Franchise Tag

Abolishing the NFL’s Franchise Tag: Why Fans Hate It

The NFL’s franchise tag has long been a point of contention among fans, players, and front offices. While it serves as a tool for teams to retain their star players for an additional year, it has also been the subject of heated debates and discontent across the league. With stars like Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, and Josh Jacobs possibly holding out of training camp, we will delve into the reasons why fans despise the franchise tag and explore its impact on the league.

Understanding the NFL’s Franchise Tag

The franchise tag in the NFL is a designation that teams can use to retain their most valuable players for an additional year, preventing them from becoming unrestricted free agents. It allows teams to secure the services of star players and maintain roster continuity.

The franchise tag has become an integral part of the NFL’s player retention strategy, providing teams with a valuable tool to keep their top performers on the roster. By utilizing the franchise tag, teams can ensure that they have the opportunity to negotiate a long-term contract whomever they apply this tag to, giving them the stability and consistency necessary for success in a highly competitive league.

One of the key benefits of the franchise tag is that it allows teams to buy more time to negotiate a long-term deal with their star players. This additional year gives both parties a chance to assess their long-term goals and come to a mutually beneficial agreement. It also provides the team with an opportunity to evaluate the player’s performance and determine if they are worth the investment of a long-term contract.

The History of the Franchise Tag

The franchise tag was introduced in 1993 as a provision in the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). Its purpose was to give teams a way to prevent star players from leaving in free agency. However, its implementation has not always been without controversy.

Some argue that it restricts players’ freedom and limits their ability to explore the open market, while others believe that it provides teams with a necessary mechanism to retain their top talent.

Despite the controversies surrounding the franchise tag, it has remained an essential talking point for NFL fans every offseason. It has evolved over time, with adjustments made to its rules and regulations to try and ensure fairness and balance between teams and players.

How the Franchise Tag Works

When a team tags a player, they offer a one-year contract worth the average salary of the top players at the player’s position or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary, whichever is higher. The player can choose to sign the tag and play under the one-year deal or negotiate a long-term contract with the team.

The franchise tag creates an interesting dynamic between teams and players. It presents players with a decision to make – whether to accept the one-year contract and play under the tag, risking your health that could cost millions of dollars in the future or seek a long-term deal elsewhere. 

This decision can have significant financial implications for the player, as they weigh the guaranteed money of the franchise tag against the potential for a more lucrative long-term contract.

For teams, the franchise tag provides a valuable tool to retain their star players while they continue to negotiate a long-term contract. It allows them to maintain the stability of their roster and build upon the previous season’s success. However, teams must also consider the financial implications of utilizing the franchise tag, as it can consume a significant portion of their salary cap.

The Controversy Surrounding the Franchise Tag

While the franchise tag may seem like a useful tool for teams, it has been a topic of significant criticism from both players and fans. The following sections will explore different perspectives on the franchise tag.

Player Perspectives on the Franchise Tag

From the players’ viewpoint, the franchise tag is often seen as a restriction on their freedom and bargaining power. They argue that it limits their ability to negotiate long-term contracts and receive fair market value for their services. Some players have even held out and refused to sign the tag in protest. 

For players, the franchise tag can be a double-edged sword. While it guarantees them a lucrative one-year contract, it also prevents them from exploring the open market and seeking a potentially more desirable offer from another team. 

This lack of control over their own destiny can be frustrating and lead to tension between players and team management. We have seen so many disputes that have come down to the wire in terms of an extension or hold outs that even lead into the season. We all know it is a distraction in the locker room. Despite being professionals, the players are human, and when one of the most liked players and most effective players is not at camp, it is hard for any team to maintain confidence.

Team Management’s View on the Franchise Tag

On the other hand, team management sees the franchise tag as a vital tool for roster stability and leverage in negotiations. Kind of buying time for further discussions.

The League Office argues that the franchise tag provides teams with a valuable mechanism to prevent their star players from leaving in free agency or even getting a mega large deal elsewhere.

As stated before, this valuable time gives team management leverage by allowing them to control the player’s immediate future. Like the tag or do not play. When LeVeon Bell called the Steelers bluff in 2018, it can argued that it is even effecting the running back market today.

This type of squeeze on running back contracts can lead to more favorable terms for the team, as players may be more willing to make concessions in order to secure a long-term deal. Especially when the past few Super Bowl winners were allocating a high amount of the salary cap towards the running back position.

However, there is a fine line between using the franchise tag as a strategic tool and abusing its power. Critics argue that some teams exploit the tag by repeatedly using it on the same player, preventing them from ever reaching free agency and maximizing their earning potential. This practice can create resentment and strain the relationship between players and teams.

Based on those lists alone you can recall some of the biggest hold outs, contract disputes or successful agreements of our lifetime.

Why Fans Dislike the Franchise Tag

While fans may not have a direct stake in contract negotiations, the franchise tag impacts the on-field product and the overall fan experience. Here are a couple of reasons why fans have grown to dislike the franchise tag.

