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11 Sep 2011

Under the Cap: 2011 Franchise Tags

by Brian McIntyre

Back in February, a few weeks before the lockout, 14 teams used the franchise tag on impending free agents they held the rights to. Those tags were used to restrict the movement of, or in the cases of the Indianapolis Colts with quarterback Peyton Manning and the Oakland Raiders with linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, retain exclusive negotiating rights with, one of their impending free agents.

Seven months later, and six weeks after the end of the lockout, 10 of those 14 players have been signed to long-term extensions. That leaves four NFL teams -– the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers -– with less than two weeks to sign their franchised players. Haloti Ngata, Phil Dawson, Paul Soliai, and Vincent Jackson have a September 20 deadline to reach multi-year extensions with their respective clubs. If an extension is not reached, the player will play out the season under his fully guaranteed franchise tag, and will either become an unrestricted free agent in 2012 or have the tag placed on him again at a cost of at least 120 percent the 2011 tender amount.

Cap Space Created

Excluding Peyton Manning's "exclusive" tag (which prohibited him from negotiating with other teams) and Phil Dawson's tag (he's a kicker), the average cost of using the franchise tag in 2011 was nearly $10.968 million in fully guaranteed base salary. If an extension is not worked out, that one player is eating up nearly 10 percent of a team's salary cap. Thus far, the 10 extensions have cleared an average of $5.652 million in cap space, with the Wimbley extension clearing nearly $10 million of room off the Raiders' cap all by itself.

The Cap Effects of Extensions
Name Pos TM Franchise Tag 2011 Cap Cap Savings
Wimbley, Kamerion OLB OAK $11.312M $1.6M $9.712M
Manning, Peyton QB IND $23.12M $16M $7.12M
Woodley, LaMarr OLB PIT $10.091M $3.7M $6.391M
Hali, Tamba OLB KC $10.091M $4M $6.091M
Harris, David ILB NYJ $10.091M $4M $6.091M
Kalil, Ryan C CAR $10.116M $4.6M $5.516M
Vick, Michael QB PHI $16.057M $11.4M $4.657M
Mankins, Logan G NE $10.116M $5.5M $4.616M
Lewis, Marcedes TE JAC $7.285M $3.85M $3.435M
Greenway, Chad OLB MIN $10.091M $7.2M $2.891M

The Browns don't have to worry about the effect Dawson's $3.125 million tender has on their cap -– they have plenty of cap room even after the Joe Thomas extension -– but the Chargers may want to reduce Jackson's $11.424 million salary and cap hit. The Dolphins and Ravens, who have extensions with Jake Long and Joe Flacco looming in 2012, may want to lower the $12.476 million cap numbers of franchised nose tackles Soliai and Ngata.

Year-One Cash

Of course, the flipside of saving cap room with an extension on a franchise player is that the club is likely going to spend a lot more cash on that player in the first year of the contract. There are some eye-popping figures when this happens, but teams can also elect to defer some of the money to keep things a bit more manageable in the present. Here's what every player who has signed an extension thusfar will earn in the first year of his contract:

First Year Payouts on New Extensions
Name Pos TM Franchise Tag 2011 Cash
Manning, Peyton QB IND $23.12M $54.4M*
Mankins, Logan G NE $10.116M $21.5M*
Vick, Michael QB PHI $16.057M $20M
Kalil, Ryan C CAR $10.116M $19M*
Woodley, LaMarr OLB PIT $10.091M $18.1M*
Hali, Tamba OLB KC $10.091M $16M*
Greenway, Chad OLB MIN $10.091M $14M
Harris, David ILB NYJ $10.091M $10M
Lewis, Marcedes TE JAC $7.285M $8.65M
Wimbley, Kamerion OLB OAK $11.312M $5M
*-indicates a portion of the 2011 cash is deferred

The Raiders not only saved an abundance of cap room in 2011 with Wimbley's extension, they also saved over $6.3 million in cash this season. That isn't to say that the Wimbley deal is bad for him -– far from it. In addition to the $5 million fully guaranteed Wimbley will earn in 2011, $6.5 million of his $11 million base salary in 2012 is currently fully guaranteed. As long as Wimbley is on the Raiders' roster on the fifth day of the 2012 league year, the remaining $4.5 million in 2012, his $11 million base salary in 2013 and $2 million of his $10 million base salary in 2014 will become fully guaranteed.

Regarding the deferred payments, $38 million of Manning's first-year cash is deferred within the term of the contract. $10 million of his $20 million signing bonus is not due until next March, and his $28 million option bonus is split between March 2013 and March 2014. The deferred portion of Manning's contract is greater than any guarantee the other franchise players have received in their extensions.

Guaranteed

When you're willing to guarantee eight figures to a player for 16 weeks, signing him to an extension isn't going to come cheap. The total value of the ten extensions signed thus far is $568 million, $450 million of which is "new money" with nearly $200 million in "new" guaranteed money.

Each franchised player has at least doubled his 2011 franchise tag in terms of full or partially guaranteed money in his extension asides from Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, who fell just $2.3 million short of that mark. Two players –- LaMarr Woodley, Tamba Hali -– tripled their tender in guaranteed money, with Logan Mankins coming close to that feat as well.

Guaranteed Money on New Extensions
Name Pos TM Franchise Tag Gty
Manning, Peyton QB IND $23.12M $54.4M
Woodley, LaMarr OLB PIT $10.091M $36M
Vick, Michael QB PHI $16.057M $35.5M
Hali, Tamba OLB KC $10.091M $35M
Mankins, Logan G NE $10.116M $30M
Harris, David ILB NYJ $10.091M $29.4M
Wimbley, Kamerion OLB OAK $11.312M $29M
Kalil, Ryan C CAR $10.116M $28M
Greenway, Chad OLB MIN $10.091M $19.9M
Lewis, Marcedes TE JAC $7.285M $17M

What can Ngata, Soliai and Jackson expect to receive in an extension? Using the franchise tag again on Jackson would cost at least $13.7 million, while Ngata and Soliai's tenders would cost a shade under $15 million. It's reasonable for the agents for each player to request at least $25 million in guarantees, with Ngata, a two-time Pro Bowler, possessing the resume to seek a guarantee that would nestle somewhere in between Manning and Woodley. However, the price would likely be much closer to the linebacker number.

Posted by: Brian McIntyre on 11 Sep 2011

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