Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Feb 2006

Jets May Franchise Abraham Again

It took me most of the morning, but I was able to find an article that was about something other than the Super Bowl officiating. Anyway, it looks like the Jets might once again slap the franchise tag on DE John Abraham, and then ship him off to San Diego for QB Philip Rivers. Given that new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was Rivers' QB coach in San Diego, and that Pennington's health is still a question, this certainly seems plausible. And if it actually happens, it'll bring us one step closer to Brian Ball!

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 07 Feb 2006

56 comments, Last at 08 Feb 2006, 5:33pm by Will Allen


by Setzer (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 1:56pm

I fail to see how Rivers is superior to even a banged-up Pennington.

But, if it were to happen, imagine the commercials Eli and Rivers could do together in New York!

by Bob (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 1:59pm

I thought there was a rule that said you can't franchise a player back-to-back years?

by Bill Moore (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:07pm

No such rule. However, how his salary gets determined is different. He just makes even more money which is an attempt to make it modestly prohibitive to franchise back-to-back.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:11pm

Bob (#2 )--

It's not a rule, it just becomes increasingly expensive to do so.

The franchise tag costs the higher of: the mean of the top five salaries in that position, or 10% above the previous year's salary.

by Bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:21pm

How in the world could the Jets afford this, especially if the CBA doesn't get done? I assume that Law's already gone, but would they cut Pennington? Remember, if the CBA doesn't get fixed, than they can't push more money forwards by restructuring...

by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:22pm

Re 4

Is it 10% over the previous year, or 20%? I think I remember seeing 20% regarding Edgerrin James, but his case may have been different somehow. I can't remember.

by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:40pm

It's 20 percent. Abraham should be very careful about saying he'll skip camp if he gets the franchise tag. That's just asking the Jets to dump him right before the season, and I don't think he'd get a guaranteed $8 million for a year if he hit the open market.

But I also think Abraham is worth a lot more than Rivers and I'd be surprised if that trade happens. (Although I don't know the details of Rivers' contract or the cap ramifications of a trade involving him.)

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:43pm

The franchise tag is the one provision of the current regime which I believe is so egregiously punitive to the players that I really hope it is done away with. For a team to be able to force a player to shoulder nearly 100% of the injury risk, by making him forgo a large guranteed bonus, in return for a year to year, albeit large, salary, really harms the financial interests of the player, especially at a postion like running back, where there are so many severe, career-shortening injuries.

If the players aren't able to get rid of the franchise tag, and if I was Upshaw, this goal may even be more important to me that squeezing an extra 1% out of shared revenues, I certainly hope that the 2nd consecutive franchise designation mandates at least a 50% increase in salary.

by OMO (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:51pm

The Franchise tag is "egregiously punitive"?

Edge got $8M this year and if he went through the season healthy...he's going to get paid.

How is that "egregiously punitive"?

by Ryan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:52pm

Re: #5

I'm assuming that Rivers has a moderately low salary this season. My guess is that most of his money is probably tied up in an already paid signing bonus (the cap penalty would belong to the Chargers next season, if traded), and inflated salary numbers near the end of the contract. Those last few years could be cut (or restructured) without penalty to the Jets. If the Jets send Law, Abraham, Curtis Martin and Pennington packing, they should have ample cap room to make a move for Rivers.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 2:59pm

Edge got $8M this year and if he went through the season healthy…he’s going to get paid.

Actually, he's going to get paid no matter what. Veterans salaries are guaranteed.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:00pm

The horror...the horror. Thankfully, I think the bit about Philip Rivers is pure speculation, and really, the trade doesn't make sense for either party. San Diego can't trade Rivers thanks to the injury to Brees. And while the Jets do indeed need to bring in another quarterback, there are other guys who are better prospects than Rivers who could be gotten more cheaply. Matt Schaub is in the last year of his deal and could be had for a second rounder, or possible a three and a five, and he's straight up a better player than Rivers.

Besides, where is San Diego going to play Abraham? They run a 3-4 and they already have a pass rushing LB in Merriman. This really doesn't make sense for either team, and I think it's just a case of the reporter leaping to conclusions.

by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:07pm

Yeah, I don't understand that either. If you get injured and have some issue that would cause you to miss multiple seasons, you're not going to get paid for those things. If you have to retire, you really aren't going to get paid.

