NFL teams are using their franchise and transition tag less and less as the number of players tagged in 2012 accumulated to a total 20, but dwindled down to just eight in 2012, and now even less with only six teams using it this year. Surprisingly safety Jairus Byrd from Buffalo, left tackle Eugene Monroe out of Baltimore, and Raiders defensive end Lamar Houston were not tagged and seem on their way to free agency, if their respective teams fail to work out a deal by March 8th.
Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes and Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta were able agree on contracts saving their franchises the trouble of deciding if they were worth being tagged. Drama seems to come along with being franchised tagged instead of receiving the long-term deal players feel they deserve. Let’s take a closer look at the six players that received a tag and see how the situation is going and if it was a smart move by the respective franchises.
Carolina Panthers, Greg Hardy, Defensive End
After all the talk of being cash strapped GM David Gettleman decided that keeping the Panthers menacing defensive line together was worth the 13.1 million dollars he had to fork over to keep Greg Hardy this upcoming season. When you think about it, the main reason Carolina had a top five defense last season was the defensive line, where Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson brought the pass rush so well it helped improve the secondary, while letting linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Beason roam free and do what they do best, which is chase whomever has the ball.
Yes, it is a steep price especially with Carolina already paying Charles Johnson 8.7 million to play the other side, but it is more than worth it after the results it brought in 2013. The best news from this outcome is that Greg Hardy is not mad about missing the opportunity to sign a long-term contract and has already signed his franchise tag, so there will be no hold out game this summer and the team now has another year to work out a new deal with “The Kraken”.
New York Jets, Nick Folk, Kicker
Nick Folk was one of the Jets most reliable offensive weapons last season connecting on 91.7 of his field goals with three being game winners. Folks only made $780,000 in 2013, so with an increase to 3.5 million he should have a smile on his face and not worry about a long-term deal, as he’s signed one-year deals for the past four seasons with New York.
With New York being a team that relies on their defense because of their lack of fire power on offense, it is a smart move keeping their trusted kicker on board while the offense tries to find weapons and improve after being ranked 25th in total offense last season.
New Orleans Saints, Jimmy Graham, Tight End
It seems like this situation might get ugly before it gets better as the Saints sit with around four million dollars in cap space and need to rework a couple contracts or release more players before they can talk business with Graham. Tagging Graham was the best decision the Saints could make at this time, because even though teams can talk to Graham if they choose to sign him, it will come at the steep price of two first round draft picks, which makes it highly unlikely he’s going anywhere, even though he is arguably the best tight end in the league.
The biggest issue of course is money, as Graham feels he deserves the wide receiver price, which is about five million dollars more than the tight end price. Graham might not like the tight end franchise tag of seven million dollars but he needs to have patience and understand that it is going to take some time for New Orleans to fix their cap situation and they will eventually give him the most lucrative deal for a tight end if he just says persistent.
Washington Redskins, Brian Orakpo, Outside Linebacker
Brian Orakpo is one of the few players on Washington’s defense that brings reliable production as he tallied 60 tackles and 10 sacks last season, while being selected to his third Pro Bowl; so it’s not a surprise that Washington did not let him go free this off-season. Now reports are stating that Washington and Orakpo are very far apart in negations, which is why they used the franchise tag of $11.4 million, and with Orakpo stating he has no plans to accept the current offer, this might be a drawn out process.
The good news for Washington is they have plenty of cap space to work out a new deal. Although they have so many holes on defense that it is going to a lot of money to fix it, a new deal might not happen until next year whether Orakpo likes it or not. However, if Orakpo finds a team willing to pay him a lucrative deal, the ball will go back into Washington’s court and they must decide if he is worth the price.
Cleveland Browns, Alex Mack, Center
Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Joe Thomas, and Alex Mack are the only reliable players on Cleveland’s offense and it was a smart decision not to let Alex Mack just coast to free agency and hit him with the transition tag. Now, if another team decides to offer Mack a deal, the Browns have over $40 million in cap space, so they have more than enough to counter it. If the Browns fail to counter, Mack will walk away and the team will receive nothing as they used the transition tag instead of the franchise tag. With the Browns most likely drafting a young quarterback in May, they would be wise to try and work out a long-term deal with Mack who is one of the premier centers in the league, as the key to establishing success with a young gunslinger is giving him protection.
Pittsburgh Steelers, Jason Worilds, Outside Linebacker
Last season the Steelers needed Jason Worilds to step his game up and he delivered with 63 tackles and eight sacks – both career highs, so it’s only fitting that the Steelers made sure the 26 year old didn’t go anywhere and paid him the transition price of $9.7 million. Worilds shouldn’t be disappointed on missing the opportunity for a long-term deal as he has already signed the dotted line and made it official that he’s staying in Pittsburgh.
Now many critics are calling Worilds a fool for signing so fast; however, it seems destined that Pittsburgh will be releasing LaMarr Woodley, therefore a long-term contract might be already promised to Worilds in the near future. No matter what, Worilds is getting paid a lot more than his 2013 salary of $630,000 and the Steelers make out like bandits and keep their young pass rusher, thus everybody is happy.