A Player's View of the Franchise Tag

In a Seahawks.NET Exclusive, Mark Olsen speaks to a current NFL player who asks that fans take a wider view of the franchise tag and the dissension it causes.

Everybody has an opinion when talking about franchised NFL running backs Shaun Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks and Edgerrin James of the Indianapolis Colts. After their teams announced that they would be placing the franchise tag on each of them, both running backs refused to sign their respective tenders, creating the potential for an all-too-common holdout situation.

But one current NFL player thinks that most football fans don’t truly understand the reasons for the player not signing the tender. This player consented to an exclusive interview with Seahawks.NET, but has asked to remain anonymous under the direction of his agent - and therefore will be referred to as G.L., per his request.

“I hear fans talking smack about how these players must be so greedy,” stated G.L., “saying things about the player not being satisfied with the millions that come with the (franchise) tag. It’s just not true. In most cases, the player doesn’t want to sign it (the tender) because they want to work out a long-term deal with the team, not some one-year deal. The player has everything to lose by showing up for minicamps without a long-term deal in place.”

By definition, the Franchise tag can be used by an NFL team to keep one of their pending free agents from signing with any other teams. T he team must tender the player a one-year contract that is the minimum of the average of the five largest salaries (as of April 15) for players at the position at which he played the most games during the prior year, or 120% of his prior year salary, whichever is greater. For Alexander, this would amount to $6.32 million for the tender. For James, who earned $6.73 million in 2004, the tag comes with a guaranteed amount of $8.076 million.

According to G.L., while this sum may seem like a lot of cash, the money isn’t the issue that causes some players to balk at the offer. “The player knows that they will make the money, if the team uses the franchise tag on him, he’s one of the top guys in the league, so it’s not the pay for them. It’s about the freedom to choose what’s best, and the lack of long-term commitment that the tag shows.”

“Look, if the player is unhappy with his current surroundings, say it’s the city or the team or the coach, they feel that they should be able to better their situation, even if it means taking less money to do it. The tag takes that freedom away from the player, so it can really feel like a slap in the face to him. The other problem is that no player wants to play for a one year contract when they know that they could get a long term contract from somewhere else if they could have the chance.”

G.L. knows that the average football fan would not be able to fully appreciate the player’s point of view because of the amount of money being thrown around. “Of course the guy that’s struggling to pay the rent each month is going to look at this with some frustration, because, man, he would love to be offered a million dollars for one year, so a lot of the frustration comes down to that. We know how it looks to that fan, but that’s why I want them to understand that its not just about money - it’s about respect, its about freedom of choice and choosing what’s best for you and your family instead of a front office deciding that for you.”

G.L. has never been franchised, but as an NFL player, he understands the position that it puts the person in. “One thing that really frustrates us is that the fans look down on us when we try to stand up for what we think is right, like when a player holds out during training camp, some fans call him lazy or greedy. NFL teams cut players from the rosters without any warning to the player, even after signing a long term contract with that player, but the fans just look at that as just a part of the business, and some fans are happy when it happens so they can go sign another player.”

The sides are reportedly far apart, but G.L. hopes that the impending negotiations between the NFL Owners and the NFL Players’ union create a better solution for the players. “Something has to change, and I hope that they can get it done. We want to be there for our teams, but all we ask is that the owners give us the same respect. That’s all it comes down to”. And for the fans, G.L. asks only to consider both sides of the argument before judging the player. “We know that we are blessed to be making the money that we are playing a game that we love, and we really appreciate all of our fans that pay their hard earned money to see us play. I just hope that they won’t be too hard on the players when we stand up for what we think is right.”

Mark Olsen writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback at seahawk94@comcast.net.

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