What exactly did you mean by that, #8?

by Bob (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:08pm

Ok I see I was confused on that issue.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:10pm

I'll say this about the possible trade- for the Jets, it does at least make sense from a salary cap situation. They could extend Bryan Thomas and pay him less than half of what Abraham would be receiving, and if they decided that Pennington was not going to recover, they could axe him and his $12 million 2006 salary and pay Rivers what he is getting on his rookie deal. (Of course, in that scenario, I would firmly expect Rivers to hold out and demand a renegotiation of his deal. I would also expect Chad Pennington to be the starting quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007 and to play well...)

by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:13pm

If I'm John Abraham, and they put the franchise tender on me, I'd sign it immediately. Then the Jets can't withdraw it and stiff me. £8M guarenteed is a lot of money to turn down, particularly for a player with a history of injuries.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:18pm

Why would the Jets want a tall Danny Wuerrfel?

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:22pm

1. Could the Jets afford the cap hit on both Pennington and Rivers? Didn't Pennington get a huge deal before last season? They wouldn't be able to trade him because of the cap acceleration of his bonus.

2. Why would the Chargers trade their QB when their only other QB of note may not be ready for Opening Day?

This seems to be lazy conjecture...Team A's Coach/Co-Ordinator is going to Team B, so this player from Team A is likely to follow him to Team B. I think we could come up with a template for this rather easily.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:24pm

Please replace "trade" with "release" is the above posting.

Thank you.

by Luz (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:34pm

#8 Will Allen

the franchise tag relates to less than 1% of the players in the NFL. i can only assume that most players would prefer to have the extra percentage of the shared revenues.

by Jets fan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:35pm

The Jets need to come through on their end of the deal. They told John that if he could remain healthy through a 16 game season (which he did) they would give him the extended contract he desires. And John Abraham stayed healthy and productive during a season when almost every other starter bacame injured. If the Jets don't honor their obligation to give John the deal he wants, then Abraham has every right to feel snubbed by the organization.

Ty Law has not confirmed that he wont be back. Since Mangini came over from New England to coach, Ty has said he would consider taking a pay cut to stay. If the Jets want him to stay is another matter in itself.

I dont see the Jets trading for Rivers, it is more likely they go after someone like Schaub or even Kerry Collins.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:44pm

Let's say a running back clearly demonstrates he is one of the two best in the league by the last year of his rookie contract, and has yet to suffer a severe injury. Is his financial interest best served by being able to market his services to the highest bidder, for the most guaranteed money he can garner, or is his financial interest best served by getting 8 million guaranteed, and taking the chance that his value will be seriously harmed by injury in the oncoming year? Given the risk of injury in any given year in which a top-echelon running back gets, say, more than 300 carries, it seems pretty clear that he is better off by getting the guaranteed bonus pretty early on. James' early severe injury harmed his marketability, so a better example would be Alexander. From the vantage point risk/reward analysis, he would have been better served by being able to sell his services on the open market a couple years ago.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:49pm

The question of whether or not to release Pennington is the single most important one the team has to make this offseason. He's currently slated to make $12 million this year, and so long as his place on the team is not assured, his agent is balking at a renegotiation. If the Jets release him now, they take a huge cap hit this year, but I believe that the rest of his contract is essentially off the books. If they keep him, they will likely want him to cut his salary in half, or more if it proves that he won't be ready to play until 2007-8. Either way, the Jets will be looking to add a starting caliber player for as little salary as possible, which could mean Kerry Collins, or it could mean a Schaub or a Rivers who is still playing on their rookie deal. Or, the team may decide to bite the bullet, accelerate a bunch of cap hits for this year, and draft a quarterback early on- Vince Young or Jay Cutler, but possibly even Leinart if he happens to slip to four-and try to reload for 07-08. A lot will depend on how Pennington's rehab is progressing, and right now there is no information about it at all.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 3:57pm

Btw, for all the Jets fans- WFAN is reporting that Mike Tannenbaum is taking over the general manager position today and that Bradway will be retained in a reduced role.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:03pm

If Pennington doesn't play next season, are the Jets still on the hook for the entirety of his cap hit? How does IR or PUP affect it?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:10pm

Given that Pennington never had a rocket to begin with, what are the odds that he will be able to throw with NFL- caliber velocity after this rehab process? Anybody who isn't privy to the medical records, or course, is just speculating, and even those who are privy to the records are working in the dark to a substantial degree. Looking at baseball pitchers, however, there isn't a lot of reason for optimism, given that an NFL quarterback doesn't have the option of becoming a junkball specialist, who gets by via extreme variation in ball speeds from throw to throw.

