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Franchise tagging, the unsubtle art

February 14, 2009

What do Lions kicker Jason Hanson, Julius Peppers, Raiders punter Shane Lechler and Terrell Suggs have in common? They are all likely to be slapped with the franchise tag this season, meaning that their team either doesn’t want to give them a long-term deal, can’t afford one, or the player wants out and his franchise wants to get good trade value for him. All three employment of the tag are in effect this year.

The “we don’t want you long-term” angle: Jason Hanson

Hanson may have been productive kicker for the Lions for many years, but at the end of the day, he’s not only a kicker but a 38-year old one. Even a front office as recently inept at Detroit’s must realise that there are dozens of kickers around, and that having any 38-year old player on your roster is not a good idea in the long-term. Detroit will look to replace him in the near future, but figure he’s worth the coin for another year. Given that he’s the longest-tenured Lion by about a decade (they drafted him in 1992), there’s probably an element of hometown loyalty in that equation too.

The “we want you long-term but can’t afford it” angle: Terrell Suggs

Suggs is one of the most fearsome pass-rushers in the league, alternating between DE and OLB and destroying blockers from both positions – just ask Chris Cooley. However, Baltimore has got a lot of defensive starters who are free agents after this season – Suggs, Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and pocket dynamo Jim Leonhard – and need to lock down long term contracts for as many people as possible. In order to minimise Suggs’ long term cap number they need to franchise him (for the second straight year) so they can re-sign at least one other player, who everyone will assume to be Ray Lewis. Suggs will reap another huge cheque but will need to wait for a long term deal.

The “you don’t want to be here but if you’re leaving someone’s gonna pay big” angle: Julius Peppers

The behemoth pass-rushing Peppers had a great 2008 after falling down a bit in ’07, and he has made it known that he’s more than willing to leave Carolina. The Panthers know he wants to leave and understand that as an elite defensive end he will command a lot of attention, and want to recoup something if he leaves. Peppers is likely to get tagged, meaning whoever wants him will have to pay up in a big way, to the tune of two first round picks. Even if tagged, Peppers may well still leave, but a team had better be sure he’s worth it before shelling out two future first rounders.

It’s an extremely inexact science, but every year players get tagged (Matt Cassel and Brandon Jacobs have been already) and there is usually more than a little disappointment for the players involved. Not often do teams trade big for franchise tagged players, but this year it looks as if either Cassel or Peppers will be leaving despite the franchise tag. An interesting offseason commences…

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