Will the Arizona Cardinals feel compelled to tag an unrestricted free agent for the first time in four years?
Yesterday marked the first day that teams could begin to apply Franchise and Transition Tags to players in preparation of the new league year kicking off with free agency in the next couple of weeks. The Transition and Franchise Tags were collectively bargained for and allow teams to retain a player when his contract runs out, but they are unable to come to a long term agreement. The tags allow teams to continue to negotiate with a player after free agency starts without the possibility of another team signing that player (in some cases).
There are two types of Franchise Tags, the Exclusive and Non-Exclusive. The Exclusive Tag would pay the player the average of the top five salaries at that position for the next season. So if the Cardinals, for instance, had to tag Carson Palmer, he would be paid the average of the top five QBs in the league for the next season, if a long term deal couldn’t be made prior to the tag end date.
The Non-Exclusive Tag allows teams to pursue tagged players from other teams, if they are tagged as such, and arrange a deal with them. If the player receives an offer from another team, the current team has the option to match it, or let the player sign elsewhere and receive two first-round picks in compensation. That’s a mighty hefty price to pay for a player, so you don’t see this utilized too much, much like higher round picks in the Supplemental Draft.
The Transition Tag works like the Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag except that the player receives the average of the top 10 salaries of that position for the next season. If another team makes and offer and it isn’t matched by the original team, there is no draft pick compensation.
The kicker here is that if the player that the tag is used on signs with the team, the Transition Tag cannot be used again until that contract has expired. So if you tag a player, and he signs for five years, you do not have the option to use the Transition Tag for five years.
With all that being said, it doesn’t appear as though the Cardinals will need to apply the tags to any players this season. Looking at the free agents, only two that were be worth of the tag are S Rashad Johnson and CB Jerraud Powers, both very valuable assets in the secondary, but not completely irreplaceable. All the other big pieces of the offense and defense are signed through at least 2016 for the most part, including Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Calais Campbell, and Patrick Peterson.
Steve Keim has gone on record that he’d like to sign S Tyrann Mathieu to a long term deal this offseason, the first offseason permissible to extend rookie contracts from that draft class.
The Arizona Cardinals last used the Franchise Tag in 2012 on Calais Campbell, which lead to a long term deal between the player and club, but may need to be renegotiated or extended in the near future with number 93’s cap number rising very quickly.