As to my earlier post above, two better examples in the franchise designation era may be Terrell Davis and Jamal Anderson, two guys who never saw first round draft pick money, and never saw a chance to get huge signing bonuses.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:19pm

Better examples of running backs harmed by not getting to sell their services on the open market much earlier in their careers are probably Terrell Davis and Jamal Anderson, two guys who never saw first round draft pick money.

by El Angelo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:21pm

Abraham is a waste of time for the Jets. Why aren't the Jets looking at Billy Volek? Assuming Tenn takes either Young or Leinart, there's no need for him there.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:27pm

How is Abraham a waste of time for the Jets, exactly? He's their best defensive player, and if they decide to trade him, they'll get something between a late first round pick or a two and a five for him. That's hardly a waste of time.

As for Volek- a) he's already over 30 and b) there's not much chance that Tennessee is going to trade him. Nor are they going to draft Vince Young, in all liklihood. Tennessee will be taking D'brickshaw Ferguson, which means that Vince Young will be there for the Jets, if they want him.

by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:29pm

But when you get marked by the franchise tag in one season they have to pay you the average of the top 5 player's salaries in that position, and I think they have to pay you top 3 salary in the second year.

I still don't understand the argument, Will Allen. If you get injured significantly to affect your performance, you're not going to be sitting around - you're going to be cut. Or they're renegotiate your contract - which happens all the time.

And do you really think that Alexander hurt his career this season by sticking with Seattle? Honestly? That seems counterintuitive at best; if he had left last season he'd have been competing with one of the best RB classes in recent memory and that he didn't have the best season ever. Now he has the most TDs in a season, the rushing title, and got to showcase his skills in the superbowl. And this somehow makes him less money?

I still don't get the argument. If you're saying that it isn't to the player's benefit for franchise rules, I'd agree - it's not the most beneficial thing ever. But to say that it is 'egregiously punitive'?

by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:33pm

Also, if Vince Young makes it to the Titans I think they're going to take him. Between his talent and the relationship with McNair, I think it's a done deal.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:45pm

His relationship with Steve McNair will have absolutely zero impact on whether or not he gets drafted. Why in the world would it? Tennessee has a huge amount of money invested in McNair, they have a cheap and very viable successor in Billy Volek, and they have major needs on the offensive line. Aside from the warm and fuzzy McNair/Young stories, there isn't a single reason in the world why they would be taking Vince Young.

And if they decide that they do in fact want to address the quarterback position, they're more likely to take Jay Cutler, who plays in the same city and who they have a ton of scouting information on.

by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 4:51pm

Okay, read what you stated again. You're saying it's more likely that they'd draft Cutler because they have a lot of information on him, but McNair's relationship with Young wouldn't matter? That's one reason I think he will get picked by Ten - because they do have a ton of info from McNair about how good or bad Young is.

Saying that Tenn will draft a lineman because they have needs seems wrong. No one's claiming that Houston drafts a lineman, even though Houston clearly needs a lineman more than anything. You draft Young because he's a player you won't get to have otherwise, and he'll be a good player - and because he fits well into Fisher's system.

If Young got drafted by NO, I don't think they'll take Leinart. He's not a good fit. Neither is Cutler. Neither player open it up like Young does, and Tenn loves to spread the field.

by krugerindustrialsmoothing (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 5:00pm

Kal, I think the point is that given the choice a player would rather sign a long term contract with a huge signing bonus than take a high salary in the current year. You are correct that none of the future salary is guaranteed for the player and could easily be lost, however, I beleive that the signing bonus is typically far in excess of franchise tag type money. And the sb is guaranteed.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 5:01pm

What I'm saying is that it is unlikely that they draft a quarterback at all, but if they do, it will be the guy who their coaching staff and personnel department have had an extended opportunity to evaluate rather than the guy who their quarterback happens to say is a really great guy or what have you.

