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Franchise and transition tags, an expose

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Fooch's Note: Smileyman and drummer have joined the front page crew. They'll be providing some of their unique insight, but just as importantly, helping cover the site when I find myself away from the Internet in the coming months.

Personal Stuff: Hi everyone. Fooch asked me to do a little introductory paragraph before my first front page post, so here goes. Personal stuff. I'm married (for five years), have an 18 month old son, live in Idaho and am currently going back to school to finish my degree. I love statistics (weird I know), history, and football. I love the innovative approach taken to the sport of football by sites like Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus, and Advanced NFL Stats. I think the game relies too much on "gut feeling" or the "eye test", and too little on actual quantifiable data (and yes, I realize that you can't quantify everything, but you certainly shouldn't ignore it as a tool in your arsenal).

I started following the 49ers in 1984 (I was 7), and have remained loyal ever since. My favorite QB of all time is Steve Young, my favorite 49er RBs are Roger Craig and Garrison Hearst, and Jerry Rice should've won Dancing With the Stars.

As Paul Harvey would say "Now for the rest of the story".

Every single year it seems that there is at least one player in the league unhappy with his contract situation and his team. These players are looking for a big payday and a long term deal and often don't get it, instead their team uses a tag on them to retain their services for another year. Players don't like this, for obvious reasons. They miss out on a big payday, they don't get the guaranteed money, they're most likely stuck with a team they don't like, and if they get hurt their value for the next season decreased dramatically.


This year there are two especially big names who are hitting free agency who don't want to be franchised. Vince Wilfork of the Patriots has made it clear that he doesn't want a franchise tag used on him, and Julius Peppers of the Panthers has already had a franchise tag used on him and clearly doesn't want another. There has also been some discussion about the 49ers franchising NT Aubrayo Franklin, and accepted wisdom is that this will happen.

Join me after the jump as we talk about what the tags mean, the probable dollar value of the tags in 2010 and key dates in the 2010 NFL year.


There are two types of tags, the franchise tag and the transition tag. Normally teams have two that they can use in any given year. In an uncapped year teams will have three--1 franchise, and 2 transition. Since there has been no agreement on a CBA and the league and the players union has just over a month to come to an agreement it's looking likely that there will be no salary cap in 2010

Franchise Tag
A team can designate a player with the franchise tag. When they do that they need to determine if the player is going to be an exclusive franchise player or non-exclusive. An exclusive franchise player can not negotiate or sign with any other team. His salary is going to be the average of the five largest salaries at his position (as of the end of free agency for that year), or 120% of his previous year's salary (whichever is largest). A non-exclusive player receives an offer of the average of the five largest salaries for the previous year or 120% (whichever is greater). If the non-exclusive player signs with a new team his previous team hs the option to match the offer. If they decide to not match the offer the previous team is compensated with two first round picks from the new team.

Transition Tag
A transition tag can also be used instead of the franchise tag. The transition tag gives the player's old team Right of First Refusal, which means that if the player reaches an agreement with another team the old team has the right to match that offer. If they match that offer the player has to sign the one year contract. The offer is the average of the top 10 players at his position or 120%, whichever is greater. If he signs with another team his original team receives no compensation.

If a team decides that they want to rescind a tag they can--but they do not gain any compensation if the player goes somewhere else and they can't use the tag on someone else.

2010 and the CBA
If a new CBA is not reached by 2010, all of this changes. There will be no salary cap, meaning teams can try and buy themselves a championship (like the New York Yankees). On the flip side of it, there's no minimum cap either, so miserly owners can spend as little as they like on player salaries. The biggest single change will come with free agency. With an uncapped year it takes six accrued seasons for a player to become an unrestricted free agent. In an uncapped year each team gains an extra transition tag.

Some estimates show that as many as 200 players will suddenly lose free agency status if that happens,

Key Dates

1st--This is the soonest that a team can designate their additional transition tag player
6th--Hall of Fame selection committee meets
7th--Super Bowl
11th--Beginning of the period in which teams can designate franchise and their additional transition tag players
24th--Start of the NFL Combine
25th--Deadline for submitting franchise and transition tag players

2nd--End of the Combine (and smileyman's birthday)
5th--New League Year starts. What this means in real terms:
--Deadline for the new CBA to be signed
--Deadline for teams to submit RFA tenders
--Beginning of free agent signing period
--Beginning of trade period
15th--Offseason training programs begin
21-24--NFL owners meeting

18th--FA ends for RFAs
22nd through 25th--NFL draft

24th through 26th--NFL Spring Meeting
OTAs generally start mid May through Mid June

Mid July the supplemental draft is held.
22nd--End of free agency period for UFAs (or it might be the first day of training camp whichever is latest). Franchise players have to sign by this point as do tendered RFAs.

7th--Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
13th--Deadline for teams to trade rights to for unsigned, but drafted, rookies.
13th--start of Pre-season games

4th--teams have to turn in their 53 man roster
9th--regular season begins

Since franchise and transition tag amounts are based on the current highest salaries it's useful to know what those are. Now these might change based on what deals happen between now and the franchise dates, but Ian Whetstone at Steel City Insider has done a great job of gathering that information. These salaries include both the regular season salaries as well as signing bonuses and earned incentives.


