Franchise Me

A Franchise Player is by Definition:

1. A designation given to a player by his team to keep him from leaving via free agency.

2. A term used to refer to a superstar player who is invaluable to his team.

Wiki describes it like this:

A Franchise Player is a term used to describe an athlete who is not simply the best player on their team, but a player that the team can build a franchise around. An inordinately bad team will undoubtedly employ a player with superior skills, relative to his team. However, such a player could be so bad in comparison to other players throughout the league, that labeling such a player as a franchise player would be inappropriate. It is an elite status, but it is not necessarily a singular position; a football team might have a few franchise players at different positions. It also can be
used alongside a particular position name to describe a player, such as a "franchise quarterback".

The origin of the term is unknown. It has often been used since it was instituted in 1993, making it less likely for players to stay with one team their whole career. A franchise player has the comfort of knowing that he will probably not be traded or released. Ideally, the franchise player will generate both wins and revenue for his team, and after a successful career, will be long remembered as a member of that team.

Franchise players may have some or all of the following specific characteristics:

* They are signed to lucrative, multi-year contracts.

* They may have "no-trade" or equivalent clauses written into their contracts, giving the player the power to veto any trade in which he is involved.

* They may be promoted as the "face of the franchise" on a local and national basis. This can include the signing of endorsement deals, media appearances and working with charities.

The term also has a separate contractual definition. A team can designate a single player as its franchise player and therefore restrict the player from entering free agency. In return, the team must pay the player a premium salary. The NFL requires that a franchise player be paid at least the average of the top 5 players in the league at his position, or 120% of his previous year's salary, whichever is greater in return for retaining rights to that player for one year. A team may only designate one player each year with the franchise tag, and they may designate the same player for a maximum of 3 consecutive years. The franchise player status lasts for only 1 year and can be renewed, but if not renewed the player is granted UFA status.

Transition and Franchise Tags

Each team has one "tag" they can use to lock up a player. They may choose for their tag to be the transition tag, the franchise tag, or the exclusive rights franchise tag. If their one tag is not being used on another player, then the team may choose to designate one of their players as their Transition Free Agent. This name is left over from 1993, when free agency was started and teams were very afraid of losing their top players. Most times, the transition and franchise tag is used by a team to buy time while a long-team contract is being negotiated. If the player is designated a transition or franchise player and signed immediately to a long term contract, then he retains the tag for the duration of the contract and the team may not use the transition or franchise tag on another player until the contract is done. So what teams invariably do is negotiate a long term contract. When the new contract is agreed, then the player signs his transition or franchise contract, locking up the tag for a year. Then the player signs the long team contract the next day, which voids the one year contract and frees up the transition / franchise tag for use on another player.

In the event a player retires, suffers a career-ending injury or is otherwise unavailable due to non-football circumstances, a club has the right to designate another franchise or transition player for the remaining years covered by the club's prior designation.

Transitional Free Agents

A transition player designation gives the club a first refusal right to match an offer sheet given to the player by another club. To designate a transition player, the club must offer a minimum of the average of the top 10 salaries of the previous year at the player's position, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater. If the player does not get an offer, then he must play for the transition offer. If the player gets an offer, then his previous team has 7 days to match the offer or lose the player. If they do not match the offer, the previous team gets no compensation.

Franchise Free Agents

A franchise player is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at his position in the previous season, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater. This type of franchise player may negotiate with other clubs. His original club has seven days to match the offer and retain the player, or receive two first-round draft choices as compensation if the original club elects not to match. Should the player agree in principle to a contract with another team, his present team is allowed to match that contract and keep him. If his present team does not match the contract, the player becomes a member of the other team and the other team must give up two 1st round draft picks as compensation to the player's now former team.

Exclusive Franchise Free Agents

The second type of franchise player is offered a minimum of the average of the top five salaries at his position computed on April 15th at the end of restricted free agency, or a 20 percent salary increase, whichever is greater. This type of franchise player may negotiate with other clubs. Other clubs cannot negotiate with exclusive franchise players. The exclusive tag is a way for the owners to get around free agency. The exclusive tag does not allow the player to negotiate with other teams and the non-exclusive tag states the team will be compensated if the player signs with another team. The signing period for non-exclusive franchise players to sign with new clubs is March 3 through November 9 (10th week of the season).2008

This has caused some tension between some Franchise tagged players and their teams due to the fact that it prevents the player from pursuing large signing bonuses that are common in UFA, and also prevents a player from leaving the team, especially when the reasons for leaving are not necessarily financial. Many teams do not utilize the franchise tag. For example; in 2008, only 12 of the 32 NFL teams tagged a franchise player. This tag, or the threat of it, can be used as a negotiating ploy by the team to convince a player to sign a long-term deal with the them. The player's alternative is to take a single highly-paid year and then test the FA market. The player's next contract as a FA will depend on how the player performs in that single year, and some may decide to take the more certain long-term deal up front.