And I'm not advocating that Tennessee passes over a better player, either. When all is said and done, Ferguson is likely going to be the #2 ranked prospect on most teams' draft boards behind only Reggie Bush. Young, in contrast, is going to be all over the board, as some teams aren't going to like his mechanics, his lack of arm strength, or the system that he played in at Texas. For a team with a lot of money already invested in the quarterback position, and one where they have a backup who they have a lot of confidence in-and for a team still extricating itself from salary cap hell-drafting a sure thing left tackle over a high risk quarterback is a sound strategy.

And Tennessee doesn't spread it out as much as they did when Mike Heimerdinger was the OC. Their new coordinator is Norm Chow, who happened to be Leinart's OC at USC, which is to say that they have substantially more information about both Leinart and Cutler than they do about Vince Young.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 5:13pm

kal, would a fourth year running back be better off with a sixteen million dollar bonus guaranteeed, with additional large salaries in every year he wasn't cut, or with year to year deals starting at eight million, and with a 20% increase in each subsequent year he wasn't cut? Given the high rate of injury for the position, option two is punitive.

by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 5:16pm

Oh, I think it's the right thing to do. Honestly, taking a sure thing OLineman is probably the best thing a team can do with their #1 pick. It's the right strategy. It'd be the right strategy for Houston too.

When has the correct thing ever been what people do on draft day?

I had honestly forgotten about Chow. Chow and Leinart does make a fair amount of sense, doesn't it?

by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 5:20pm

When have you seen any RB get that kind of money, Will Allen? I've not seen anyone get that kind of bonus aside from LT, and he's something of a special case.

Bonuses aren't guaranteed. Heck, nothing of salary is guaranteed, and most contracts are weighted far ahead in terms of value so that they can be renegotiated. In a lot of ways the franchise tag will pay more because it forces a team to pay that money right now.

I agree that under your situation, it is punitive. Your situation is extraordinarily unlikely. I've never seen a contract that guarantees money like that. Alexander wasn't going to be getting that kind of money last season, and I doubt he'll get it this season.

by El Angelo (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 6:03pm

#29---I didn't mean he's a waste of time terms of he has no value to the Jets; he's fantastic trade bait. But as a team member? He's not their best defensive player (Vilma is by far, and I'd rather have Robertson than Abraham as well), I'm still not convinced he's worth remotely the money he'll cost, and he's still something of an injury risk. Plus the Jets are gonna stink for the next year or two regardless. I'd ship him out and try something different.

by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 6:34pm

I don't know why the Jets should be terrible next year- assuming some players come back healthy, they could have much the same personnel that was a kick away from the AFC Championship game. If half of the offense ends up on IR, sure, they'll be terrible. (So will Philadelphia, apparently.) The Jets are in far better shape talent-wise than Miami was coming into this year, and now Miami is being looked at as a sleeper Super Bowl pick.

Abraham played the run much better than Shaun Ellis did this year, and he is more or less the only consistent passrushing threat on the team. I'm not saying there aren't arguments to move him because there are, but he absolutely has value to the team if they decide to retain him.

Think of it as Hugh Douglas, part two. Only Abraham is better than Douglas ever was.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 7:25pm

Kal, signing bonuses are most definitely guaranteed, since they're paid upfront. Annual salaries (and other bonuses) are not, they only get paid if the player remains on the roster at whatever point they're due (or meets whatever incentives). If a player gets cut at any point, the remaining salary years go away, but he keeps whatever bonus that was paid.

This is why players try so hard to get as much money as signing bonus as possible. Let's use numbers here, in Abraham's case. (a)If he's franchised, he gets ~$8m this year, with no bonus. (b)On the open market, maybe he can get something around a $12m bonus, plus $3m a year. Let's look at what happens in each case if he gets injured or starts to suck.