CB Champ Bailey $13,188,525
CB Dunta Robinson $9,957,000
CB Asante Samuel $9,900,000
CB Darrelle Revis $7,425,916
CB Corey Webster $7,357,500
CB Charles Woodson $7,200,000
CB Chris Gamble $7,000,000
CB Kelvin Hayden $6,430,000
CB Antoine Winfield $6,100,000
CB Nnamdi Asomugha $6,000,000

Franchise $9,566,000

Transition $8,056,000

DE Julius Peppers $16,683,000
DE Jared Allen $13,483,344
DE Dwight Freeney $11,220,000
DE Justin Smith $10,083,333
DE Will Smith $9,271,666
DE Corey Williams $8,783,333
DE Aaron Schobel $8,066,670
DE Luis Castillo $8,058,500
DE Leonard Little $7,610,000
DE Derrick Harvey $7,527,500

Franchise $12,148,000

Transition $10,079,000

DT Tommie Harris $8,590,000
DT Albert Haynesworth $7,000,000
DT Shaun Rogers $6,573,333
DT Jonathan Babineaux $6,500,000
DT Casey Hampton $6,452,084
DT Tommy Kelly $6,336,266
DT Kris Jenkins $5,650,000
DT Marcus Stroud $5,591,666
DT John Henderson $5,490,000
DT Pat Williams $5,410,540

Franchise $7,023,000

Transition $6,359,000

LB DeMarcus Ware $11,437,000
LB Karlos Dansby $9,678,000
LB Brian Urlacher $9,175,505
LB Keith Bulluck $9,108,670
LB Bart Scott $9,000,000
LB Joey Porter $7,200,000
LB Calvin Pace $6,686,862
LB Lance Briggs $6,516,666
LB DJ Williams $6,501,000
LB Julian Peterson $6,500,000

Franchise $9,680,000

Transition $8,180,000

OL Joe Staley $13,520,000
OL Jason Peters $12,700,000
OL Walter Jones $9,800,000
OL Jake Long $9,600,000
OL Chad Clifton $8,034,170
OL Jeff Faine $8,000,000
OL Alan Faneca $7,840,000
OL Steve Hutchinson $7,450,000
OL Jeff Backus $7,223,176
OL Kris Dielman $7,200,000

Franchise $10,731,000

Transition $9,137,000

P/K Shane Lechler $3,100,000
P/K Robbie Gould $2,900,000
P/K Joe Nedney $2,862,500
P/K Adam Vinatieri $2,695,000
P/K Josh Brown $2,600,000
P/K Sebastian Janikowsi $2,510,000
P/K Shayne Graham $2,483,000
P/K Michael Koenen $2,483,000
P/K Kris Brown $2,480,000
P/K Ryan Longwell $2,450,000

Franchise $2,832,000

Transition $2,656,000

QB Peyton Manning $21,199,998
QB Donovan McNabb $16,766,670
QB Matt Cassel $15,200,000
QB Tom Brady $14,620,000
QB Carson Palmer $14,300,000
QB JaMarcus Russell $13,611,455
QB Ben Roethlisberger $13,220,000
QB Eli Manning $13,066,668
QB Brett Favre $12,000,000
QB Phillip Rivers $11,535,000

Franchise $16,417,000

Transition $14,552,000

RB Reggie Bush $12,085,000
RB Brian Westbrook $11,883,334
RB LaDainian Tomlinson $7,541,669
RB Steven Jackson $7,399,166
RB Darren Sproles $6,621,000
RB Clinton Portis $6,171,085
RB Frank Gore $6,164,250
RB Jamal Lewis $6,143,750
RB Maurice Jones-Drew $6,090,000
RB Ronnie Brown $6,056,933

Franchise $9,106,000

Transition $7,616,000

S Adrian Wilson $7,039,503
S Troy Polamalu $6,495,000
S Ed Reed $6,400,000
S OJ Atogwe $6,342,021
S Chris Hope $6,000,002
S Ken Hamlin $5,805,000
S LaRon Landry $5,644,333
S Bob Sanders $5,630,836
S Madieu Williams $5,286,666
S Kerry Rhodes $5,502,666

Franchise $6,455,000

Transition $6,015,000

TE Dallas Clark $6,773,333
TE Daniel Graham $6,450,000
TE Todd Heap $6,367,500
TE Kellen Winslow $5,170,000
TE Vernon Davis $4,780,000
TE Jason Witten $4,700,000
TE Heath Miller $4,672,500
TE Randy McMichael $4,600,000
TE Tony Gonzalez $4,500,000
TE Bo Scaife $4,462,000

Franchise $5,908,000

Transition $5,248,000

WR Larry Fitzgerald $10,893,332
WR Antonio Bryant $9,884,000
WR Randy Moss $9,650,000
WR Steve Smith $8,997,527
WR Greg Jennings $8,147,500
WR Roddy White $8,106,250
WR Chad Johnson $7,665,574
WR Deion Branch $7,540,000
WR Andre Johnson $7,466,752
WR Laveranues Coles $7,400,000

Franchise $9,514,000

Transition $8,575,000

Before people freak out about the salaries of Joe Staley and Justin Smith, remember that this amount includes signing bonuses and roster bonuses.

Some real life examples here. The Panthers could franchise Julius Peppers again. This year the likely franchise tag amount would be about $12 million, however the Panthers would have to pay Peppers 120% of his current salary in order to keep him, which would make his salary just over $20 million, which is way too pricey for any player but a Hall of Famer QB. The Chargers franchised Darren Sproles last year, and it's unlikely that they'll do it again, but if they were they'd have to pay him almost $8 million a year. In the case of the 49ers if we franchise Franklin the team will be looking at just over $7 million to retain his services for the next year.