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HT: Debating the franchise tag

It's easy to see why players don't like it, but it's also understandable why teams should be able to have it. Good idea or no?

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Happy April Fool's Day, Broncos Country!

It's a good day for fools, so it seems only appropriate to start with some info from Bleacher Report's Jason Cole, who said yesterday that both Von Miller and Josh Norman are upset with their franchise tag and believe the NFL should do away with the practice.

Whether Cole has any actual information from the players (and that's highly questionable) is not necessarily relevant as it's all speculation at this point whether Miller and other free agents will end up worse off due to the franchise tag or whether they'll sign huge long-term contracts with their current teams and do just as well as they might have on the open market.

But it is actually relevant to debate the fairness of the franchise tag that Cole alludes to in his "insider buzz." I don't have my mind made up on this yet because I can see the benefits - and the detriments - to both the players and the organizations. So I want to hear from you because I know you all have some good things to offer this debate.

First let's get just a few basics on just what this franchise tag does.

For the team:

The franchise tag - put into place officially in 1993 - provides teams the ability to keep their best players while working within the cap. It allows teams to put a hold on one unrestricted free agent that they don't want to lose to the open market and gives them time to get a long-term contract in place that is probably less than market value may dictate but still generally a lucrative and fair contract to the star player.

For the player:

While the franchise tag is somewhat flattering in its theory (because it is essentially marking the player as irreplaceable), it is also preventing the player from testing his value on the open market. In Miller's case, of course, this value is very high, and he knows it. Reports have indicated he wants a contract worth $22 million/year with the Broncos.

For the franchise player who doesn't end up signing a long-term contract, the salary becomes the average of the top five paid athletes at their position. The average for outside linebackers like Miller, the franchise tag pay will be just north of $14 million a year. On the upside, this is a decent amount of guaranteed money. On the downside, it's a lot less than his market value would pay him.

The debate:

So without the franchise tag, teams like the Broncos could easily lose players like Von Miller this season and Demaryius Thomas last season if other teams with more money and cap space are allowed to drive the price up before a team has the opportunity to work out the long-term deal first.

But without the tag players like Miller wouldn't risk playing for much less than their previous play has earned them while also risking the chance not getting that money on the open market the following year (in the case of an injury).

I'll be honest, because of my tendency toward "team" in this great sport, I'm more inclined to side with the organization in this and its leverage ability to keep a strong unit together. But I also completely understand players feeling "imprisoned" by the tag when they have earned the right to make a boatload of money because they have helped raise the level of play on their team and in the league.

But life isn't "fair" and just because Giants' defensive end Olivier Vernon got what many consider bloated market money or that Malik Jackson could end up being paid more than Miller this year if No. 58 doesn't sign a long-term contract, doesn't mean that salaries across the NFL should all be "fair."

So let the debate begin - yay or nay on the franchise tag? And better yet, if you don't like the current system, what alternative can you suggest?

Horse Tracks

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