Training Camp or before
(a) If he gets hurt before next season, he can be cut and paid nothing. Zero. Zip. OK, maybe they have some severance pay or something, but that $8m is long gone.
(b) He has $12m. Special added bonus, because this would probably be a multi-year deal, he would likely be kept for the year for cap reasons. So he at least gets 12, and might get 15 (or still have a job next year, even).
Huge advantage: free market

1st Year
(a) He gets his 8m for the year, then can be cut. Total: 8m
(b) 15m, plus as before, he may be kept for cap reasons.
Huge advantage: free market

2nd year
(a) If he gets re-franchised, the salary bumps to 9.6m. This is unlikely, but we'll roll with it. Again, if he gets hurt before the season, he gets nothing, and has 8m to show for two years. If he makes it into the year, he has 17.6m total.
(b) He has his original 12, plus two years at 3 each, for a total of 18. Still more than the franchise, plus he got a lot up front, which is a huge benefit (time value of money and all).
Advantage: free market

3rd year
You will probably not see three straight franchises. Not with escalation like that, unless they want to pay over 11m for one player, not able to be spread out for cap purposes. If you did, though, this would be the year where being consecutively franchised finally beats hitting the free market (and that's possibly a small contract for an All-Pro DE, to boot).

So that's why players hate the franchise tag. In a league where players can be cut for any reason, where one turned ankle can drop you from All-Pro to middle of the pack, where any play can be your last, nobody wants to bet their family's future on staying healthy and at the apex of the game through two entire seasons. Give me the money up front, please.

by Michael David Smith :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 7:35pm

One thing to keep in mind is that if a player signs the franchise tender, that one-year contract is guaranteed. So if Abraham signs the franchise tender, the Jets will have to pay him the $8.3 million no matter what.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 8:11pm

Sorry, forgot that part. A FA contract with a big signing bonus still beats the crap out of being franchised, though.

by Ryan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 8:16pm

Most guys that get something in the range of 12 million up front (which most DEs will never see) also make the league minimum salary (or very close to it) over the first two years or so in order to further offset the huge up-front investment. Over the course of two consecutive seasons, it's very likely that a franchise tender would be worth more than a big bonus and a couple seasons of 400-500k.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 8:22pm

Ryan, which players have gotten a 12 million dollar bonus, followed by an annual salary of 400-500k per year?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 8:50pm

One of the reasons top-flight running backs rarely get large bonuses (btw, the guaranteed bonuses of upper echelon cornerbacks are now in the 10-13 million dollar range) is they so rarely get to put their services on the free market before their late 20s, after their typical shelf-life is greatly shortened. For a running back to really get a chance to get anywhere close to maximizing his market value, in terms of guaranteeed money, he needs to become an unrestricted free agent before the age of 27, and perhaps even sooner. It is hard for a top flight player in the NFL to do this, because of the franchise tag. Running backs in particular are thus forced to shoulder the vast majority of the injury risk, although it happens with other positions as well, albeit to a lesser degree.

by Ryan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 9:45pm

Will, you make it sound misleading. Please allow me to clarify. I'm not saying that the players that get large bonuses up front only make 400-500k per year for the entire life of the contract. Some long term deals (with very large signing bonuses) include a year or two around NFL minimum base salary (say 400k-500k), and are then followed by substantially higher salaries for a year or two (say, $3-7M), and usually end in at least one or two seasons with salaries so inflated (say $10+M) that the player is almost certain to never see them. The huge backloaded salaries are required to be there so that the contract's signing bonus can be larger, as I believe a signing bonus is limited to be no higher than 40% of the total money payable.

Here's the best example:
LaDanian Tomlinson signed an 8-year extension in 2004 that guaranteed $12.4M up front as the signing bonus.
His base salaries are (roster /workout bonuses included in the year they are due):
$445k in 2004
$540k in 2005
$4.25M in 2006
$5M in 2007
$5.75M in 2008
$6.725M in 2009
$8M in 2010
$9.275M in 2011

Here is the NFL's minimum base salary scale for 2005:
0 Credited Seasons: $230,000
1 Credited Seasons: $305,000
2 Credited Seasons: $380,000
3 Credited Seasons: $455,000
4-6 Credited Seasons: $540,000
7-9 Credited Seasons: $665,000
10+ Credited Seasons: $765,000

Other examples:
In the case of Jags DT Marcus Stroud, (the highest paid DT for this NFL fiscal year) his contract extension that was signed last offseason included a $100k "workout bonus," a $3.2M "roster bonus," and a $6.5M "signing bonus," all of which will be paid by the end of March.
His total bonus money received for this season is $9.8M, while his total earnings are listed at $10.34M, which leaves his salary at $540k, the NFL base salary for a player with a tenure of 4-6 years.

