Friday's game of tag heats up

It's shaping up to be a very franchise Friday, as several NFL players received the franchise tag from their teams well in front of Monday's deadline.

Earlier this week, we talked about the franchise tag – more specifically, the lack of use of the franchise tag in the first week in which is could be applied to players.

The hope, so it was thought, was that the teams that were considering using the franchise tag, would work out long-term deals with the players most likely to get tagged. While a couple of deals were made, until Thursday, the tags had yet to be used – even though Monday is the deadline for using the franchise tag and the league office is closed over the weekend.

Of Friday noon that was changing…in a big way. By the time the close of business comes Monday, more than 20 players may get franchised, which would shatter the record of 14 set in 2009 and 2011.

The rationale is really pretty simple. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, the franchise tag numbers are lower this year than they were prior to the lockout and owners are expected to use this loophole to their own advantage.

At running back, for example, the tag number should drop $2 million in 2012, from more than $9 million to a little more than $7 million. As a result, players like Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch are all likely to get tagged before the deadline. The Ravens already applied the tag to Ray Rice.

The Eagles got things started on Thursday by placing the franchise tag on WR DeSean Jackson. Earlier today, the Raiders applied the tag to safety Tyvon Branch, a good player but not one that would seem to be destined to be a franchise-type player. The 49ers followed the Bay Area lead and placed the franchise tag on safety Dashon Goldson.

The Atlanta Falcons also got in the game by putting the tag on CB Brent Grimes. The fact that a young, aggressive cover corner like Grimes would get franchised isn't outrageous, but it is epic. This is the 20th year of the franchise tag, which came into existence in 1993. Every team has used the tag at least once, except Atlanta … until now.

The list of franchised players is likely to balloon later today and Monday, as players like Drew Brees, Dwayne Bowe and either Arian Foster or Mario Williams are likely to get the franchise tag placed on them.

Historically, putting the franchise designation on players, while sounding good in terms of the importance a player has to a team, has been fraught with portent. It has typically created a wedge between owners and players and has often led to player holdouts that have changed the chemistry of a team. Expect nothing to change in that regard this time around.

After a snail's pace to applying the franchise tag, the first kernels of popcorn have started going off. Expect the flurry to continue today, over the weekend and up until Monday's deadline as more and more teams start using their franchise tag rights. When all is said and done, the record of 14 teams opting to use the franchise tag might get blown out of the water.

2012 FRANCHISE PLAYERS

Eagles WR DeSean Jackson

Raiders S Tyvon Branch

Falcons CB Brent Grimes

Ravens RB Ray Rice

Redskins TE Fred Davis

Cardinals DE Calais Campbell


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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