 to use their franchise tag.
One of the 49ers key free agents is Phil Dawson. He completed a strong 2013 campaign while playing on a one year contract worth $2.35 million in salary and bonuses. As he heads into free agency, it is worth noting the team will not use the franchise tag on him. The kicker tag was worth $2,977,000 last season. It will likely increase a little bit this year, but that kicker tag is not pertinent to this discussion.
Dawson played under the franchise tag his last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. The team could not tag him a third straight season because such a third tag requires paying him the tender for the highest franchised position. That of course would be quarterback, where the franchise tag in 2013 was $14,896,000. The issue for the 49ers is that Dawson's tagging in two seasons with the Browns is rolled over to his time with other teams. Even though the 49ers have not tagged him, if they decided to, it would count as a third franchise tag.
This rule was affirmed in a grievance Drew Brees filed when the New Orleans Saints tried to tag him in 2012. They had tagged him once, and felt that mean they could tag him a second time. However, the San Diego Chargers tagged him in 2005 after his rookie deal expired, and the arbitrator ruled in his favor. It does not seem like the most shocking of rulings, but until the issue actually came up, it was never really officially addressed.
It's going to be interesting to see what the 49ers do with Dawson given the way his salary has fluctuated in recent years. He earned $2.35 million this past year, but prior to that he earned approximately $3.81 million in 2012, and $3.25 million in 2011. Those two salaries were higher because the Browns franchised him, so the numbers were relatively inflated. As we head into 2014, the highest scheduled kicker salary is Josh Scobee with $3,225,000. Here is the rundown of scheduled kicker salaries for 2014, courtesy of Spotrac. I'm pretty sure this does not include bonuses:
1. Josh Scobee - $3,225,000
2. Matt Prater - $3,000,000
3. Stephen Gostkowski - $2,900,000
4. Rob Bironas - $2,875,000
5. Matt Bryant - $2,750,000
6. Sebastian Janikowski - $2,700,000
7. Mason Crosby - $2,650,000
8. Connor Barth - $2,000,000
9. Ryan Succop - $1,950,000
10. Robbie Gould - $1,900,000
Do the 49ers bring back Dawson, and if so, where does his salary fall?