Chicago WR Muhsin Muhammad made $8.665M during this past season, $8M of which was signing bonus money, leaving him with $665k in base salary, the NFL league minimum for players with 7-9 years of tenure.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/07/2006 - 10:44pm

O.K., then, let's look at Tomlinson. I don't what the franchise tag on a running back would have been in 2004, but given it was (I think) about eight million in 2005, let's say 7 million. Now, given the injury risk for the position, which is more favorable; seven million guranteed in 2004, and 8.4 million contingent in 2005, assuming he doesn't get hurt and performs to expectations, or 12.4 million guaranteed, with an additional million in salary during that two year time period? Seven million guaranteed, with a possible total of 15.4 million over two years, or 12.4 million guaranteed, with a possible total of 13.4 million guaranteed over that two years? Given the risk of injury in that position, it is silly to forgo 5.4 million in guarantees to pick up an additional 2 million is possible salaries.

This really still doesn't indicate the one-sided nature of the choice, given that Tomlinson's rookie contract didn't expire until 2007, a contract in which Tomlinsons got a large 10 million dollar bonus because he was a top five pick. When you are talking about players who excel early, but don't get a first round draft pick bonus, well, they can really get hammered if they never get a large signing bonus, due to frachising. Do you think that Terrell Davis was happy he got a nearly eleven million dollar bonus prior to his knee problems, instead of being made to do with a franchise contract of what likely was in the 4-5 million per year range back then?

Given the risk of injury playing professional football, anything which prevents the player from becoming an unrestricted free agent as soon as possible, especially if the player didn't get a first round draft pick bonus, and thus get as much money guaranteed as soon as possible, is really harmful.

by Ryan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 2:58pm

I think the main reason you see the franchise tag used is to avoid the Muhsin Muhammad behavior, aka the "One-Year Wonder." In his 9 seasons in Carolina, Muhammad's two best seasons, by far, came in his contract years. What a coincidence, huh?
When he signed his last big deal in Carolina (following his only really productive season), his production dropped substantially. He definitely was not earning the big money Carolina was paying him, and continued not to play hard until last season - his contract year.
For a lot of players, getting a fat bonus coupled with a small salary over the first few years makes them practically untouchable to management (think T.O.). You can't cut the guy because his salary is so low that it would not make any sense at all to cut him and take the immediate cap hit on a recently payed large signing bonus.
At least with the franchise deal, the organization has some guarantee that the player will continue to try to be as productive as possible. A productive season under the franchise deal not only pays very well (average of the top 5 at the player's position), but it will likely be rewarded with a huge long-term contract, which is like getting a huge signing bonus in two consecutive seasons. This is definitely more beneficial to the player than the organization.
Even if a guy is franchised again, he is guaranteed to be payed 20% more than the previous franchise season, or the average of the top 5 at his position, whichever is higher. If the player is productive again, he will almost certainly get his long-term deal, as it becomes too prohibitively expensive to continue to increase a player's pay so substantially from season to season. This assures the player that if he continues to perform, his big payday is practically imminent, as it's actually much cheaper in the long run to give a player a long-term deal than to continuously franchise him.
For example, take a look at Walter Jones and Tarik Glenn, starting in 2002. Jones was franchised for 3 consecutive seasons starting in 2002, and saw a base salary of 4.9M, 5.9M, and 7.1M from 2002-2004. Last offseason, he finally got his new deal, which gave him 16M up front for a 7-year deal. From 2002-2005, Jones made 33.9M in guaranteed money.
Glenn inked a deal in 2002 that made him the top paid offensive tackle in football. He signed a deal with a 10M signing bonus, a 500k roster bonus and a salary of 800k. The total payout came to 11.3M in 2002, followed by total payouts of 1.9M and 2.5M in 2003 and 2004, respectively. In 2005, Glenn made 4.5M for a grand total of 20.2M over 4 years.
Walter Jones got franchised 3 times in a row before earning his deal, and made 33.9M. Glenn signed on long-term in 2002, and only made 20.2M over the same 4 years.
That hardly seems punitive to me.

