BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Tuesday’s a big day on the NFL calendar. It’s the first day teams can use either the franchise tag or transition tag on any of their players who are set to become free agents. Teams have until March 1 to designate franchise or transition players, and they have until July 15 to workout a multiyear contract or an extension.
There are three different types of tags NFL clubs can use on potential free agents: The exclusive franchise tag, the non-exclusive franchise tag, and the transition tag.
The exclusive franchise tag is a one-year tender offer to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater. The player’s team has all negotiating rights to the player.
The non-exclusive franchise tag is a one-year tender offer to a player for an amount no less than the average of the top five salaries at the player’s position, or 120 percent of the player’s previous salary, whichever is greater. The player can negotiate with other teams. The player’s current team has the right to match any offer, or receive two first-round picks as compensation.
The transition tag is a one-year tender offer to a player for an amount that is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position. It guarantees the original club the right of first refusal to match any offer the player may receive from another team. The transition tag can only be used if the franchise tag is not used by a team in that year. Transition tags can be rescinded, but teams that rescind a transition tag cannot use it again until next season.
Of the 25 soon-to-be free agents the Cardinals have, it’s not a certainty that the team will tag any one of them, including some of the full-time players like safety Rashad Johnson, cornerback Jerraud Powers and right tackle Bobby Massie.
Johnson and Powers were very solid and reliable players for the Cardinals over the last three seasons, but with the team wanting to add more speed and length at both positions, combined with the mid-season contract extension given to Pro Bowl cornerback Justin Bethel, Johnson and Powers may have seen their last bit of action as members of the #NoFlyZone.
Tagging either Johnson or Powers would cost Arizona $10.6 million and $13.7 million, respectively. Those are numbers general manager Steve Keim might walk away from when the time comes to make a decision on them.
In Massie’s case, the writing was on the wall for him when the team drafted tackle D.J. Humphries with the 24th overall pick in the first-round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Humphries went through some growing pains in his rookie season, but he made that turn as the season went on.
Massie’s played quite well at right tackle for Arizona over the last four seasons, and he’s still pretty young at 26-years-old. He’s got a lot more to offer a team, but at what cost? The estimated franchise tag number for Massie would be $13.5 million, which is way up from the $1,471,433 he made last season. That has to be another number Keim’s looking at with a bit of a frown on his face. That’s a significantly bigger number and cap hit for the Cardinals with Massie than the $2,025,480 Humphries is set to make next season.
Even with the salary cap expected to hit $153 million, those are major dollar amounts that the Cardinals might decide is too rich for their blood, with the only recourse being to let Johnson, Powers and Massie test the free agent waters, along with the other 22 players, or they try and work out some sort of cap friendly deals to keep them all in place.
It’s not an easy task for Keim and his staff to take on, but that’s the cost of doing business in the NFL nowadays.