February 19th was the last day that teams can slap the franchise tag collar around one of its free agents, thus keeping that player from running off and putting on a different uniform. Under NFL rules, franchise players who did not reach an extension as of July 15 can play only under a one-year deal in 2009. If the two sides don't come to an accord, they cannot discuss a new contract until the end of next season, when the team has the option to place the franchise tag on them again.

There is precedent to slapping the franchise tag on a player and then dealing him. Kansas City traded DE Jared Allen to the Minnesota Vikings last year for a 1st-round pick and two 3rd-round choices. But Allen and the Vikings first agreed to a 6 year contract that included $31 million in guaranteed money and could be worth $74 million if he meets certain incentives.

In the event a player retires, suffers a career-ending injury or is otherwise unavailable due to non-football circumstances, a team may designate another franchise or transition player.They can also withdraw a franchise or transition designation at any time. The player then becomes an UFA when that happens, and the team can use one of the designations on another player at the appropriate time. In 1996,Oakland designated LT Gerald Perry as a transition player, then abruptly withdrew the tag and released Perry after trading for Pat Harlow.

Each club is permitted one franchise designation in any year of the CBA.2 If a franchise player signs a multi-year contract with his current club between Feb. 22 and July 15, the club retains its franchise player designation for the following league year. After July 15, any contract signed by a franchise player can only be for one year.

This year, 14 teams decided to tag a player.

2009 franchise-tagged players

* Arizona Cardinals - Karlos Dansby OLB (Non-exclusive)
* Atlanta Falcons - Michael Koenen P (Non-exclusive)
* Baltimore Ravens - Terrell Suggs OLB (Exclusive)
* Carolina Panthers - Julius Peppers DE (Non-exclusive)
* Cincinnati Bengals - Shayne Graham K (Non-exclusive)
* Houston Texans - Dunta Robinson CB (Non-exclusive)
* New York Giants - Brandon Jacobs RB (Non-exclusive)
* San Diego Chargers - Darren Sproles RB (Non exclusive)
* Seattle Seahawks - Leroy Hill LB (Non-exclusive) (rescinded 4/27/09)
* St. Louis Rams - Oshiomogho Atogwe FS (Non-exclusive)
* Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Antonio Bryant WR (Non-exclusive)
* Tennessee Titans - Bo Scaife TE (Non-exclusive)

Here is the 2009 non-exclusive franchise player costs by position, according to Wiki:

Position Cost

Quarterback $14,651,000
Offensive Linemen $8,451,000
Wide Receiver $9,884,000
RBs and FBs $6,621,000
Tight end $4,462,000
Defensive End $8,991,000
Defensive Tackle $6,058,000
Linebacker $8,304,000
Cornerback $9,957,000
Safety $6,342,000
Kicker or Punter $2,483,000

The Arizona Cardinals tagged LB Karlos Dansby for the 2nd straight year. His one-year tender will be around $9.7 million, a slight raise in salary from the $8 mil in 2008. Even though the deadline has passed, Dansby remains hopeful of signing long term with the Cardinals down the road.

The Baltimore Ravens and LB Terrell Suggs agreed to a 6 year, $63 million contract recently that made him the highest-paid LB in NFL history. The contract nets him $38 million in guaranteed money, and provides long-term security to Suggs' unsettled status as the team's franchise player. He has been the their franchise player for the past 2 seasons. Had Terrell not signed, he would have played the season for $10.17 million and become a FA after the season.

The Chiefs just signed QB Matt Cassel to a multiyear deal. The Patriots had made Cassel their franchise player, before trading him, meaning he would have been paid about $15 million this season. The Chiefs didn’t release contract terms, but the deal reportedly will keep Cassel in Kansas City through the 2014 season and is worth up to $63 million, including $28 million guaranteed.

The Atlanta Falcons Franchise player for 2009 is punter Michael Koenen. His tender was signed on February 13th, for $2.483 million.