by Jets fan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 3:26pm

Abraham is better than Vilma, Vilma needs to develop physically and gain experience before he reached John Abraham status. Abraham is better than Robertson who didn't do much without Jason Ferguson next to him, and Robertson's knees are already a liability.

by Jets fan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 3:29pm

...Abraham is one of the premier pass rushers in the NFL, and he put on the necessary weight to become very proficient against the run as well. He is a lethal combination of speed, agility, athleticism, and strength. His off season conditioning made him more durable, and stronger, and it paid off as he went through the entire season without significant injury or issue.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 4:15pm

Ryan, you didn't really address the central aspect of the argument, which was who shoulders the injury risk. I'll ask again; would Terrell Davis been better off with the franchise designation, or with getting as large a bonus as soon as possible?

Walter Jones got paid for shouldering the injury risk for several years. Good for him. Not everyone views risk in the same manner, and they are not obviously wrong. What is also important here is that top flight offensive tackles somewhat commonly extend their careers well into their thirties, which means the franchise designation does not harm them as much. In contrast, top flight running backs, wide receivers, and corners far more frequently experience shorter careers due to injury or the fact that their postion is more dependent on pure speed, which almost always fades after thirty. Thus, their market value tends to decline more rapidly as they approach thirty, which means thay are more significantly harmed by a franchise designation which prevents them from getting a large bonus at a younger age.

Jets fan, I am no expert on your favorite team, but my impression, based purely upon media reports of dubious value, is that Abraham did not exert full effort in 2004, when his team was a playoff race, due to unhappiness with his contract. Is their any truth to this?

by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 4:39pm

Will Allen, the point is that it isn't punitive. Between the increasing salary from year to year and the already high starting salary, it is reasonable. Does it favor the player? No, clearly not. But it's not like it's the worst thing in the universe for the player's sake. Just seemed like needless hyperbole.

RBs don't tend to get the franchise tag. They tend to be signed to long term contracts or get released. Alexander last year was something of an anomaly.

by Jets fan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 4:46pm

Well Will, there was a lot of speculation during that episode, the Jets made it to the playoffs and Abraham didn't play, so it didn't look good, and certainly didn't help his image, perception, etc. However, Abraham was hurt, he hurt his knee, and he felt that he would have hurt the team more than he would have helped the team. I give Abraham the benefit of the doubt --he didn't play due to the injury, not due to his contract situation. And the more I think about John Abraham, he may not only be their best defensive player -he may be the best football player on the team. I would hate to see the organization let him walk away, like they did James Farrior.

by Sean (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 5:02pm

Will- Abraham was hurt, the team floated rumors that maybe he'd be healthy enough to play by the Pittsburgh game, but he wasn't so they shut him down. Considering that his game is predicated on speed and quickness, they were better off playing Bryan Thomas anyway. Abraham got into big trouble with the media during that period by pointing out that playing on an injured knee might end up hurting him come free agency. Considering how hesitant the team has been to make any long term commitment to him, it was a reasonable thing to say, but it went against the "TEAM!" vibe that was floating around thanks to the Patriots, and Abraham got pretty roasted as a result.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 02/08/2006 - 5:33pm

kal, the degree to which it is punitive is a direct function of how risk averse a player is, and this varies from position to position, and from individual to individual, and you cannot tell a player who is risk averse that he is wrong. If he is risk averse, then the franchise tag is punitive.

As to running backs, the fact that they can be franchised reduces their leverage, in regards to the size of bonuses they can command before the expiration of their contracts. The knowledge that the franchise designation can be used, if the player doesn't accept the bonus offer on the table, means that the negotiating parties understand that the running back exposes himself to yet one more year of injury risk. This significantly reduces the leverage the player has.