Vikings franchise LB Greenway

Since the advent of the franchise tag designation for potential free agents, the Vikings had used that option just once. As of Monday, that number doubled, as the Vikings announced that they have assigned the franchise tag to linebacker Chad Greenway.

To the surprise of few, the Vikings announced Monday that they have placed the franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway. For the Vikings, it was a momentous event. Prior to Monday's announcement, the Vikings had used the franchise tag just once – placing it on tight end Jim Kleinsasser in 2003 to prevent him from signing with the Washington Redskins, after the Redskins had gone public with their interest in the Vikings TE.

Under the terms of the franchise tag, the Vikings will have to pay Greenway the average of the top five salaries from 2010 at his position. That would earn Greenway almost $10 million in 2011 if the franchise tag remains in place when a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Greenway led the Vikings with 149 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in 2010. It was the third consecutive season he led the team in tackles, coming up one shy of his career-best 150 tackles in 2008. He was named the team's defensive player of year by his teammates in 2010.

"Chad's an important part of our team and his play speaks for itself. He's productive and has continued to improve each year he has been in the NFL," head coach Leslie Frazier told the team's web site. "He's a leader for us in the locker room and on the field."

The Vikings put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Greenway, which would potentially allow his agent to negotiate a contract with other teams and give the Vikings the ability to match the offer. If they would choose not to match any offer received, they would get two first-round draft picks as compensation from the signing team. In the history of the franchise tag, nobody has ever signed a player that would cost two first-rounders in return.

The team is still able to negotiate a new long-term contract with him, but the application of the franchise tag guarantees they will at least have the right to match any other offer he may receive.

"I have a family and I have kids and a wife that wants to know where she's going to live next year and that's all part of it too," Greenway said of his contract uncertainty after the season. "For me, of course you're anxious because you want to know what's going to happen, but at the same time it's so early, postseason right now, that you're just trying to gather your thoughts and let it all sink in that the season's over. The anxiety I'm sure will heighten as things go here, but what can you do? You can't do too much about it. Just going to stay patient."

While the Vikings have exercised their franchise tag on Greenway, there remains optimism that they may still be able to reach a long-term contract with Sidney Rice, who was speculated by some as potentially being the target of the franchise designation.

The Vikings could still use the transition tag on another player before Thursday, but Pro Football Talk reported it can't be used on Sidney Rice because the rules of the CBA in an uncapped year say the transition tag has to be applied to a player with at least six years of experience. The most likely candidate would have been Rice, and Ray Edwards would have been a longshot for that designation, which pays a player the average of the top 10 salaried players at their position in 2010, but neither of them have six years of NFL experience.

Of course, a new CBA could change all the rules of free agency, and the right to use franchise and transition tags could be challenged by the NFL Players Association.

For now, putting the franchise tag on Greenway should keep him in Minnesota while the Vikings' other starting outside linebacker, Ben Leber, is also scheduled to be a free agent.

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