Impact on Team Roster Stability

One of the main reasons fans despise the franchise tag is its potential to disrupt team cohesion and roster stability. When star players are forced to play under the tag for multiple years, it creates uncertainty that could impact the immediate performance and future direction the team. This uncertainty can lead to tension, and further expand player dissatisfaction across the whole organization from owner to fan.

Imagine being a fan of a team that has used the franchise tag on their star quarterback for consecutive years. While it may seem like a temporary solution to keep the player on the team, the constant speculation about the player’s long-term future can create a sense of unease among fans. Will the player eventually leave in free agency? Will the team be able to build a sustainable roster around him? These questions can weigh heavily on the minds of fans, affecting their enjoyment of the game.

The Franchise Tag and Player Injuries

Fans also worry about the risk of injury that players face when playing under the franchise tag. Since the tag only guarantees a one-year contract, players may be more inclined to take risks on the field, potentially jeopardizing their long-term health. This concern is predominately relevant for players in physically demanding positions, such as linebackers or offensive linemen. You even see the Quarterback threaten holdouts because their earning potential is now upwards of $250 million.

As a fan, it’s disheartening to see a star player go down with a serious injury while playing under the franchise tag. Not only does it impact the team’s performance on the field, but it also raises questions about the player’s future and earning potential. Will the player be able to fully recover and secure a lucrative long-term contract? Now they have to see the franchise they are fans of in a pickle that could result in seeing on of your favorite players out the door.

Case Studies of Franchise Tag Disputes

To better understand the impact of the franchise tag, let’s examine some notable disputes that have arisen in recent years.

Notable Player Holdouts

In some cases, players have opted to hold out and refuse to sign the franchise tag, seeking better contract terms. These holdouts can create distractions for teams and lead to contract stalemates, fueling frustrations among fans.

An example of a player holdout referenced before was Le’Veon Bell, a former running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2018, Bell chose not to sign the franchise tag and sat out the entire season, forfeiting a significant amount of money. This decision not only affected Bell’s relationship with the team but also left the Steelers without one of their key offensive weapons. The topic constantly garnered significant media attention and sparked debates among fans and analysts about the fairness of the franchise tag system. In the end Bell finally apologized to the Steelers faithful after 5 years admitting leaving and the overall holdout was a mistake after not accepting a very lucrative Running Back deal at the time.

On the other hand, some players have successfully used holdouts as leverage to secure better contract terms. In 2020, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue of the Jacksonville Jaguars refused to sign the franchise tag and held out for a trade. Eventually, Ngakoue was traded to the Minnesota Vikings, where he signed a long-term contract that better reflected his market value. This case demonstrated the power that players can wield by strategically utilizing the franchise tag dispute to their advantage.

Successful and Unsuccessful Franchise Tag Negotiations

There have been instances where the franchise tag has resulted in positive outcomes for both players and teams. Players like Kirk Cousins and Von Miller have signed tag contracts, leading to later lucrative long-term deals. However, there have also been situations where negotiations have failed, leading to acrimony between players and teams.

Kirk Cousins, the former quarterback for the Washington Redskins (now known as the Washington Commanders), is a prime example of a successful franchise tag negotiation. In 2016 and 2017, Cousins played under the franchise tag, earning a significant salary. His consistent performance during these seasons eventually led to him signing a fully guaranteed three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings worth $84 million. Cousins’ ability to leverage the franchise tag to his advantage showcases how the system can work in favor of the player.

On the other hand, the unsuccessful franchise tag negotiation between the Pittsburgh Steelers and wide receiver Antonio Brown serves as a cautionary tale. In 2019, the Steelers placed the franchise tag on Brown, but the relationship between the player and the team had become strained. Brown voiced his displeasure and upped his antics off the field   and ultimately forced a trade to the Oakland Raiders. The rest of that story is history…

The franchise tag dispute in this case not only resulted in a failed negotiation but also damaged the reputation of both the player and the team.

These case studies highlight the complexities and implications of franchise tag disputes in the NFL. While some players have successfully used the tag as a stepping stone to secure lucrative contracts, others have faced challenges and conflicts that have had long-lasting effects on their careers and relationships with their teams.

The Potential Impact of Abolishing the Franchise Tag

As the calls for abolishing the franchise tag grow louder, it is essential to consider the potential implications of such a drastic measure.

Predicted Effects on Player Contracts

Without the franchise tag, player contracts and negotiations would likely undergo significant changes. Players may have more leverage in negotiations, leading to increased salaries and contract security. On the other hand, teams may face challenges in retaining key players and maintaining roster stability. These are all details that would have to be padded down by the next NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Possible Changes to Team Strategies

Abolishing the franchise tag could force teams to reevaluate their strategies for building and maintaining competitive rosters. Especially in the NFL where teams Super Bowl windows can close quite quickly. Teams may need to be more proactive in securing key players before they reach free agency, potentially altering the dynamics of player movement during the offseason.

In Conclusion

While the franchise tag is intended to benefit teams and provide stability, its implementation has faced criticism from fans and players. The impact of the franchise tag on rosters, player safety, and fan experience cannot be ignored. As the NFL continues to evolve, it is crucial for all stakeholders to find a balance that addresses these concerns while maintaining the competitive balance the league strives for.


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