The Carolina Panthers tagged DE Julius Peppers despite his wishes to leave Carolina. The Panthers couldn't bear to see their star lineman leave without compensation, so they placed the tag on him with the intention of trading him. Peppers complicated matters by saying that there were only 4 teams he would consider going to in a trade. The deadline passed without an agreement, so he will now play next season under a deal worth at least $16.7 million.

Cincinnati Bengals kicker Shayne Graham received their franchise tag. However, by using their franchise tag on him, they lost WR TJ Houshmandzadeh to the Seahawks in free agency. In addition to the loss of Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals may lose RB Cedric Benson as he becomes a FA as well. Graham will play this season under for $2.483 million. The two sides can then begin negotiating again after the regular season if they choose.

The Houston Texans franchised CB Dunta Robinson. Robinson has missed a lot of games over the last couple of years, but when he played, he was one of the best CB's in the league. Robinson was not happy about being tagged. As of July 16th, Robinson remained unsigned and won't be able to negotiate a long-term deal with the Texans until the 2009 season ends. If he signs his franchise tag, Robinson will get $9.957 million on the one-year tender. The last time Robinson spoke, he said he will lose $585,705 a game. After the season, the Texans will have 3 options. They can sign him to a long-term contract, franchise him again or allow him to become an UFA and lose him without any compensation.

New York Giants RB Brandon Jacobs received a tag as well. Jacobs is a bruiser and having him around will keep the Giants running attack effective. His Franchise tender would have cost the team $6.621 million this year, but they were able to agree to a 4 year $25 Million contract, a week after placing the tag on him.

The Pittsburgh Steelers pulled a surprise move by tagging OT Max Starks. Starks is nowhere near the best tackle in the league, but the Steelers have 3 of their 5 starting linemen as well as important backups that will be entering into free agency, so by tagging Starks, they maintain a little continuity. He signed his tender with the Steelers following their Super Bowl victory, then in June, he signed a four-year, $26.3 million contract. The deal includes $10 million in guarantees.

On February 18, 2009, the Chargers placed their Franchise tag on RB Darren Sproles. He signed the tender on April 28th, which is worth $6.621 million. The Chargers evidently are showing concerns about LaDainian Tomlinson's health this season. They don't want to be left short handed, so they decided not to let Darren go. Expect Sproles to see an increase in his playing time because this makes him too expensive to be a KR and 3rd down specialist only. Sproles made $1.1 million in base pay last year.

The Seattle Seahawks tagged LB Leroy Hill as their franchise player despite his recent legal woes. They wanted to sign him to a long term contract, and so they franchised him to keep him around. Then the Seahawks removed the franchise tag on April 26th, making him a FA, because they drafted Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry at #4 in the 2009 Draft. However, a few days later, Hill was re-signed, to a 6 year $38 million deal.

The St. Louis Rams kept safety Oshiomogho Atogwe around by tagging him. They believe he is too good to let go, and they want him around as they rebuild their team. His Franchise salary will cost the Rams $6.342 million this year and he is worth it. Just before the deadline, it was reported that the two sides have agreed to a 1 year contract. The terms were not disclosed. Atogwe led the NFL with 8 INTs in 2007. Last season, he started all 16 games at FS for the 3rd straight season and had a career-high 109 tackles. He also led St. Louis with 5 INT's, 8 forced fumbles and 3 recoveries.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave WR Antonio Bryant their franchise tag on February 18th. Bryant wanted to see what he was worth on the open market after a big season, but the Buccaneers wanted to keep him around. Bryant also has concerns about who will be the starting QB next year. Jeff Garcia bolted to the Raiders, but the Buc's did re-sign Luke McCown. He was worried that without a good QB throwing to him, his numbers may decline, thus reducing his value in the FA market. He signed his tender, so he'll play for $9.884 million in 2009.

The Tennessee Titans signed kicker Rob Bironas to a 4 year deal only hours before tagging TE Bo Scaife as their franchise player. Scaife was a huge part of their passing game, really coming into his own this season, and Tennessee decided that they didn't want to lose one of the best up and coming TE in the league. At a figure of $4.462 million, he was a bargain for what he provides the team.

The Broncos do not have a Franchise or Transition player this year, and rarely have hold-outs. That is likely to continue because of the type of player McX will draft or enlist through the free agent market. But because of the dreaded condition called human nature, there remains the possibility that Brandon Marshall could become a Franchise player next year. He does meet the criteria.

Thank you for following along and letting me share the results of my curiosity with you. I apologize for the tardiness on this subject, but in my defense, my curiosity peaked a touch late and for the sake of this site,and out of respect to its members, I strive to be thorough.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR.