Today is the first day that NFL teams can franchise players for the upcoming season. Teams are able to franchise eligible players through March 3 under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. There has been a change in how the Franchise tag now works. Previously, the franchise number was determined by taking an average of the top five salaries of the position of the player from the previous season. Under the new CBA, the franchise numbers look to be less player-friendly, which may mean more use of the Franchise Tag.
The new formula uses a more complicated system and instead uses an average of the franchise tag numbers at that position over the last five seasons as a percentage of the overall cap. Therefore, the cap itself will make a big difference in how the Franchise number moves.
Per NFL.com, here are the cap differences from 2010 to this year:
Quarterback: $14.4 million (down from $16.1 million in 2011, $16.4 million in 2010)
Running back: $7.7 million (down from $9.6 million in 2011, $8.2 million in 2010)
Wide receiver: $9.4 million (down from 11.4 million in 2011, $9.5 million in 2010)
Tight end: $5.4 million (down from $7.3 million in 2011, $5.9 million in 2010)
Offensive line: $9.4 million (down from $10.1 million in 2011, $10.7 million in 2010)
Defensive end: $10.6 million (down from $13 million in 2011, $12.4 million in 2010)
Defensive tackle: $7.9 million (down from $12.5 million in 2011; it was $7 million in 2010)
Linebacker: $8.8 million (down from $10.1 million in 2011, $9.7 million in 2010)
Cornerback: $10.6 million (down from $13.5 million in 2011; tag was $9.6 million in 2010)
Safety: $6.2 million (down from $8.8 million in 2011, $6.5 million in 2010)
The Raiders have two players who are commonly mentioned as a possibility of being franchised – backup RB Michael Bush and S Tyvon Branch. According to the numbers above, Bush would be owed $7.7 million and Branch would be owed $6.2 million.
I have a hard time believing the Raiders would spend $7.7 on a backup RB, even one as productive as Bush can be. Bush isn’t a home-run hitting RB, although he is very consistent, and RB is a very fungible position with a lot of turnover. It’s the easiest position in the NFL to find an unknown player who can make a big impact as many teams show each year. I expect the Raiders to attempt to re-sign Tyvon Branch, but they may use the Franchise Tag as a last resort if it looks like they would lose him. Branch has steadily improved and is going to be needed in next year's secondary.
Bottom line, I don’t believe that the Raiders will use the Franchise Tag this year. I would bet that they will be able to come to a longer term agreement with Branch, assuming that McKenzie and Allen like him, and that they are not interested in paying the money necessary to retain Bush.
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